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Integrity, Personal, and Political$
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Shmuel Nili

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198859635

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859635.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 26 January 2022

Integrity, Self-Absorption, and Clean Hands

Integrity, Self-Absorption, and Clean Hands

Chapter:
(p.74) 3 Integrity, Self-Absorption, and Clean Hands
Source:
Integrity, Personal, and Political
Author(s):

Shmuel Nili

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198859635.003.0004

Political realities often mean that familiar moral constraints—against lying, manipulating, coercing, and the like—cannot be upheld without serious consequences for a very large number of vulnerable people. It is commonly argued that, under these ubiquitous political circumstances, putting much weight on non-consequentialist integrity reasons amounts to a self-absorbed preoccupation with “clean hands.” This chapter presents an elaborate response to this self-absorption charge, pivoting on two key claims. First, the familiar equation of “integrity” with “clean hands” is misleading: there are important cases where integrity might be compatible with “dirty hands,” and may even actively push agents to dirty their hands. Second, setting up our policy dilemma as a binary choice between “dirtying our hands” and imposing grave costs on many vulnerable people is often problematic. More often than not, such a binary presentation of the policy situation is misleading and self-serving.

Keywords:   national security, bin-Laden, Barack Obama, war on terror, George W. Bush, Vietnam War, foreign corruption, corporate bribery, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, South Africa debt

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