Friday, November 20, 2009

Dirty Hands - Philosophy Bites

Philosophy Bites is a podcast that should be on everybody's playlist. You do not need to have a special love for philosophy, nor special knack for it. Anybody can handle fifteen minutes of a carefully tailored philosophy interview and everybody is expected to be stimulated by it. Witness to this may also be the download figures the podcast published: it has been downloaded 5 million times!

This sizable audience was reached while the (currently) penultimate issue came on-line: a discussion with Tony Coady about dirty hands in politics. This issue takes on the common sense idea that policy makers, out of necessity have to make dirty hands. The short answer by Tony Coady is, that indeed they occasionally have to, but that policy is always an ongoing process and therefore this is justified only when there is indeed strong necessity and whatever dirty measures are taken, they should be abandoned as soon as possible.

I have a feeling the whole issue should actually be cut into two separate questions. The first is a factual one: do policy makers have to take harmful measures at times. Coady's answer implies that indeed, there can be a situation there is actually no other option, but to take a decision like for example going to war. The second part of the question is, whether such measure is justified and obviously, if there is indeed no other choice, then it is justified. And when, as Coady insists, the dirty hands measure is abandoned as soon as other alternatives become feasible, it surely stays justified. But can you speak then of dirty hands? Isn't Coady actually demanding politicians NOT make dirty hands? Surely you cannot call a generally dirty measure like going to war bad in a situation there is no good alternative.

The point Coady is trying to make though, is that it shouldn't be 'anything goes' for political leaders, nor can a superbly clean politics be required from the all the time.

More Philosophy Bites:
Understanding decisions,
Nietzsche repossessed,
What can you do with philosophy?,
Morality without God,
Pascal's Pensées.