Dirty Hands and Ordinary Life

Michael Stocker

in Plural and Conflicting Values

Published in print October 1992 | ISBN: 9780198240556
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598463 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

 Dirty Hands and Ordinary Life

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A dirty hands case is (1) justified, (2) obligatory or permissible, and (3) morally wrong. It is argued that dirty hands are conceptually unproblematic and that they are instances of ordinary evaluative phenomena. Some ordinary cases of moral conflict are like dirty hands in that they are entirely justified, yet regrettable. The analysis shows that such cases involve double counting––the disvalue is counted once and overridden in the act‐guiding evaluation, and counted again later as the object of the moral emotions (guilt, shame, regret) and as being a disvalue. In addition, dirty hands are cases in which what is morally required is also immoral, and therefore regrettable. Shows that ethical theories can and should account for the existence of moral choices involving acts that are justified, even obligatory, yet nevertheless wrong, shameful, and regrettable.

Keywords: dirty hands; moral conflict; moral emotions

Chapter.  11699 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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