Wash Those Hands!

Politician with dirty hands
Barack Obama carrying out killing of Bin Ladin. Photo by Paul Windle via The Atlantic
Barack Obama carrying out killing of Bin Ladin. Photo by Paul Windle via The Atlantic

There are people in today’s society that believe in “Dirty Hands”. By this I mean that when somebody does something ethically wrong and then does something “right” to completely make up for it. For example, in the play “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth commits a murder and convinces Macbeth to kill King Duncan. At the time she was not phased by it but towards the end of the play she envisions her hands all bloody and “dirty” because of the murder. It doesn’t merely happen to this extent in the world we are in now but it comes up in all ways.

Lets start with Machiavelli. He talks a lot about Princes and how they should carry themselves. Many talks in discussion brought us to the fact that a “good” prince should be noble/ generous, aware of their surroundings and it is better to be feared than loved. Him saying that it is better to be feared than loved is an interesting point. More people will be kept in line and listen to their leader if they fear him or her. If they love the leader they will easily be able to manipulate that particular person. After doing some reading and research on Machiavelli, I found a quote that he had said about a prince and how they “must learn how not to be good”. He kind of contradicts himself by saying that because shouldn’t a prince be noble and generous? Anyway, by not being good the prince must do something immoral in a way. This could be lying, or doing something against his people. The dirty hands method comes into play now.

Dirty hands has something to do with doing the “right” thing to do but it being morally wrong. This happens in politics all of the time. After reading “Machiavelli Was Right” by Michael Ignatieff, he explains what happened when we (the US) took out osama bin ladin (not capitalized for a reason) . The president was deciding whether to pull the trigger (pun intended) or not on the mission to take out bin ladin. Morally killing a person is not the best thing to do but it was for the good of the country. If he didn’t proceed with it, he would probably be taken from office but since he did go through with it, he was able to keep himself “alive” and gained the trust from his people.

Machiavelli made a point that a prince must learn how not to be good. This includes doing things that may not be the best thing morally but to get the best outcome for yourself or the people it is affecting. As seen with President Obama, he did what was good for the country but was killing a person right? All of this is opinionated and is why “dirty hands” is a controversial topic. Do you believe in the doings of “dirty hands”?


2 thoughts on “Wash Those Hands!

  1. This blog post brings up a lot of really great points and examples that help illustrate the meaning of the “dirty hands” problem. The Macbeth example in particular helped give a clear explanation of this problem and was effectively explained and incorporated into the post. I do agree that the “dirty hands” problem is present in Obama’s take out of Osama Bin Laden, but I am not in agreement with the statement that Obama gained the trust of the people by doing this. Although the “dirty hands” problem by definition means that good things come out of morally wrong actions, not all of the results are seen as positive to everyone. I do not condemn Obama for his actions, but killing Osama Bin Laden certainly did not make me trust him more. As a result, I think that the benefits that result from the “dirty hands” problem are really subjective and cannot be generalized to be all positive. The “dirty hands” problem may have some overall gain for the people as a whole, but the moral issues at play, in my opinion, out way the “good” things that happen.


  2. I happen to disagree with the killing of Osama Bin Laden as morally wrong. He is a terrorist is who responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans. It is not morally wrong to kill a man like that. In the U.S. people are put to death for manslaughter, and this is not viewed by the law is immorally wrong. Killing a man who plots terrorist attacks against us deserves even more than death if that is even possible. These guys are inhumane and should be treated that way. Recently, numerous videos of the beheading of innocent Americans have been surfacing. Would it be unjust to kill them?


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