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Political Morality, Conventional Morality, and Decorum in Cicero

Political Morality, Conventional Morality, and Decorum in Cicero

Chapter:
(p.63) Chapter 2 Political Morality, Conventional Morality, and Decorum in Cicero
Source:
Ethics and the Orator
Author(s):
Gary A. Remer
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226439334.003.0004

Politicians commit actions that sometimes violate ordinary moral standards, which they deem as necessary for the public interest. Michael Walzer refers to this situation of political actors doing the right thing in utilitarian terms but committing a moral wrong as the dilemma of dirty hands. This chapter discusses the issue of dirty hands. The chapter shows that Cicero eschews the fantasy of a morally pure politics for the reality of a politics that is moral yet tempered by political realities. By proposing a politically pragmatic morality rather than a philosophically untainted one, Cicero begins to reverse the process begun in antiquity in which the unity of eloquence and philosophy, politics and morality were split between politics and eloquence “unaccompanied by any consideration of moral duty,” on the one hand, and philosophy and wisdom “prosecuted vigorously in quiet seclusion by the men of highest virtue,” on the other. How Cicero seeks to effect a conceptual reconciliation between the practical and the moral is a fundamental question of this chapter.

Keywords:   Cicero, political morality, decorum, dirty hands, Michael Walzer, personae theory, senatus consultum ultimum

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