The Evil of Politics and the Ethics of Evil

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Philosophy Pages: 29 (10349 words) Published: October 3, 2010
The Evil of Politics and the Ethics of Evil Author(s): Hans J. Morgenthau Source: Ethics, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Oct., 1945), pp. 1-18 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: Accessed: 21/09/2010 06:43 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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a political animal by nature; he is a scientist by chance or choice; he is a moralist because he is a man. Hence, the scientism of Machiavelliand Hobbes is, in the history of mankind, merely an accident without consequences,a lightning illuminating in a sudden flash the dark landscape of man's hidden motives but kindling no Promethean fire for a grateful posterity. The historyof political thought is the history of the moral evaluation of political power. Even when mankind seems to be preoccupiedwith the science of man's political nature and considers ethics either as an empirical science or not at all, the moral issues raise their voices and demand an answer. The answers, like the questions, are mumbled, ambiguous, and distorted when the scientific prejudicesdo not allow the moral problems to be seen in their true light and the answersto be given in their true relation to the questions. Thus it remains for every age, and particularly a scientificone, to rediscoverand reformulate the perennial problems of political ethics and to answerthem in the light of the experienceof the age. Such a rediscoveryand reformulation is called for in our time. For a scientific age has attempted to reducemoral probM

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lems to scientific terms and has thus obscuredand distorted the true meaningof the problems, if not obliterated them altogether. I According to the prevailing school of thought, the aim of moral action is the attainment of the greatest amount of human satisfaction. Moral action itself is the result of a consciousweighing of anticipated advantages and disadvantages connected with certain actions. Moral conflict, then, is at best a rational doubt as to which of two alternative actions is most appropriateto the desired result. Ethics, anticipating through rational calculation the relation of certain means to certain ends, becomes undistinguishablefrom science,and moral and successful action are one and the same thing. God, then, is always with the strongerbattalions, with the party who wins the elections, and with the biggest bank accounts. Lack of success, on the other hand, testifies to ethical inferiority, which carries with it defeat in war, politics, and business as just rewards.Action, falling short of the ethical ideal thus conceived in terms of perfect social...
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