Volume 34

Response: A Good and Virtuous Nature May Recoil: On Consorting with Evil to Do Good

by Shannon Prince

David Luban asks how ethical people in government should respond when an unethical regime comes to power, noting that Hannah Arendt argued that to stay in such a regime supports it. I take the position that attempting to distinguish between ethical and unethical regimes can be problematic because even regimes deemed moral commonly commit evil. Thus, I argue that it is ethically permissible to serve in a regime that commits evil if certain conditions are met—if the good that one seeks to do is urgent enough, if one will not lose one’s moral clarity so as to confuse mitigating evil with affirmatively committing a moderate amount of it, and if one does not engage in both the bad and good acts of the regime under the belief that the latter can cancel out the former.

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