Professor Waldron Goes to Washington

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  • Sue Mendus


Publication details

JournalCriminal Law and Philosophy
DateE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jul 2012
DatePublished (current) - 2012
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)1-12
Early online date2/07/12
Original languageEnglish


In Torture, Terror and Trade-Offs: Philosophy for the White House Jeremy Waldron asks how moral philosophy can illuminate real life political problems. He argues that moral philosophers should remind politicians of the importance of adhering to moral principle, and he also argues that some moral principles are absolute and exceptionless. Thus, he is very critical of those philosophers who, post 9/11, were willing to condone the use of torture.

In this article I discuss and criticize Waldron’s absolutism. In particular, I claim that the arguments he offers in support of it are either dependent on religious conviction or support only rule utilitarianism, not absolutism. Additionally, I argue that the character of politics is such that it is both undesirable and morally irresponsible for politicians to adopt the absolutist approach favoured by Waldron. We have reason to be glad that Professor Waldron does not go to Washington.

    Research areas

  • absolutism, dirty hands, duties of office, realism, utilitarianism

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