Dirty-hands politics: war, terrorism, torture

A.Y. 2020/2021
6
Max ECTS
40
Overall hours
SSD
SPS/01
Language
English
Learning objectives
"Dirty Hands Politics" in general refers to the idea that the right political action can conflict with profound morality. From a Machiavellian perspective, political responsibility rests on the availability to dirt one's hands, to endorse morally reprehensible means in order to achieve valuable ends. The first part the course introduces students to the controversial nature of the dirty hands dilemma as it is closely linked to the concepts of morality and responsibility. The main aim here is to offer, through the notion of dirty hands and the evaluation of the means-ends problem, a deeper understanding about political responsibility, about the ethics of political leadership and about the implications connected to political decisions, especially in times of trouble. The second part the course will explore the main philosophical reflections on the nature of torture and terrorism - its causes, aims, and forms - and of counter-terrorism measures introduced by the international community and individual states. The course examines the implications of terrorism for international politics in the 21st century. By the end of this course students will be able to provide a clearer definition of the relationship between politics and morality; to better understand why terrorism occurs, how terrorists organize and operate, and what are the consequences of reacting in different ways to terrorism. More in details, this course intends:
- to equip students with an introductory knowledge of the dirty-hands question;
- to deepen students' understanding of major ethical problems and concepts by applying those systems and concepts to the issue of war, terrorism, and torture;
- to equip students with the skills for engaging in the process of making ethical judgments and defending them in speech and writing;
- to further cultivate student's own intellectual and moral virtues by calling them to engage in moral reflection on the means-ends problem.
Expected learning outcomes
In the framework of the PPPA degree, at the end of the course, students will have obtained knowledge of some of the most central questions and positions in contemporary debates about the dirty-hands problem, torture and terrorism:
- Do "good" and "evil" mean the same in theory and in practice?
- What is torture and can it ever be morally justified?
- What can we learn about torture and terrorism from the history of the social and political theories?
-What are the limits and possibilities of contemporary practices in "the war against terror"?
- How should torture be situated in a wider social and cultural context?

In terms of skills, students will:
- learn to interpret, analyze and critically discuss scholarly texts, official documents and cultural representations with a view to their possible implications for social and political practices;
- learn to compare and evaluate moral, political and legal ideals and proposals.

In terms of competence, students will:
- enhance their capability to question and discuss urgent and sensitive aspects of the dirty-hands problem;
- enhance their capability to formulate and reflect on their own ideas of the legitimacy of means and ends in the (in)security state.
Course syllabus and organization

Unique edition

Responsible
Lesson period
First trimester
SPS/01 - POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY - University credits: 6
Lessons: 40 hours
Professor: Magni Beatrice
Professor(s)