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Aristotle, Epicurus, Morgenthau and the Political Ethics of the Lesser Evil

Molloy, Sean P (2009) Aristotle, Epicurus, Morgenthau and the Political Ethics of the Lesser Evil. Journal of International Political Theory, 5 (1). pp. 94-112. ISSN 1755-1722. (KAR id:72065)


This article explores one of the key themes of Hans J. Morgenthau's moral theory, the concept of the lesser evil. Morgenthau developed this concept by reference to classical political theory, especially the articulation of the lesser evil found in Aristotle and Epicurus. The article begins by differentiating Morgenthau's work from that of E. H. Carr, whom he regards as engaged in a Quixotic quest to provide Machiavellism with greater ethical purpose. The article also contrasts the ethics of the lesser evil with Kantian ethics. Morgenthau places the lesser evil in the context of a modernity that has lost the capacity to think about the relationship between politics and morality and stresses the importance of coming to grips with the existential demands of love and power. Finally, the article argues that despite the ubiquity of evil, the existence of the lesser evil gives rise to the development of specifically political virtues such as prudence and moderation which raise the possibility of moral politics beyond mere expedience.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Aristotle, Epicurus, ethics, evil, Morgenthau, political theory
Subjects: J Political Science
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Sean Molloy
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2019 16:42 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:26 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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