The Cost of Keeping Clean

The so-called “problem of dirty hands” has been much discussed in the philosophical literature—that is, situations in which an agent is both morally required to perform some action and morally stained or otherwise subject to reproach for doing so. In these cases, agents can expect to feel regret—and have others expect them to express regret or remorse—despite having done as they all things considered ought. My project concerns not those with dirty hands, but those who seek to keep theirs clean, knowing that someone else will do what morality requires. Such agents are not responsible for the failure to bring about some morally required result—since no such failure occurs—nor are they guilty of having done some morally required yet distasteful or corrosive act. The Cost of Keeping Clean serves to analyze a range of circumstances in which an agent knowingly foregoes making the hard decision, knowing (or sincerely believing) that someone else will do what they will not. How does our moral evaluation of such agents depend on their circumstances? On our assessments of who is responsible for the difficult choice?