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Lecture

POLI 231 - Camus (The Just Assassins)


Department
Political Science
Course Code
POLI 231
Professor
Arash Abizadeh

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The Just Assassins (Camus)
Revolutionary socialist terrorists assassinate the Grand Duke in 1905.
Kaliayev could not kill the Duke on first attempt due to the presence of children.
Stephan = utilitarian
Kaliayev = deontologist
Abizadeh's interpretation: Les Justes is Camus' critique of Communist parties, and
their consequentialist tendencies
Moral Dilemma
For Kaliayev, there is an absolute moral constraint against killing children.
However, there is only a moderate constraint against killing in general. Therefore,
the killing of the Duke is necessary in order to advance the good.
Camus: although one is morally compelled to break the constraint, one must still
pay the price for doing so. As a result, Kaliayev dies willingly for his crime, and he
is no longer a criminal.
Consequentialist Interpretation of the Play
If the complimenting theory of the good includes intrinsic value of action, then it
may lead to acceptance of constraints, as the best consequences may indeed be
respecting constraints.
Existentialist concept: actions make who you are, rather than a reflection of your
nature.
Therefore, without a constraint against killing, an innocent person acting in the
name of the good may be transformed into a killer → would this be maximizing
the good?
In addition, there is uncertainty in the long-term consequences of the action (ie
killing of the Duke may have impressed upon Nicholas the need for repressive
measures)
Fallibility of the account of justice → beliefs formed as a process of socialization.
Difference between explanation of belief, and justification.
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