Politics is often characterized as the "art of compromise" - the implication being that compromise is desirable and that insight, imagination, discipline, and skill are all necessary for a compromise. Compromise in ethics, however, is quite another matter: there, it is usually regarded as a sign of weakness or lack of integrity. From Socrates and Sir Thomas More to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., we honour these men and women not only for the nature of their convictions but also for their unwavering refusal to compromise. Does this point to an important difference between politics and ethics? Martin Benjamin here explores the notion of compromise and its connection with integrity in ethics and politics. With examples, from Tolstoy to Ralph Nader, and from a variety of medical and bioethical cases, Benjamin presents an examination of the interplay between compromise and integrity. In the process, he tackles tough questions - the relationship between practical and theoretical ethics, what compromise means for ethical theory, the role of judgement in compromise, and whether it is possible to compromise without being compromised.
In the final chapter Benjamin explores the possibility of political compromise in a matter of great ethical significance abortion.