Published Online: 1 FEB 2013
Copyright © 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.
The International Encyclopedia of Ethics
How to Cite
May, S. C. 2013. Compromise. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .
- Published Online: 1 FEB 2013
This is not the most recent version of the article. View current version (18 JUN 2015)
Compromise is an inescapable part of human coexistence, from the mundane choices of domestic life to the grand stage of world politics. Edmund Burke (1993: 257) famously remarks that “all government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.” To create and enjoy the many benefits of social cooperation, individuals must make concessions to each other in one way or another. Notwithstanding its ubiquity, compromise raises a number of philosophical puzzles. One kind of problem is conceptual: what is compromise, and how might it differ from similar social phenomena, such as consensus and bargaining? These questions are discussed in the first section. A second kind of problem concerns the murky ethics of compromise, particularly on matters of moral significance. Compromise may have a salutary role in facilitating cooperation, but it can also involve the sacrifice or betrayal of important values. Can there be moral reasons for genuine moral compromise and, if so, what form might they take? Similarly, are there any limits to moral compromise, or are all moral commitments ultimately subject to negotiation? These questions are discussed in the second section.
- legal and political;
- normative ethics;
- practical (applied) ethics