handout2 - Philosophy 4 Introduction to Ethics Handout#2...

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Philosophy 4: Introduction to Ethics October 4, 2007 Handout #2 Prof. Aaron Zimmerman War, Terrorism and Torture 1. The Relevance of Moral Considerations to War According to a view often called realpolitik , self-interest (narrowly construed) is the only good or rational grounds for determining foreign policy. As a consequence, a nation is justified in attacking or invading another so long as doing so will provide long-term benefit to that nation’s health, wealth and standing. As Wassestrom points out, this prescriptive claim is different from the purely descriptive claim that nations often or always do decide whether or not to go to war on wholly self-interested grounds. Wasserstrom’s thesis : Nations (and the individuals voting for, legislating, or executing national policy) should be guided, at least in part, by moral considerations when deciding upon their foreign policies and, in particular, when deciding: (a) whether or not to wage war, and (b) how to conduct themselves when waging war. In opposition to this thesis Wasserstrom considers the view that the American government’s decision under Truman to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified so long as this meant that fewer Americans would die in what remained of WWII even if many more people overall died in the nuclear attack than would have died had America continued to fight the war by more conventional means (or accepted the conditional surrender the Japanese were prepared to give). (Bad) Argument 1 : American lives are more valuable than Japanese lives. ( Better ) Argument 2 : Leaders have special obligations to their citizens that warrant or even require them to value the lives of their citizens higher than the lives of foreigners. Wasserstrom’s reply to argument 2 : Special obligations and duties do not always outweigh general or universal obligations and duties. E.g., a lawyer cannot bury evidence to secure a particular verdict for her client. Question : How ought those public officials who directly influence foreign policy and its execution weigh the interests of Americans against the interests of those foreigners affected by U.S. policy? 2. Just War Theory: the attempt to elucidate general principles stating: (a) when, if ever, one nation or people is morally justified in going to war against another, and (b) what conduct, if any, is morally acceptable in the waging of war.
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