McMahan+-+Just+War

McMahan+-+Just+War - Q 669 Chapter 37 Just War jeff m c...

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Unformatted text preview: Q 669 Chapter 37 Just War jeff m c mahan There are three broadly defi ned positions on the morality of war. The fi rst is pacifi sm, which holds that it is always wrong for a state to resort to war and always wrong for an individual to participate in war. The second is political realism, the view that war lies beyond and is unconstrained by morality. The third, which occupies the broad space between these opposing extremes, is that war is sometimes but not always morally permissible and that there are moral constraints on the conduct of war. This middle ground between pacifi sm and political realism is dominated by a tradi- tion of thought known as the theory of the just war that has evolved over many centuries, beginning roughly with the writings of Augustine of Hippo and persisting with remarkable continuity to the present. It is perhaps surprising that the main con- tributors to the development of this theory have been theologians and jurists rather than philosophers. There is little about the morality of war in the work of the great fi gures in the history of philosophy, and even today this subject tends not to attract the attention of the most eminent philosophers. One exception is Michael Walzer, whose Just and Unjust Wars , published in 1977, has been highly infl uential. Although there is substantial continuity within the tradition, there are signifi cant differences between the principles endorsed by the classical theorists, such as Aquinas, Grotius, Vitoria and Suarz, and the currently orthodox version of the theory. In general, the older writings are concerned more with moral rights, justice and desert, while the theory that has developed in tandem with international law over the past two centuries is concerned more with the regulation of war in ways that limit its instances and the harm it causes to all affected (Reichberg, forthcoming). Just war theory is an anomaly in contemporary philosophical ethics by virtue of being widely accepted as essentially correct. Many discussions of the ethics of a par- ticular war simply apply the central principles of the theory in a mechanical fashion, with little or no refl ection on whether they are valid or how they should be interpreted (Elshtain, 2003, pp. 5970). In other areas of ethics, by contrast, there is widespread and intractable disagreement about basic principles. The ethics of war is thus the only area in contemporary ethics in which most people not only assume that there is an acceptable theory but also agree what it is. This is particularly surprising given that the content of the theory is an amalgam of medieval Catholic theology and modern international law. GOO37.indd 669 GOO37.indd 669 2007/3/26 04:55:31 2007/3/26 04:55:31 jeff m c mahan Q 670 The central distinction in the theory is between the principles that govern the resort to war ( jus ad bellum ) and those that govern conduct in war ( jus in bello ). There are six commonly recognized principles of jus ad bellum...
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This note was uploaded on 09/27/2011 for the course PHILOSPHY 106 taught by Professor Mcmahan during the Fall '10 term at Rutgers.

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McMahan+-+Just+War - Q 669 Chapter 37 Just War jeff m c...

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