Just War, Citizens’ Responsibility, and Public Intellectuals

Revue Internationale de Philosophie (forthcoming)
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To what extent do the moral principles of just war theory lend themselves to providing an account of the moral and political responsibility of citizens in general, and of public intellectuals in particular, in times of war? An analysis of Michael Walzer’s thought opens promising avenues for answering this question. It will be necessary, first of all, to re-examine the classic distinction between combatants and noncombatants – a thesis that Walzer defended but that several philosophers have criticized in recent years. The problem will then be to construe citizens’ moral and political responsibility in times of war, and also to reflect on the precise role of a very specific category of civil society, namely public intellectuals. We will see that this responsibility does not appear sufficient for abolishing the distinction between combatants and noncombatants, which must be maintained. However, this responsibility must be examined more precisely, especially its relation to public debate and the role that it confers on public intellectuals in that debate. Using Walzer’s moral arguments pertaining to war while taking account of the objections that have been made to them, it is possible to read in Walzer’s thought a weak version of the responsibility of citizens and, conversely, a strong version of the responsibility of public intellectuals, in times of war.



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Christian Nadeau
Boston College

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References found in this work

Collective Responsibility and the State.Anna Stilz - 2011 - Journal of Political Philosophy 19 (2):190-208.
War.Brian Orend - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Self-Defence and the Principle of Non-Combatant Immunity.Helen Frowe - 2011 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 8 (4):530-546.
Deliberation, and What Else?Michael Walzer - 1999 - In Stephen Macedo (ed.), Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement. Oxford University Press. pp. 58--69.

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