The Dualism of Modern Just War Theory

Philosophia 45 (2):751-771 (2017)
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Conventional modern just war theory is fundamentally incoherent. On the one hand, the theory contains a theory of public war wherein ethical responsibility for the justice of war belongs uniquely to political sovereigns while subjects, including soldiers, are obligated to serve in war upon the sovereign’s command. On the other hand, the theory contains a theory of discrimination which presupposes that participants in war, including soldiers, are responsible for the justice of the wars they fight. Moreover, these two components are derived from two inconsistent visions of political justice. The theory of public war, it turns out, is derived from a theory of justice that places the value of political society conceived of as a supra-individual communal entity above the value of the private individual. The theory of discrimination, however, is derived from a theory of justice that places the value of the private individual above that of political society. This inconsistency is revealed by analyzing the theories of Vitoria, Grotius, and Walzer. Appreciating this problem also helps situate the recent revisionist critiques of conventional just war theory.



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Graham Parsons
United States Military Academy

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References found in this work

Killing in war.Jeff McMahan - 2009 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality.Michael Walzer - 1983 - Journal of Business Ethics 4 (1):63-64.
Just and Unjust Wars.M. Walzer - 1979 - Philosophy 54 (209):415-420.

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