David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Asian Philosophy 8 (3):165 – 190 (1998)
The most defensible justifications of war in the European intellectual tradition hold that war is instrumentally necessary for the maintenance of peace and order. An investigation of Ancient Chinese philosophical attitudes towards war calls this assumption into question. The closest parallel to an instrumental concept of war is found in the Legalist school, but historical experience in China has rejected this. The Confucian school, especially Mencius and Xunxi, insists that war is not instrumental in creating social order, but derives from the prior establishing of cultural and political authority, and thus must be punitive in nature. Even the use of “punitive expeditions” is not instrumental, but rather demonstrative or performative in nature, for if coercive methods are necessary, the authority to use them is arguably absent. War for the Chinese, then, is not justified by the necessity for creating public order, but is in itself a sign of the failure to achieve such an order. This contrasts sharply with the views of the dominant Western thinkers on war, such as Michael Walzer, whose positions insist upon the instrumental necessity of armed force, even to the point of absurdity. The ancient Chinese position suggests that this necessity may be ungrounded.
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