The just war tradition is often dated back to St. Augustine (354–430), sometimes with the caveat that it has roots back to Augustine’s teacher St. Ambrose (c. 337/40–397), and even to Roman thought, especially Cicero (106–43 BC). Arguably, the lineage can be traced further back, at least to Plato (c. 427–347 BC), whose thought contains a wealth of materials highlighting the importance of virtues in the preparation for and actual use of armed force. Although he wrote no single dialogue with (...) war as its explicit, main topic, it should still come with some surprise that there has been so little secondary literature on Plato’s treatment of ethical aspects of warfare and indeed of his treatment of warfare as a whole. The lack of scholarly attention to Plato's discussions about war is even more surprising in light of the fact that most of his dialogues are set during or shortly after the Peloponnesian War, which lasted – with interruptions – from 431 to 404. This war was the single most significant feature of the political life of Athens du ing this period. Hence, when we see Socrates and his interlocutors discussing ethical questions, relating these to the life of the city and the right way to live for human beings, we can reasonably assume that the topic of war is rarely far away, even if the link is not always made explicit. (shrink)
Plato arguably stands as one of the precursors to what we today know as the Just War Tradition, and he has more to say about ethics and the use of force than what is often acknowledged. In this article I try to show, by analyzing selected passages and perspectives from the Republic, that Plato regards the role of military ethics as crucial in the construction of the ideal city, and he sees limitation of brutality and more generally a philosophical approach (...) to the use of force as crucial elements of the city’s approach to warfare. Military power and, indeed, harsh preparations for it do occupy a central position in Plato’s political thought, but use of armed force is at the same time closely linked to the virtue of justice as well as the other virtues. (shrink)
The Euthyphro problem and the natural law : an investigation of some aspects of the medieval debate on natural law -- Aristotle : natural law and man in the "metaxy" -- St. Thomas Aquinas : the "lex naturalis" -- Thomas Hobbes : The state of nature and natural rights -- John Locke : natural law, natural rights and God -- Concluding remarks and a heavenly dialogue.
This article furnishes a philosophical background for the current debate about responsibility and culpability for war crimes by referring to ideas from three important just war thinkers: Augustine, Francisco de Vitoria, and Michael Walzer. It combines lessons from these three thinkers with perspectives on current problems in the ethics of war, distinguishes between legal culpability, moral culpability, and moral responsibility, and stresses that even lower-ranking soldiers must in many cases assume moral responsibility for their acts, even though they are part (...) of a military hierarchy and act under orders. The questions addressed in this article are arguably among the hardest and most muddled in military ethics and deserve close philosophical analysis and scrutiny. (shrink)
Although Plato writes less about war than we might expect--especially considering the fact that his dialogues are historically set during the Peloponnesian War--the right conduct of war constitutes a crucial concern for Plato. In both the Alcibiades and Laches dialogues, rightful conduct of war is linked to the practice of virtue. Neither a good statesman nor a good military man can ignore this link, which joins military pursuits not only to courage, but to the whole of virtue, including justice. In (...) the Republic , the passage from a luxurious city to a well-ordered and virtuous city is described by means of the proper education of the city's military guardians, and a teaching of ius in bello --to use a just-war term--for wars between Greeks is outlined. Finally, in the Laws , peace, not war, is presented as the true aim of good laws, and the importance of legitimate authority in war-making is duly emphasized. (shrink)