Normativity of war and peace : thoughts from the Han Feizi

In Sumner B. Twiss, Bingxiang Luo & Benedict S. B. Chan (eds.), Warfare ethics in comparative perspective: China and the West. New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 113-125 (2024)
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Abstract

Throughout the text of the _Han Feizi_, we see opposition to traditional (and often Confucian) perspectives on a wide range of state activities, both internally and externally. This antipathy towards the traditional morally-based criteria for justifying state actions extends to the questions of when, how, and if to wage war. In what we may today think of as reasoning akin to Western conceptions of political realism, Han Fei argues that considerations of morality have no place, either in questions of war and peace or, indeed, in broader questions of politics more generally. This is not, though, to say that Han Fei is uninterested in broader questions of when ware and peace are justified. However, such justifications are based not to be justified by appeal to moral concerns. Rather, the fundamental question to be answered is how the strength, security, and flourishing of the state would be affected by warfare. By viewing questions of war and peace from the perspective of state consequentialism, Han Fei believes that we can ascertain the answers to questions not only about when and if to engage in warfare, but also to questions of what particular actions can be justified within the context of war.

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Eirik Lang Harris
Colorado State University

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