Philosophy and Social Criticism 31 (2):147-163 (2005)

Lionel K. McPherson
Tufts University
What is the relation between the rules of war covered by ‘the war convention’ and the source of their normative authority? According to Michael Walzer, these rules have normative authority by virtue of being widely established in theory and practice and conforming to our moral sensibilities. It is striking that his influential account of just war has a conventionalist grounding similar to his more scrutinized general theory of justice. Indeed, we should question whether a shared moral understanding is an adequate basis for morally obligating parties who might challenge the rules under the war convention. I argue that rules of war need the support of moral judgments whose normative authority is ultimately not conventional in nature. Reasonable objections to the war convention exert pressure to revise its standard principles or to admit that these principles lack general moral force. Such objections, inchoate though they may be in international political discourse, seem a source of commonly voiced skepticism of morality in international relations. Debate about the merits of alternative principles of just war has the advantage of engaging with this skepticism. This opens up the possibility that less powerful or more conscientious parties could play a constructive role in a public and more democratic discourse of just war. Key Words: Karl von Clausewitz • convention • Gilbert Harman • just war theory • morality • normative authority • political realism • war • the war convention • Michael Walzer.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1177/0191453705050604
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,130
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

War and Massacre.Thomas Nagel - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (2):123-144.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Killing in War: A Reply to Walzer.Jeff McMahan - 2006 - Philosophia 34 (1):47-51.
Benbaji on Killing in War and 'the War Convention'.Uwe Steinhoff - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (240):616-623.
The Leaders and the Led: Problems of Just War Theory.C. A. J. Coady - 1980 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 23 (3):275 – 291.
Reconnoitering Combatant Moral Equality.Roger Wertheimer - 2007 - Journal of Military Ethics 6 (1):60-74.
The Ethics of Killing in War.Jeff McMahan - 2004 - Ethics 114 (4):693-733.
The Ethics of War.A. J. Coates - 1997 - Distributed Exclusively in the Usa by St. Martin's Press.
Defining War for the 21st Century.Steven Metz & Phillip R. Cuccia (eds.) - 2011 - Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College.


Added to PP index

Total views
43 ( #263,216 of 2,506,408 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,997 of 2,506,408 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes