Political Philosophies: Principles of “Just War”

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Topic: Philosophy
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Wars have always been an indispensable part of human life. At different times, different nations are in the state of war. Though people understand that war is something vicious and undesirable, they also try to justify it. Thus, Ancient Roman statesmen developed a set of criteria that could justify the war. Ancient Romans came up with principles of ‘just war.’ Some of the major principles were concerned with the desire of some people to help/persuade/force others to live in accordance with laws of justice (Bolotin 1987). Hence, one of the commonest causes of wars is “the threat of injustices” or “injustices” against particular groups of people (Bolotin 1987, 11).

Notably, statesmen were inclined to develop and then use the criteria of the just war as they believed that the criteria are universal. It was believed that all wars are similar as they are caused by similar reasons, the desire to create a just society. However, now it is clear that there can be universal criteria as different situations require different measures. Though those going to war may declare their desire to bring justice to the land, they have to take into account peculiarities of this land and people living there as they have to develop their paradigm of justice so that it could seem that the war is (at least, nominally) just.

It is also important to remember that religion has always had a great impact on war and peace. It is still one of the most potent factors affecting people’s attitudes towards war and peace. Thus, St. Augustine regards war as something inevitable as Christians can bring revelation to other areas and people and can “combat with their weapons the objections that they raise against it” (Fortin 1987, 177). However, at the same time, Christian values also affected the principles of “jus in Bello” as people’s actions were thought to affect their afterlife. Therefore, Christian values inspired people to fight against infidels, but they were also bound to lead their wars in a more humane way (at least, to try to do so).

It is also important to note that Christian writers (including St. Augustine) believed that wars were inevitable, but in the future (though distant future), peace would “triumph,” and there would be a blessing for all (Fortin 1987, 202). This is one of the most distinctive features between Christian and pagan philosophers as the latter believed that war could never be stopped, and peace is impossible.

Admittedly, views on war have changed considerably throughout the centuries. Lots of philosophers agree that wars will always occur due to human nature. Interestingly, the idea of just wars is also closely connected with the idea of just societies. Mahdi (1987) notes that just and virtuous societies live in accordance with the divine law and just principles. However, some societies are less virtuous, and they have to be taught to live rightfully. Hence, it is possible to go to war if there is a particular righteous aim. It is noteworthy that Alfarabi tends to see war as a means and “end in itself” (Mahdi 1987, 221). In the former case, just war is possible to bring justice to less virtuous societies, and in the latter case, it is a way to tyranny and a more corrupt society. Clearly, justice and just wars are often closely connected as people tend to use the principles of justice to achieve their vicious aims.

Reference List

Bolotin, David. “Thucydides”. In History of Political Philosophy, edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1987. Web.

Fortin, Ernest L. “St. Augustine”. In History of Political Philosophy, edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1987. Web.

Mahdi, Muhsin. “Alfarabi”. In History of Political Philosophy, edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1987. Web.