2024-06-22

In Defence of War

PXL_20240622_191625720Before you get too excited, no, this is nothing to do with the current fracas in the near orient; instead it is a work of philosophy by Niglet Biggar. In terms of the examples he uses, WWI comes up.

I've read approximately a third of it, and eventually stopped, not because it is poor quality but because his analysis is almost entirely from a Christian, Thomist, Just-War perspective. Being a good atheist I reject reasonning based on an assumption of the correctness of the Christian perspective, of course. That could, though, leave us with the Just-War theory as of value because it has historical respectability; because it has been honed over centuries; because it has been considered and improved by fine minds.

But I don't believe that. I think Just-War1 theory is a figleaf; a confection, devised to "allow" states to do what they would anyway. I can think of no examples of when states have said "oh hold on no we won't have this war because it fails test 3 out of the Just-War list of conditions". All the intellectual effort over the years has gone into disguising this.

The original problem is that Christianity is a blatantly pacifistic religion, which has been adopted as a state religion, and states need to go to war or at the very least credibly threaten to do so; and there has never been a shortage of intellectuals willing to provide words to paper over the problem.

Our Author does his best to get round Christianity's pacifism by noting things like "well, there are soldiers in the New Testament, and they are not ostracised, nor is there any suggestion they should give up their profession; from the Bible's silence on this, we can deduce that...". He is obliged to admit that deduction-from-silence is weak, but then immeadiately leaps over that.

Similarly - but here I am relying on my weak memory, and on sections that I didn't read carefully anyway - he has a tendency to bring up subject X, which has been brilliantly handled by scholar Y; but ah: he analyses scholar Y's analysis and finds it, whilst brilliant, quibblable; and so discountable.

My own defence of war, should I be obliged to make one, would align closely with Hobbes.

Notes


1. Somewhere - lost in the depths of wiki I think - I have a weak joke on this in which I suggest that Just-War should really be called "Just-Go-To-War, using the alternative meaning of the word Just.

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