Revisionist Just War Theory and The Real World

A cautiously optimistic proposal

Authored by: Bradley Jay Strawser

Routledge Handbook of Ethics and War

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415539340
eBook ISBN: 9780203107164
Adobe ISBN: 9781136261008


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The scholarly tradition known as just war theory has been remarkably stable. Relatively little of its primary elements have changed from its early instantiations found in the writings of Augustine all the way to its detailed exposition by Michael Walzer in Just and Unjust Wars. 1 Recent scholarship on the ethics of war, however, has been dominated by those critical of this tradition. These revisionist just war theorists have revolted against many of the core principles of the long-held standard view. 2 The revisionist account usually begins from a simple but powerful basis: the individual rights of all people. 3 These revisionists argue that our moral understanding of war must respect and take seriously people's rights, including the right to not be killed unjustly, just as those rights demand respect in any context other than war. They conclude that in order to do this some of the central vestments of the classic just war tradition must be discarded.

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