THE ISSAM FARES INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
Rethinking the Ethics of War
Over the past 15 years the traditional theory of the just war has been the target of sustained philosophical criticism. This understanding of the ethics of war has in fact been largely replaced by a quite different “revisionist” approach, which is characterized mainly by its claim that individual action rather than membership in some collective, such as the group of combatants or the group of noncombatants, is the basis of liability to attack in war.
This overthrow of the centuries-old orthodoxy over a short period of time is little known outside of academic philosophy, though it has begun to prompt serious reflection by some important legal theorists who write about the law of armed conflict or international criminal law. In this talk, Jeff McMahan explained the main differences between traditional and revisionist just war theory and sketched some of the reasons and arguments that have led to the rejection of the traditional view. The talk also included some remarks about the role of nonviolent in the ethics of war.
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