PHILOSOPHY 1 Essay Example

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Has there ever been just war?

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Has there ever been just war?

Tony: Officer, have you noticed lately that the issue about just war has received a very heated debate and has fumed the air in the recent past? Do you understand what this is all about?

Officer: Yeah Tony, I see you have a keen eye over what has been looming around recently. A just war is the war that satisfies the following conditions: should be declared lawful by lawful authority, it must be on a cause that is just, a good intention ought to be behind the war, other means of resolving the challenge must have been tried, a reasonable chance of success must be there, and the means employed ought to be in proportion to the end results that the war tries to find.

Tony: Oh! I see. But actually we frame and employ analogous criteria to the ones that determine if a war is justified or just whenever conflicting duties or obligations are faced, or whenever wanting to evade performing evil to everyone.

Officer: Tony, what you do not know is that at times we provoke two or even more prima- facie obligations1, of which one cannot be fulfilled without the other(s) being sacrificed. Therefore, the criteria of evaluating wars amongst other many actions are the same since war as well as those other actions involves sacrifice of some prima facie duties.

Tony: yes, but what I understand is that if two or more prima- facie obligations tend to be in conflict, then the total situation need to be assessed as well as the probable action courses so as to figure out what must be actually done.

Officer: well, this is what I have to say, that holding an obligation as prima- facie is claiming that it has a powerful morality reason over its performance. On the other hand, viewing obligation as absolute, then under no circumstance can it be overridden. Further viewing it as prima- facie1 makes it naturally binding2. As institutional members or individuals, we got a prima-facie obligation of not injuring others.

Tony: Okay. The difference in the interpretation of just war between Catholic and Protestant appears at the attitude towards just war overrules the prima- facie obligation of not injuring or even killing others.

Officer: I do not deny the fact. But whether a war that justifiably or justly overrules the prima- facie obligation of not injuring or killing should arouse might be debatable. This is because the residual effects of overruled prima- facie are very important. First reason is that it is wrong to kill or injure others and such actions demand justification. Second not every obligation can be fulfilled in every circumstance without sacrifices. Third, the overruled prima- facie obligations should affect the attitudes of the actor in addition to their actions in waging war.

Tony: really! I think war is just an extension of politics and thus justifying waging war needs very little.

Officer: you are becoming very presumptuous. You need to understand two things. First war ought to be justified simply because it disrupts some of the prima- facie duties, not that it is wholly amoral or immoral or totally discontinuous with politics. Secondly it is more or less humane insofar as it is done with some standards which develop from overruled prima- facie duties which prevail even in war.

Tony: well said officer. When you try to find the criteria of grounds of just war you realize that most of the criteria that are associated with just wars spring because war entails conflict between obligations of prima- facie (when it is justified and just) and due to the overruled obligations of prima- facie, forbid us to kill or injure others.2

Officer: it is imperative to argue that Tony. Nonetheless the content of obligations of prima- facie that are overridden in just wars is what evidently shapes the criterion. This is because the behavior of war should be as harmonious as possible with overruled obligations of prima- facie3. In addition, a just cause requirements are only the very requirements that the other contending obligation in prima- facie be a weighty and a serious one, for instance to protect innocents from attack that is not just, restoring wrongfully denied rights or re-establishing just orders4.

Tony: I agree with that, however those obligations cannot be overruled unless there are no other ways of attaining short war just aim5.

Officer: Tony, please get to understand that the last resort is war. Thus the need for war as the final resort do not however imply that every possible measure ought to be tried and completed unless there is a sensible anticipation which will be positive.

Tony: well, officer let me question you. Can war be imprudent?

Officer: yes it can be imprudent if it has no sensible opportunity for success. You know the requirements of a sensible hope of proportionality and success are closely linked6. However something beyond a command of prudence is entailed in the request for a sensible hope of success.


Brandt, R.B., 1972, “Utilitarianism and the Rules of War,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 145–65.

Childress, James, 1978, “Just–War Theories: The Bases, Interrelations, Priorities and Functions of their Criteria,” Theological Studies, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 427–45.

Hare, R.M., 1972, “Rules of War and Moral Reasoning,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 166–81.

Lackey, Douglas, 1982, “A Modern Theory of Just War [Review of Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars],” Ethics, Vol. 92, No. 3, pp. 540–6.

Walzer, Michael, 1971, “World War II: Why Was This War Different?” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 3–21.