Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Larry May and Just Cause

Here is a paper I'm writing right now. For some flavor for ya'll, I've put the beginning outline and proposal out there. I'm still working out both A) the label for the type of pacifism defended (as well as some content consideration), and B) how one who holds that human lives can be offset against other moral considerations for supporting jus ad bellum .


Larry May’s work in philosophy of war is very well-known and respected. For me, his interpretation of just cause principle(s) are the most reasonable with the caveat that war is a permissible moral activity. One might say, for this reason, that May’s version is the most reasonable view of just cause. In fact, many of my own prima facie moral intuitions about war are worked into his reconceptualized view of the just cause principle. Yet, I am not willing to grant him the caveat of war’s permissibility. However critical May’s reconceptualized just cause principle, the critical stance and acknowledged attendant horrors of war cannot serve as a reason to constrain that only a small number of wars, those justified by a just cause, can be fought. Instead, the horrors of war serve as a wrong-making property to undermine that just causes justify war at all. This does not mean that there’s no such thing as a just cause, but only the remedy of addressing the just cause cannot be war.

As remedies go, I propose a contextual pacifism that rejects all forms of war that pose a danger to massive amounts of non-combatants, a large portion of whom are innocent. My particular intuitions reject warfare in cases where a large amount of people will unnecessarily suffer. Thus, my contextual pacifism concerns how states and internationally mobile sub-state actors ultimately relate. This pacifism does not cut down all the way into personal relationships, however.

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