Jan 31, 2008

Just War Theory and consequentialism

In a new paper, Thomas Hurka of the University of Toronto discusses how Just War Theory considers consequences, but in a deontological framework. [pdf]
But this interpretation is neither most intuitive nor truest to how the conditions have usually been understood. A more attractive reading departs from consequentialism, first, by distinguishing among types of benefit and harm, saying only some are relevant to the assessment of a war or act in war while others are not. Second, it distinguishes among causal processes,saying benefits and harms with one kind of causal history can count toward the assessment of a war or act while the same benefits or harms with another history cannot. Finally, it does not always weigh benefits and harms equally but gives more weight to harms an act directly causes than to any benefits it produces. In all three respects the resulting theory assesses consequences in a deontological way.
The paper is highly useful to anyone running--or running against--Just War Theory in the present resolution.

(For further information, check out Hurka's "The Consequences of War," which goes into more depth.)


Anonymous said...

This sort of goes with the JWT idea, and this also may not be the right place to post this, but....

pardon silly questions:

How do you go about defining the right to self-preservation for a state or nation? Does a nation/state even have the right to self-preservation?

What theorists/philosophers dealt with this subject of self-preservation for states? Locke?

Much gratitude in advance!

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, I like the SEP's take on sovereignty and nationalism. Hobbes is probably your best source for a right to state self-preservation. I'll defer to Josh, but Leviathan is all about how security is the foundation of legitimate state power.

By the way, those aren't silly questions. They're deep and philosophical--and, thus, in a cross-examination, potentially quite deadly. Why shouldn't we all be cosmopolitans, or, better yet, anarchists? Why presume that the Nation or the State (for the two aren't always synonymous) is the proper seat of sovereignty?

Same debater, I said...


Then let me continue badgering...

I am not able to understand Kant's Cosmopolitanism...would you care to step in and guide?

Also, what about a state's right to self-determination? Should this play into the negative?

one more ... it has to do with bringing up philosophy in debate:

If I were to use Hobbes and there were other aspects of the theory that my opponent attacked, can i still say something like we need to look at this specific principle Hobbes is identifying or something of the kind?

or even me...can I win an argument if i argue against another part of Hobbes theory and continue that with "then we shouldn't look to his philosophy of the right to state self-preservation?
Or is this an ad hominem fallacy (i think that's what you call it; correct me if I'm wrong)

do these questions even make sense?

Again, hearty thanks in advance.

josh cole said...

Well, I can briefly talk about self-preservation, as far as I know.

Machiavelli is actually the one who justifies the right of regimes to preserve themselves. In order to maintain order and protect people, the regime needs to have some autonomy from...non-citizens is probably the best term. He wrote well before the nation-state concept existed. Regimes/governments are ruling bodies though and not states. If they can't protect the state though, then why have either?

Hobbes basically said that regimes are states and have the right to defend themselves so as to prevent the "warre of all against all." Regimes have no obligation to protect other regimes though, just themselves. If its in the best interest of a regime to attack another, they're more than welcome to try.

Locke did not like governing bodies, but he believed that states emerged naturally out of a shared desire to protect property. So one can't get rid of nations very easily. Regimes have a the right to protect themselves, but only if they uphold the collective will of the people.

To finish off, most political philosophers agree that self-preservation of the state is natural and good, but the reasons vary. The aff would probably do best with Locke (nukes negate the rule of law and property rights far more than military action) and the neg is probably best served by Hobbes and Machiavelli (governments of any competence are better than anarchy that comes with regime-toppling).

same debater i said...

Thanks! very valuable

any comments on the previous comment??

Jim Anderson said...

Cosmopolitanism, Kant-style: According to Kant, all rational beings are members in a single moral community. They are analogous to citizens in the political (republican) sense in that they share the characteristics of freedom, equality, and independence, and that they give themselves the law. Their common laws, however, are the laws of morality, grounded in reason. (Again from the SEP, an invaluable resource.)

If you're running Kant, you could argue that all nations have obligations to others' citizens, etc.--where you would take that would depend on your case.

A state's right to self-determination is good for the Neg--use it to show that they should be allowed to acquire nukes to protect themselves, even against the U.S.

Regarding philosophers and their systems...

1. Using a name ("Hobbes said...") is already a form of argument from authority; it's only fallacious if the authority isn't an expert or if her/his arguments don't hold water.

2. Thus, it's probably true that saying "Well, if Hobbes was wrong about X, he's probably wrong about Y" is logically unsound, although it may be rhetorically persuasive.

3. In the same vein, press people to warrant their claims, whether they're from Hobbes or anyone else with an impressive pedigree. Just because you can put "PhD" after your name doesn't make you right.

With that, I'm done. Thanks, Josh, for chiming in. That's why I deferred.

josh cole said...

No problem. Always glad to use my degree.