Ethics Just War Essay

Submitted By Sam-Haden
Words: 1861
Pages: 8

Ethics – Just War
a.) Explain how the followers of the religion you have studied justify going to war
The issue of war, and how we relate to it, has been prominent in human civilisation all throughout history. The last century has seen the world through two worlds wars, plus plenty of smaller-scale ones too, that lead Robin Gill to say that “War has presented the 20th Century with perhaps its most crucial moral problem.” Even recently, there have civil wars, religious wars, those for economic resources, and there are still invasions of countries from others; war has always played a significant role in our world. There are different perspectives of looking at war, for example, some take the pacifist view, and say that war cannot be justified, whereas others say that it is just simply part of human nature, and is unavoidable. Christians can take any of the stances, some saying that it’s unjustifiable, following the absolute teaching of Exodus 20:13 “Do not kill”, although others use ethical theories to justify going to war.
The Just War Theory is the most famous religious theory, and it looks at ways of that we can justly go to war. It was developed in the 13th Century by a Christian theologian called Thomas Aquinas. Just as with his Natural Law, he was influenced by previous philosophers such as Aristotle and Cicero, as well Augustine of Hippo. Whilst the former philosophers stated that war is justifiable in self-defence, Augustine, as well as Ambrose of Milan, was the first to develop a Christian response to justifying war. We can see their influence in his Just War Theory, in that it should be the last resort, and the intention should be to restore peace and justice.
Aquinas, as a Catholic, believed that war is sinful, and should be avoided as far as possible, although he realised that sometimes it was the only action to take. He drew together criteria to help a follower of his theory to know when to go to war, and these involved: the right authority, the right cause, and the just intention. What he meant by these was that if a country were to go to war, the decision must be reached by a legitimate authority, meaning the reigning government of that state; there must a good reason for going to war, for example, rather than for greed; and that the motive should be moral too. Aquinas also believed that for a war to be just, actions must be taken before, during, and after the war. In Latin this translates as `Jus ad bellum`, `Jus in bello` and `Jus post bellum`, and he believed that they all needed to be taken into account. There are rules for all parts, some staying the same, such as proportionality, a relational principle, differing for each part, but generally stating that the actions within war must not be disproportionate, but fair and just. Although the rest differ, in that for conduct during war, countries should treat Prisoners of War well and there must be no reprisals, and conduct after war should involve right rehabilitation and compensation, and no discrimination. All these are rules set out by the Just War Theory to try and ensure that if war is needed, it can be justified, although it must be remembered that it must be the last resort. The idea of it being a last resort, as well as it being proportional and there being a reasonable chance of success, were thought up and added by the scholars Francisco Suarez and Francisco de Vitoria in the 16th and 17th Centuries. This theory is one that a Christian may follow to say that war is justifiable by certain criteria, especially if they are a Roman Catholic, as their doctrine on war is very similar to this set out by Aquinas.
Another stance that a Christian could take is that of realism. This approach to war takes into account the horror of war, along with all of its downsides, but it also looks at the possible benefits. A realist would not see it as intrinsically good, but they do say that a state should not be restricted by the ethical codes of individuals; it