A Philosophy of War
Moseley, Darran A
This thesis examines in four parts a collection of philosophical arguments dealing with war. The conclusions drawn are that war is a definable and applicable concept, that above the level of biological reactions war is the result of beliefs, that an objective distinction exists between aggressive and defensive actions, and that war is only justifiable in the protection of core rights. The first part analyses competing definitions of war. It is argued that the concept of war is philosophically appropriate and captures the conceptual common denominator between particular wars. The essence of war is defined as “a condition of open-ended violence”. Part Two explores the causal relationships between metaphysical and epistemological beliefs and war. It is held that war cannot be explained away as an unalterable fact of the universe, hence deterministic explanations fail in favour of the conclusion that wars are the product of ideas and ideas are volitionally obtained. The third part continues an exploration of determinist accounts of war and examines how various theories of human nature attempt to explain why war occurs. For methodological purposes human nature is trisected into biological, cultural, and rational aspects. Theories that attempt to interpret war using only a single aspect are inadequate, for each aspect must logically presuppose the existence and hence the influence of the others. It is concluded that human wars are the product of ideas, but ideas are distinguishable between tacit and explicit forms. Tacit forms of knowledge evolve through social interaction and sometimes have unintended consequences; war on the cultural level can be the product of human action but not of human design (Ferguson), hence attempts to abolish war by reason alone are bound to fail. Part Four assesses the application of ethical and political reasoning to war. It is argued firstly that morality, in the form of universalisable core rights and socially generated general rules of conduct, must not be removed from the sphere of war. Secondly it is concluded that the ideal just government exists to protect rights, from which it will follow that defensive wars and wars of intervention to protect rights are morally supportable.