Though the just war tradition has an ancient pedigree, like any tradition of thought, it is subject to historical highs and lows. Drawing on examples from the history of warfare from the Crusades to the present day, this book explores the limits and possibilities of the moral regulation of war. It focuses on the tensions which exist between war and morality. The moral ambiguity and mixed record of that tradition is acknowledged and the dangers which an exaggerated view of the justice or moral worth of war poses are underlined. The adoption of a 'dispositional' view of ethical life, in which moral character and moral culture play a decisive part, widens and transforms the ethics of war. Realism resists the application of morality to war. Pacifism harms and benefits the just war tradition in about equal measure. In opposition to the amoral and wholly pragmatic approach of the 'pure' realist, the just war theorist insists on the moral determination of war where that is possible, and on the moral renunciation of war where it is not. Moral realism is what the just war tradition purports to be about. Legitimate authority has become entirely subordinated to the concept of state sovereignty. If moderate forms of consequentialism threaten the principle of noncombatant immunity, more extreme or purer forms clearly undermine it. The strategic and the ethical problems of counterterrorism are compounded by the emergence of a new and more extreme form of terrorism.
tendencies, which incline them to behave (or
not to behave) in certain ways. How they fight (for good or ill) will
depend on how they have been disposed to fight by their own past
actions (of course) but also by the moralcultures to which they
have been exposed.
From this traditional just war perspective the moral truth about
war is not reducible to a theory or to a set of rules or principles. The
moral life generally (and in time of war especially) is too complex
to be captured in a rule or code and it is in the interests of the
moral restraint of war that its complexity
punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not
simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping
the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.
(Solzhenitsyn 1978, Vol. 1, pp. 175–8)
To ignore the criminal conduct of war is to undermine the moralculture of war, the preservation of which is one of the primary objectives of just war theory. Without some form of public accounting war
crimes are likely to lose their criminal status. There is a very thin line
to be drawn between the refusal to proceed against criminal activity
and the condoning of that
The question I want to address now is this. How far may we take the example of these rescuers as the image, or anticipation, of an alternative * possible ethical landscape? Can one envisage a moralculture so transformed as to give real practical force to the sense of responsibility for the safety of others that Levi and Jaspers discuss under the headings of shame and moral and metaphysical guilt, and that the rescuers articulate as having compelled them? Could one feasibly entertain the vision of a global human community in which an obligation to come to the
only of a present confidence in some future spontaneous harmony. The great evils we hope to be able to remedy include precisely evils against which liberal institutions have given some protection.
8. Embracing utopia means embracing an alternative ethics
A different moralculture would be required to create and sustain a condition of minimum utopia. In some ways this point will seem so obvious as not to be worth stating. Inhabiting a world used by millennia of practice and acculturation to the ‘normality’ of some people being able to live by the efforts of others
self-rule, environmental conservation, racial hegemony, philanthropy, manhood
and womanhood, collective security, and social protest’ (2011:10). Regardless,
Calder’s contention remains true –‘no concept has been more important than
thrift for shaping the moralculture of economic life under capitalism’ (2013:363).
It is also worth noting that this book is largely about Western thinkers on,
and versions of, thrift. There is a tangible historical conversation between the
Western and the non-Western world, and Western and non
the communitarian blueprint. Communitarian writers want the State to
have a smaller role in shaping the ‘moralculture’,
since that is the role of individuals and communities and can be
achieved only through a ‘national conversation’, and not
through laws and governmental recommendations. By contrast, New
Labour argues that the State does have an important role in shaping
Thomas Ahnert, The MoralCulture of the Scottish Enlightenment, 1690–1805 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), pp. 44–51.
35 Ibid ., pp. 96–105.
36 Duncan Forbes , A Letter to a Bishop, Concerning Some Important Discoveries in Philosophy and Theology , 3rd ed. ( London , 1747 ), p. 87 (original emphasis).
37 Millar, Propagation of Christianity , I, p. 159.
38 NRS, GD18/5031, fo. 6, Sir John Clerk to Thomas Blackwell, 23 Sep. 1734.
39 For a discussion of these arguments, see Christopher Berry , ‘ Rude religion: the psychology of
has no force. There is no firmer protection for the values governing the interaction of human beings than the moralcultures and practices that obtain between them. Invoke as we may – against their reciprocal agreements – the will of God, or moral intuition, or the power of philosophical reasoning, the contract of mutual indifference can just remain in place, its normativity while it prevails defying any better one.
There is a more serious consequence still. This conclusion touches not only any hypothetical right to receive help in emergency, which would be a
Historiographical and research political reflections
thousands (11,000, to be precise) of patient
files of the people who had been sterilized, I gained an insight into a social
and moralculture that differed from our own in important ways. And I began to
understand how eugenics could make sense to those who advocated it at the time
and that simply condemning it as unethical and reactionary would be bad
history-writing. And perhaps that was my primary concern. I wanted to be a
serious historian and