Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
David R. Mapel
In current just war theory debates, some scholars claim that a moral right to defend a nation cannot be demonstrated. Others claim that any case for the morality of even defensive war must reflect standards of interpersonal morality. This dissertation goes back to the natural law tradition behind just war theory to offer a moral argument in favor of national defense that is not based on an individualist account, but also rejects absolute accounts of national sovereignty, with its attendant problems. National defense is usually but not always just.
I defend arguing from “a tradition” in MacIntyre’s sense, and distinguish Aristotelian-Thomist natural law, my tradition, from post-Grotius and “new” natural law.” I defend the tradition against Hume’s attack on moving from “what is” to “what ought to be.” I stress the natural law revival in jurisprudence since the weakness of positive law to deal with World War II intra-state crimes became clear at Nuremberg.
As the tradition differs sharply from much current moral reasoning, I elucidate five areas of difference: a social approach vs. individualism, an architectural approach vs. an exploration of intuitions, primarily subjective vs. primarily objective evaluation, belief in human nature vs. a denial of it, and a stress on justice vs. subjective human rights.
I ground individual defense in a morality based on the objective value of human (and other forms of) existence and the telos of flourishing individually and as groups. I argue for a proportionate use of force to defend property. I base the justice of defending a state on its necessity for human flourishing, its natural duty to defend its citizens, and the necessity of defense for ongoing existence.
I next argue against opposing positions, in terms of their own traditions, primarily Jeff McMahan and David Rodin. I critique both for rejecting the morality of defense against innocent threats, for bad derivations of individual rights, and for objective approaches to morality. I further critique McMahan for his claim liability to be killed can rest on a responsibility less than culpability. I then critique Rodin on a variety of internal logical grounds.
White, Craig M., "The Morality of National Defense: an Aristotelian-Thomist Account" (2018). Political Science Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 68.