1st Edition

Justice and the Just War Tradition Human Worth, Moral Formation, and Armed Conflict

By Christopher J. Eberle Copyright 2016

    Justice and the Just War Tradition articulates a distinctive understanding of the reasons that can justify war, of the reasons that cannot justify war, and of the role that those reasons should play in the motivational and attitudinal lives of the citizens, soldiers, and statesmen who participate in war. Eberle does so by relying on a robust conception of human worth, rights, and justice. He locates this theoretical account squarely in the Just War Tradition. But his account is not merely theoretical: Justice and the Just War Tradition has a variety of practical aims, one of the most important of which is to serve as an aid to moral formation. The hope is that citizens, soldiers, and statesmen whose emotions and aspirations have been shaped by the Just War Tradition will be able to negotiate violent communal conflict in ways that respect the demands of justice. So Justice and the Just War Tradition articulates a theoretically satisfying and practically engaging account of the reasons that count in favor of war. Moreover, Eberle develops that account by engaging contemporary theorists, both philosophical and theological, by according due deference to venerable contributors to the Just War Tradition, and by integrating insights from military memoire, the history of war, and the author's experience of teaching ethics at the United States Naval Academy.

    1. An Autobiographical Introduction 2. Tribalism and War 3. Basic Human Worth 4. The Presumption Against War 5. Just Cause for War 6. Right Intention and Emotion 7. Must We Sorrow Over A Just War? 8. Rights, Goods, and Proportionality 9. An Ambiguous Conclusion


    Christopher J. Eberle is Professor of Philosophy at the US Naval Academy where he has taught since 2001. He speaks and writes on normative issues relating to religion, politics, and war, including Religious Conviction in Liberal Politics (2002). He currently lives in Arnold, MD, with his wife, Lauren, and two children, Nate and Luke.

    "Within the laudable progress that has been made in articulating clear norms for the appropriate use of armed force lies a real danger. The danger is that the rich Just War Tradition can become reduced to a kind of ‘ethical compliance checklist’, and the deep questions of justice that lie behind those norms gets forgotten or sidelined. This book is a powerful and timely antidote to that trend. These are deep waters, deftly navigated by a thinker who is both philosophically adept and deeply affected by the weighty responsibility of contributing to the moral formation of those who fight and kill on behalf of us all. This is a challenging, honest, accessible and impressive book."

    Deane-Peter Baker, UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Australia

    "Christopher Eberle is one of the most impressive philosophers of his generation. Eberle’s previous book, Religious Conviction in Liberal Politics, is an indispensable contribution to the voluminous literature on the proper role of religion in the politics and law of a liberal democracy. Eberle’s new book, Justice and the Just War Tradition, is yet another groundbreaking work. Essential reading for all who are interested in grappling with the challenging, perennially contested moral questions that arise in the context of armed conflict."

    Michael J. Perry, Emory University, USA

    "Over the centuries, much has been written on the topic of just war theory. Justice and the Just War Tradition is easily the finest articulation of the theory that anyone has ever produced. Just war theorists typically allow their readers to bring to the discussion whatever understanding of justice they happen to have; Eberle stands out from the crowd in that he carefully articulates the account of justice that he employs in developing his version of the theory. And while he shares the aim of just war theorists generally to develop a theoretically cogent way of evaluating the legitimacy of war, he stands out from the crowd in that his discussion is also shaped by his conviction that the fundamental point of the theory is to serve the cause of the moral formation of military officers, of government officials, and of citizens. What this reader also found distinctive was the frequent use of vivid examples from the annals of actual war. In a word, it's a terrific book: lucid, learned, original, probing, eloquent, compelling."

    Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale University, USA

    "Chris Eberle’s extended reflection on the notions he describes as the 'justificatory core' of the just war tradition raises a number of interesting questions. Readers will find his focus on the role of the tradition in moral formation—and in particular, on the importance of emotion—especially suggestive. Eberle’s work deserves to be widely discussed."

    John Kelsay, Florida State University, USA 

    "St. Augustine, the founding ancestor of the modern just war tradition, harbored as his chief worry about war what it would do to the soul of the person fighting it. Philosopher Christopher J. Eberle makes a convincing and strikingly original argument that this concern -- motivation, intention, the soul -- ought to reassume central place in reasoning about the justice of war. In making this argument through compelling logic and spare, direct prose, he performs a service to his students, to soldiers in formation, and to everyone with a stake in the justice of war."

    Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame, USA

    "In this book Christopher Eberle interprets the 'core' of just war thinking with the logic, clarity and precision characteristic of a very good philosopher. Uncharacteristically--and refreshingly--his philosophy remains open to religious reasons. What's more, it retains blood in its veins. As a teacher of naval midshipmen, Eberle writes with human empathy for the grave pressures and temptationsbto which military personnel are vulnerable, and he keeps his theory honest by exposing it to the dreadful messiness of historical experience. Justice and the Just War Tradition makes an extra-ordinary contribution to contemporary discussion of the ethics of war."  

    Nigel Biggar, University of Oxford, UK