What should I read about Just War?
November 8, 2010 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Do you have recommendations for good readings on Just War theory and debates? Any and all perspectives welcome, from Thomas Aquinas to modern day. Links to good summaries and reviews of leading works/thinkers very good too. This is for thesis writing, so especially looking for the academic or at least erudite. Thanks very much for any tips!!
posted by zresearch to Religion & Philosophy (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This book discussed the idea of a "just war" in detail. It comes from the perspective that this idea is completely flawed, however. Not sure if that's the kind of reference you want. It's a really excellent book, in any case.
posted by purpletangerine at 11:05 AM on November 8, 2010

Not exactly what you're asking for perhaps, but this article from the NYRB "Israel: Civilians & Combatants" by Avishai Margalit and Michael Walzer interested me a lot, especially on risks soldiers should be taking to protect civilian lives.
posted by squishles at 11:16 AM on November 8, 2010

Do you have recommendations for good readings on Just War theory and debates? Any and all perspectives welcome, from Thomas Aquinas to modern day.

Is there some reason you want to start with Aquinas and not Augustine (including his letters)? See this book for instance: Saint Augustine and the theory of just war by John Mark Mattox (Continuum, 2009).

Can you give us any more guidance on your topic? Are you still doing background reading or do you have a thesis statement? What academic level are you working at? Is your goal an historical paper, an application to a particular conflict, a systematic and theorotical treatment of the topic?
posted by Jahaza at 11:40 AM on November 8, 2010

If you do start with Aquinas, you'll start here in the Summa (where there are references to Augustine and other sources.)
posted by Jahaza at 11:43 AM on November 8, 2010

On the other end, Bl. John XXIII's 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris is a key twentieth-century Catholic discussion of war and peace.
posted by Jahaza at 11:46 AM on November 8, 2010

Thanks Jahaza!! To clarify, I am actually asking on behalf of a friend who is a PhD student (but not a Metafilterian). She is working on a dissertation about the media sector in Afghanistan. I'm not sure what exactly she wants to use Just War theory for, but I think she needs some background reading to frame some of her overall arguments, rather than it being a specific focus of her work. Anyway, I'll ask her for more detail.

(and no preference for Aquinas over Augustine - my mistake =) ; I think she may be more interested in modern writers on the subject, but I wanted to make sure all potential bases were covered in answering the question )
posted by zresearch at 11:49 AM on November 8, 2010

If one of my students asked me this question, I'd loan them my copy of Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars (and I'd ask for it back).
posted by brozek at 12:19 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

OK, after a quick discussion and review with my friend, we sheepishly admit that we are only actually looking for a good primer on/introduction to the main thinkers and the key debates etc. It's her first exposure to the power of the Metafilter Hive Mind though (she's mocked my use of it previously) so good to see that the responses have been impressive so far ! Keep them (with the new specification in mind) coming and we may have a new convert!
posted by zresearch at 12:34 PM on November 8, 2010

Look up some John Howard Yoder
posted by low affect at 12:38 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try the alternate version: Just Peacemaking, by Glenn Stassen

Predicated (as I understand it, I have not read it) on the idea that war cannot be avoided unless there exists a just peace.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2010

Can I second my own recommendation? I just want to point out that Kurlansky's book applies even more with your additional information. It gives a very good summary of many ways throughout history the idea of "just war" was presented, and ways in which the same idea was repeated with different goals. Ok, I'll butt out now.
posted by purpletangerine at 4:08 PM on November 8, 2010

brozek's got it. Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars is the standard introductory level book on this topic, as I understand it. Definitely worth reading.
posted by voltairemodern at 7:09 PM on November 8, 2010

Kant talks about this in The Metaphysics of Morals.
posted by synecdoche at 7:40 PM on November 8, 2010

Definitely Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars.

This Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on "war" gives a good brief lay-of-the-land introduction, and gives tips for further reading. (Also explains a prominent alternative to just war theory, which goes by the horrible name of "realism".)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:10 PM on November 8, 2010

Oliver O'Donovan's recent book The Just War Revisited might be just the sort of thing your friend needs. Amazon link here includes a 'look inside' preview option.
posted by davemack at 3:10 AM on November 9, 2010

Thanks everyone!! This has been very helpful and has answered our question. My friend is going to start off with Just and Unjust Wars and take it from there.
posted by zresearch at 9:44 AM on November 9, 2010

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