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PT Through History

nuclear sunset

The Challenge of Peace and the Presumption Against War

This is the fourth, and final, post in a series that was kick-started last September with a short discussion of how the growing field of just intelligence theory might be overly influenced by jus contra bellum thinking, or what Tobias Winright has coined “the presumption against harm version of just war theory.” This particular variant of just war theory is defined at its core by a presumption against war or a presumption against the use of force.

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Masaccio_-_The_Expulsion_from_the_Garden_of_Eden_(detail)_-_WGA14180

Marx on Genesis 3

In the first volume of Capital, Marx writes: ‘Englishmen, always well up in the Bible, knew well enough that man, unless by elective grace a capitalist, or landlord, or sinecurist, is commanded to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, but they did not know that he had to eat daily in his bread a certain quantity of human perspiration mixed with the discharge of abscesses, cobwebs, dead black-beetles, and putrid German yeast, without counting alum, sand, and other agreeable mineral ingredients’.

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foucault

Foucault’s Care

Foucault’s emphasis on the ‘care of the self’ is usually hailed as a significant challenge to the understanding of ethics. With the tendency of ethics to focus on the ‘other’ and how one relates to that other, the turn to consider the construction of the subject seems to be radical. This was also Foucault’s answer to the perennial problems of ethics . . .

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James Childress and the Presumption Against War

….Because war’s constituent ingredients are killing and/or physical harm, and because, in Childress’ argument, those two things are “intrinsically prima facie wrong” because of the prima facie obligation of nonmaleficence, war itself is prima facie wrong. Therefore, for Childress – and those who follow him – just war theory has evolved out of the need to justify the overriding of nonmaleficence but begins with the presupposition of war’s prima facie wrongness.

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Calvin slavery

“All Things Turned Upside Down”—Calvin on Slavery

In a sermon on 1 Tim 6:1-2, John Calvin commented,

“…but they were slaves, of the kind that are still used in some countries, in that after a man was bought the latter would spend his entire life in subjection, to the extent that he might be treated most roughly and harshly: something which cannot be done amidst the humanity which we keep amongst ourselves. Now it is true that we must praise God for having banished such a very cruel brand of servitude.”[1]

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Adam Smith

Adam Smith, Storyteller

Adam Smith’s skill was as a storyteller of the first order. It takes one a while to realize where his appeal lies. As many have noted, his Wealth of Nations is rambling, polemical, and rather cavalier with evidence. All this sits rather strangely with the popularity of his writing, both then and now. How to understand that appeal? We suggest it may be found not in any skill at constructing careful and detailed argument, but in his ability to tell stories.

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pirate flag

Piracy, Politics, and Proximate Justice

In likening kingdoms lacking justice to criminal syndicates, Augustine invokes the story of a confrontation between Alexander the Great and a pirate. Indeed, Augustine judges “that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, ‘What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor’” (De civ. Dei 4.4.1).

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Judith_Beheading_Holofernes_by_Caravaggio

The “Ordinance of God” and the Right to Rebel

Romans 13:1-7 has stood as one of the most important texts throughout the history of Christian political thought, but like so many biblical texts, has proven capable of being put to the service of several different—even contradictory—ends. The 16th century in particular stimulated several different readings of the passage, readings which have continued to remain popular down to the present day.

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Thomas_Robert_Malthus

Thomas Malthus and the Doctrine of Evil

The original sin of man is the torpor and corruption of the chaotic matter in which he may be said to be born.

The Reverend Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) is best known for An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). Here this classical economist argues that human beings are caught between two drives, lust and hunger – or, being the polite reverend that he was, population and subsistence.

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titan missile

The Nuclear Revolution and the Bellum Contra Bellum Justum

Back in September, I suggested that the current literature on just intelligence theory may be unduly influenced by jus contra bellum thinking; that is, a strain popular among the more pacifistic elements of just war thinkers which tends to elevate either the jus in bello principles (i.e. immunity of noncombatants from direct attack and micro-proportionality) or the prudential ad bellum criteria (i.e. last resort, macro-proportionality, probability of success) over the traditionally-prior, deontological categories of sovereign authority, just cause and right intention.

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The Man with the Hoe, by Jean-Francois Millet

John Locke, the Fall, and the Origin Myth of Capitalism

At the beginning of the fifth chapter of the second treatise of his Two Treatises of Government, John Locke writes:

It is very clear, that God, as king David says, Psal. cvx. 16, “has given the earth to the children of men;” given it to mankind in common. But this being supposed, it seems to some a very great difficulty how any one should ever come to have a property in any thing … I shall endeavour to show how men might come to have a property in several parts of that which God gave to mankind in common, and that without any express compact of all the commoners.[1]

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