A philosophical biography from the Internet Encyclopedia
of Philosophy. Read it.
An extensive resource from the Radical Academy.
by Gregory Koukl
A very interesting, accessible, and brief article from a Christian
perspective. I strongly recommend that you read this as it makes
one aspect of Augustine's influence quite clear.
Something of a fan site for Augustine aficionados.
There is a lot of material here, including Augustine's major texts
(in Latin, even.) Use this selectively to investigate what people
are saying about Augustine today.
Resources and case studies based on just war
Augustine is noted in history as the founder of Just War Theory in the
Western tradition (The Islamic world has it's own tradition of Just War
Theory based on the Koran). This is a body of thought that seeks
to provide guidelines for when it is justified for one nation to wage
war on another. These guidelines also seek to clarify what sorts
of conduct are morally acceptable within war.
One popular theory of justice in war is simply Might
is Right. Whosoever has the greater power is able
to dominate others, and so is in the position to determine what is just
and unjust. An early philosophical statement of this position is
given by Thrasymachus
in Plato's Republic. He says that "justice is the
interest of the stronger." Numerous nations have followed this
policy, even though few admit it. Imagine a nation that was so powerful
that no other nation could stand as a credible threat. Perhaps this
nation had great weapons of total destruction as well as powerful military
forces to enforce policies. Such a nation would seek to protect
its status as the primary might by attacking any other nation that came
close to its military power. Of course, such a nation would issue
proclamations of it's virtue and benevolence and inherent peacefulness.
Yet, let another power emerge that posed even a remote threat to its hegemony,
and that other power would be attacked and dismantled. Such a nation
would operate on the Might is Right principle.
Augustine lived in the era when Rome had lost its control of the world
and was quickly falling to other powers. The question of moral values
in war were immanent for him. Augustine identified two aspects of
war that required moral justification and guidelines:
right to go to war (Jus Ad Bellum)
right sorts of conduct in war (Jus In Bello)
- The right to go to war concerns the justification that a nation must
give in order for it to have a moral right to wage war on another.
Augustine laid the basis for four main criteria:
- 1. Just Authority -
is the decision to go to war based on a legitimate political and legal
2. Just Cause - has a
wrong been committed to which war is the appropriate response?
3. Right Intention - is
the response proportional to the cause? i.e. is the war action limited
to righting the wrong, and no further. When people speak of "mission
creep," this condition is the relevant concern.
4. Last Resort -
has every other means of righting the wrong been attempted sincerely
so that no other option but war remains?
The conduct of war is clearly a matter of moral concern. Even
when a nation is justified in waging war on another, there are moral
limits on what it may do in prosecuting the war. Defining and
enforcing such limits has been a long a concern for international agreement
- 1. Proportionality
- The proportionality of the use of force in a war. The degree of allowable
force used in the war must be measured against the force required to
correct the Just cause and limited by Just Intention (see Jus Ad
-The combatants discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. Innocent,
nonmilitary people should never be made the target of attacks.
- A country is not responsible for unexpected side effects of its military
activity as long as the following three conditions are met:
(a) The action must carry the intention to produce good consequences.
(b) The bad effects were not intended.
(c) The good of the war must outweigh the damage done by it.
- More resources on the criteria and case studies of just war theory
are available at the Just War Theory website (see Resources at the left).
These criteria have been revised and expanded, notably by Thomas
Aquinas in the 13th century. Since war is a constant human condition,
the concerns for it's moral constraint are ever important. Consider
how the criteria of Just War may be applied to the present. Clearly
an insightful philosopher writing almost 1,600 years ago speaks to matters
that are relevant to us now and will be relevant to us for some time.
Philosophy is a living and present concern, even when it speaks to us
from the distant past.
of this Philosopher's Portrait of Augustine.