The Just War
A Seminar with Professor Thomas Patrick Burke
September 3, 2008
For much of human history war has been regarded as something totally outside the realm of morality, a brutal fact of life that just had to be accepted as necessary and inevitable. The idea that war could be drawn into the sphere of morality and subjected to moral conditions has been essentially a Christian one. While it was discussed by Cicero, it was mainly developed by two Christian saints, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. They were not warmongers. Their aim was the opposite of that, to reduce and civilize war by placing moral limits on it that reasonable people could agree to. They argued that moral limits apply both to the commencement of war and to the way it is conducted. Their arguments form part of the idea that there is a universal natural moral law to which human laws should conform. The well-known Geneva Conventions are one example of the effectiveness of their arguments; there are many others. At the present time the West must deal with peoples that have never heard of the universal natural moral law. And even in its own ranks there are now many who reject that belief. But it is a powerful idea and we need to regain our confidence in it.
The seminar included a discussion of the current wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia.
Learn more about Prof. Burke.
Read his paper The Just War.
Read other lectures, courses and essays by Prof. Burke.