Toward a Collectivist National Defense

Philosophia 48 (4):1333-1354 (2020)
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Most philosophers writing on the ethics of war endorse “reductivist individualism,” a view that holds both that killing in war is subject to the very same principles of ordinary morality ; and that morality concerns individuals and their rights, and does not treat collectives as having any special status. I argue that this commitment to individualism poses problems for this view in the case of national defense. More specifically, I argue that the main strategies for defending individualist approaches to national defense either fail by their own lights or yield deeply counterintuitive implications. I then offer the foundations for a collectivist approach. I argue that such an approach must do justice to the collective goods that properly constituted states make possible and protect through certain acts of defensive war; and that any such picture of national defense must make room for some form of national partiality.

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Jeremy Davis
University of Georgia


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