An African Theory of Just Causes for War

In Luis Rodrigues-Cordeiro & Danny Singh (eds.), Comparative Just War Theory. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 131-155 (2020)
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In this chapter, I add to the new body of philosophical literature that addresses African approaches to just war by reflecting on some topics that have yet to be considered and by advancing different perspectives. My approach is two-fold. First, I spell out a foundational African ethic, according to which one must treat people’s capacity to relate communally with respect. Second, I derive principles from it to govern the use of force and violence, and compare and contrast their implications for war with other recent African views and especially with some prominent accounts in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy. I argue that the approaches to military conflict prescribed by the Afro-communal ethic and its derivative principles differ, and in some prima facie plausible ways, from the views of thinkers that include Thomas Hurka, David Luban, Larry May, Jeff McMahan, and Michael Walzer. In particular, I conclude that the African perspectives ground some interesting and under-explored approaches to just causes for war that merit consideration, including the ideas that military conflict could in principle be justified in order to protect a people’s culture or to correct an aggressor’s vice.

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Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria


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