Ethical Responses To War
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What is Kant's ethical response to war?
Kant's theory would support declaring war in defense of others.
We could happily universalise a maxim that said we should go to war to defend another country from attack - because we too would want to be defended if we were attacked.
Kant also said we should never treat humanity 'merely as a means to an end'.
However, soldiers are fighting for their own safety, and they are paid. If soldiers had no vested interest in making the world a safer place, then they would be merely being used.
What is the Utilitarian response to war?
In Utilitarianism, the end justifies the means. Strictly speaking, a country wouldn't need a just cause to go to war as long as they had the right intention
- The greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.
A utilitarian would not support selfish motives.
However, utilitarians would be happy for the military or the President to make up a threat so long as the ensuing war made the world a better place.
Rule Utilitarians may have a different approach, arguing that a world where people go to war without a just cause would be an unstable world.
Therefore the Just War Criteria, although in many cases not utilitarian, may be necessary to make the world a better place.
What is the Natural Law response to war?
One Primary Precept is that we should 'protect and preserve the innocent', which would justify going to war to defend others.
However, Natural Law theorists would see this very much as a last resort. They would also criticise the way in which wars are fought, with a lack of respect for human beings.
Another Primary Precept says that we should live in an 'ordered society'. If an attack threatens the structure and authority of our society, this may justify our retaliation.
Early Catholics were largely pacifist. The principles of Natural Law are based on the concept of the sanctity of life - all life is sacred.
It is impossible to fight a war without some innocent people being killed, so every other possible solution must be sought before war is declared.
What is the situation ethics response to war?
Situation Ethics demands that we do the most loving thing.
This may mean going to war - Augustine said that while we may go to war, we should love our enemies (as Jesus instructed) even as we kill them.
However, situation ethics would be against the use of excessive force, using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons etc.
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