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Title: Contemporary just war doctrine : a critical comparison of theological and philosophical proposals
Author: Feiler, Therese
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 3726
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis for the first time critically and comparatively examines contemporary Christian and philosophical ethics of war. Thus it contributes to an investigation of current possibilities of moral-political action. Exploring various combinations of political ethics and the tenets of faith, it compares three Christian with two secular thinkers. Each chapter first shows how Just War ethics are constructed between ‘realism’ and ‘idealism’. The former prioritizes individual or national self-defence and power; the latter the universal value of each individual. Each analytical section reconstructs the author’s moral understanding of political authority, violent force and political reality. These foci are investigated in terms of how they understand, envision or reject the mediation between politics and Christian morality. As the inner logic of each Just War proposal is thus brought out, continuities and differences between authors can be explained. Part I looks at Christian authors. Jean Bethke Elshtain’s realistic, ‘naturalistic’ Just War ethic of the sovereign state rejects humanist idealism. For Paul Ramsey Christian agape provides a transformative ethic between idealism and realism. Developing this, Oliver O’Donovan’s evangelical approach practically fuses idealism and realism. Dogmatically, this is conditioned by moving from Elshtain’s modern theological dualism to Ramsey’s Christ-transforming the world, though still indebted to philosophical idealism. O’Donovan, however, suggests that after the singular mediation of the Christ event, moral-political categories disclose the divine order. Part II investigates the idealism-realism divide amongst philosophers. Both David Rodin’s idealist demand for a global state and Uwe Steinhoff’s individualist Machiavellianism seek to protect human rights. After Kant, they presuppose an unbridgeable division between politics and ‘religious’ morality. Theology, having become anthropology, replaces the mediation of Christ with immanent mediators: legal, statist or individualist moral agents. But this echoes and intensifies the Christian tradition. Whereas Rodin introduces a renewed, violent papacy, Steinhoff seeks to renew the liberal-democratic status quo through a secular ‘radical reformation’. It is concluded that both modern Christian and philosophical ethics of war can oscillate between impractical triumphant justice and the failure of tragic antagonism. If the singular mediation between Is and Ought in Christ is recognized as a universal paradox, doing justice effectively becomes possible.
Supervisor: Biggar, Nigel Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Theology and Religion ; Modern theology ; Christian Ethics ; Philosophical Ethics ; Ethics of war ; theology ; philosophy ; contemporary ; political theology ; mediation