PHL330 Questions on Catholic Natural Law Tradition Test. Answer questions ,Test. Answer questions ,Test. Answer questions ,Test. Answer questions ,Test. An

PHL330 Questions on Catholic Natural Law Tradition Test. Answer questions ,Test. Answer questions ,Test. Answer questions ,Test. Answer questions ,Test. Answer questions CHAPTER
The Ethics of War and Peace in the
Catholic Natural Law Tradition
John Finnis
Law, and a legalistic morality and politics, can define peace and war by
their mutual opposition. Any two communities are either at peace or at war
with one another. If they are at war, each is seeking a relationship to the
other (“victory over,” “prevailing over”) which that other seeks precisely to
frustrate or overcome. If they are at peace, each pursues its own concerns
in a state of indifference to, noninterference in, or collaboration with the
concerns of the other.
But sound moral and political deliberation and reflection is not legalis- #
tic. Despite some tendencies towards legalism, the Catholic tradition of
natural law theory very early articulated and has steadily maintained a
richer and more subtle conception of peace and war. From the outset, the
philosophers in the tradition have accepted that social theory (a theory of
practice) should have a distinct method, appropriate to its uniquely com-
plex subject matter. It should not seek to articulate univocal terms and
concepts which, like the concepts a lawyer needs, extend in the same sense
to every instance within a clearly bounded field. Rather, it should identify
the central cases of the opportunities and realities with which it is con-
cerned, and the focal meanings of the terms which pick out those opportu-
nities and realities. What is central, primary, and focal, and what periph-
eral, secondary, and diluted, is a function of (that is, is settled by reference
to) what is humanly important, which in turn is a function of what are the
good reasons for choice and action. So there are central and secondary
forms of community, of friendship, of constitution, of the rule of law, of
citizenship—and of peace. The secondary forms are really instances. But a
reflection which focuses on them will overlook much that is important
both for conscientious deliberation (practice) and for a fully explanatory
reflection (theory).
So: to describe or explain peace as the absence of war is to miss the
mportant reasons why, as the tradition affirms, peace is the point of war.
That affirmation is not to be taken in the diluted and ironical sense of the
Tacitean solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant.’ The tradition knows well
P. 16

John Finnis
enough that wars are sometimes, in fact, waged to annihilate, out of tot
or sheer delight in inflicting misery, destruction, and death, and that
peace of satiation of desire and the outward peace of an
such wars can be said to be “for the sake of peace,” that is, for the india
means is partial, unstable, and unsatisfying, and the peace of an untata
mastery over one’s domain.’ But even the inner peace attainable by sa
cruel mastery is deeply disordered and deficient. More adequately under
stood, peace is the “tranquillity of order,” and “order is the arrangemento
things equal and unequal in a pattern which assigns to each its proper

& 2
1. Catholic Natural Law Tradition – 17
armed struggle of a group or individual against gangsters, bandits, or pi-
rates; the duel of one person against another. In each
case, the relationship
and interactions between us and them which we bring into being in choos-
ing to go to war replace, for the war’s duration, the neighborliness and
cooperation which might otherwise have subsisted between us and them.
But the tradition teaches that a choice of means which involves such a
of peace (of concord, neighborliness, and collaboration) cannot
be justified unless one’s purpose (end) in choosing such means includes the
restoration, and if possible the enhancement, of peace (concord, neighbor-
liness, and collaboration) as constitutive of the common good of the imper-
fect community constituted by any two interacting human societies.10
This requirement of a pacific intention is, for the tradition, an inescap-
able implication of morality; it is entailed by the truly justifying point of
every human choice and action. For peace, in its rich central sense
and reality, is materially synonymous with the ideal condition of integral
human fulfillment—the flourishing of all human persons and communi-
ties.” And openness to that ideal, and the consistency of all one’s choices
with such openness, is the first condition of moral reasonableness.
In the classic sources of the tradition, that primary moral principle is
articulated not as I have just stated it, but as the principle that one is to love
one’s neighbor as oneself
, a principle proposed as fundamental not only to
the Gospel law but also to the natural law, to practical reasonableness it-
self.13 Accordingly, the tradition’s classic treatments of war are found in the
treatises on caritas, precisely on love of neighbor.’4 Justice removes obsta-
cles to peace, and is intrinsic to it, but the direct source of peace is love of
neighbor. And war is to be for peace.
For true peace, not a false or seeming peace. War might often be averted stop,
by surrender. But the peace thus won would often be a false peace, cor-
rupted and diluted by injustices, slavery, and fear. Preserving, regaining, or
attaining true peace can require war (though war will never of itself suffice
to achieve that peace”).
Calm, peace
But a definition of peace in terms of things resting tranquilly in their
proper places still fails to articulate the peace which could be the point of
war. It remains too passive. The account needs to be supplemented by
indeed recentered on, what Augustine had treated as primary in the two
immediately preceding sentences: concordia and societas, concord and com-
munity. For concord is agreement and harmony in willing, that is, in delib-
erating, choosing, and acting, and community is fellowship and harmony
in shared purposes and common or coordinated activities. Peace is not best
captured with metaphors of rest. It is the fulfillment which is realized most
fully in the active neighborliness of willing cooperation in purposes which
are both good in themselves and harmonious with the good purposes and
Venterprises of others.
erode, spoil
Peace, then, is diminished and undermined generically by every atti-
tude, act, or omission damaging to a society’s fair common good-specifi-
cally, by dispositions and choices which more or less directly damage
society’s concord. Such dispositions and choices include a proud and self-
ish individualism, estranged from one’s society’s (or societies’) concerns
and common good;” contentiousness, obstinacy, or quarrelsomeness;
feuding with one’s fellow citizens and sedition against proper authority;
and, most radically, war.
To choose war is precisely to choose a relationship or interaction in
which we seek by lethal physical force to block and shatter at least some of
their undertakings and to seize or destroy at least some of the resources and
means by which they could prosecute such undertakings or resist our use
of force. (Do not equate “lethal” with “intended to kill”: see under “Atti-
tudes toward War and Nonviolence” below.) In the paradigm case of war,
the we and the they are both political communities, acting as such—what
the tradition called “complete or self-sufficient (perfectae) communities.
But there are only “material,” not “formal” (essential, morally decisive),
differences between that paradigm case (“war” strictly so called) and other
turn away ,
be adequate,

An act, a deed, is essentially what the person who chooses to do it intends
it to be. Intention looks always to the point, the end, rather than to means
precisely as such; intention corresponds to the question, “Why are you
doing this?” But any complex activity is a nested order of ends which are
also means to further ends: I get up to walk to the cupboard to get herbs to
make a potion to drink to purge myself to get slim to restore my health to
prepare for battle to… 18 So, though intention is of ends, it is also of all
the actions which are means.
English lawyers try to mark the distinction between one’s more immedi-
cases: the war of a political community against pirates; the revolt of part of
a political community against their rulers, or the campaign of the rulers
against some part of their community, or some other form of civil war; the
18 – John Finnis
taken away. 2°
for the latter. The spirit in which one acts, the emotions which
ate intentions and one’s further intentions by reserving the word “motive
one’s choice and exertions, can be called one’s motives, too, but become
the moralist’s direct concern only if and insofar as they make a difference
to what is intended and chosen. If the proposal one shapes in deliberation
and adopts by choice is partly molded by one’s emotional motivations
(more precisely, by one’s intelligence in the service of those emotions),
tives), help make one’s act what it is, and fall directly under moral scrutiny.
then those motivations are to be counted among one’s intentions (and more
A war is just if and only if it is right to choose to engage in it. A choice
is right if and only if it satisfies all the requirements of practical reasonable
ness, that is, all relevant moral requirements. If one’s purpose (motive,
further intention) is good but one’s chosen means is vicious, the whole
choice and action is wrong. Conversely, if one’s means is upright (say,
to the poor) but one’s motive-one’s reason for choosing its
corrupt (say, deceiving voters about one’s character and purposes), the
whole choice and action is wrong. The scholastics had an
maxim to make this simple point
: bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocum-
que defectu
, an act will be morally good (right) if what goes into it is entirely
* good, but will be morally bad (wrong) if it is defective in any morally rele-
vant respect (bad end, or bad means, or inappropriate circumstances).
Treatises on just war are discussions of the conditions which must all be
satisfied if the war is to be just.
The preceding three paragraphs enable us to see that, in the tradition,
no clear or clearly relevant distinction can be drawn between “grounds for”
war and “motive or intention” in going to war. The proper questions are
always: What are good reasons for going to war? What reasons must not be
adoption of a proposal?
allowed to shape the proposal(s) about which I deliberate, or motivate my
1. Catholic Natural Law Tradition
wars for righting wrongs, in particular a nation’s wrong in neglecting to
punish crimes committed by its people or to restore what has been unjustly
Thus it is clear that, in Aquinas, the term causa is not equivalent to a
justifying ground.” Rather, it points to something more like the English
lawyer’s “cause of action,” a wrong cognizable by the law as giving basis for
a complaint, a wrong meriting legal redress. As Francisco Suarez notes,
350 years later, a discussion of such iustae causae for war is primarily a
discussion of the justifying grounds for war other than self-defense:al to act
in self-defense really needs no causa. (Throughout I shall follow Article 51
of the UN Charter in using the term “self-defense” to include all cases of
justifiable defense, légitime défense.) So there is an important difference be-
tween a present-day inquiry into the justifying grounds for war and a medi-
eval inquiry into iusta causa. Aquinas had more reason to distinguish (as he
firmly does??) between causa (in his sense) and intentio than we now have to
distinguish between “ground” and “motive or intention.”
Is there nonetheless some room, in considering the rightness of initiat-
ing or participating in a war or act of war, for an inquiry into the spirit or
sentiment in which a people, an official, or a citizen acts? Perhaps there is.
We might draw a distinction between “grounds” and “spirit” by recalling
that war is paradigmatically a social and public act. Now, just as an individ-
ual’s act or deed is essentially what the person who chooses to do it intends
it to be, so the acts of a society are essentially what they are defined to be
in the public policy which members of the society are invited or required
to participate in carrying out. That defining policy, which organizes the
actions of individual participants in a war (thus constituting their acts a
social act), 23 and does so by more or less explicit reference to war aims and
strategy, can often be distinguished both from any accompanying propa-
ganda and from the emotions and dispositions of the leaders who shaped
and adopted it. Thus individual citizens can, in principle, assess the public
policy, the announced reasons for going to war, the announced war aims,
and the adopted strategy (so far as they know it) and assess the justice of the
war (taking into account the facts about the enemy’s deeds, operations, and
plans so far as they can discover them). Such an assessment can set aside the
moral deficiencies of the society’s leaders, except insofar as those deficien-
cies—manifest bellicosity, vengefulness, chauvinism, and the like-should
be taken into account in judging the truth of the leaders’ claims about facts
and about the absence of suitable alternatives to war.
Notice that this does not carry us very far. Individual citizens have
(in varying measure) some duty to consider the justice of the war, even if
there is a weighty presumption in favor of accepting the public policy; in
carrying out that duty, they must not allow themselves to be swayed by
exciting but evil motivations: “the craving to hurt people, the cruel thirst
Thomas Aquinas
In the first major treatise on war by a philosophical theologian (as op-
posed to a canonist), Alexander of Hales (c. 1240) identifies six precondi-
tions for a just war. The person declaring war must have (1) the right
affectus (state of mind) and authority to do so; the persons engaging in
war must not be clerics
, and must have (4) the right intentio; the persons
warred upon must (5) deserve it (the war must have meritum); and there
must be causa, in that the war must be waged for the
of the
good, the coercion of the bad, and peace for all.” Here the word causa is
less generic than in the maxim bonum ex integra causa, but less specific than
in Aquinas’s discussion of just war, about thirty years later. Aquinas (c.
1270) cuts the preconditions down to three: authority, causa iusta, and in-
tentio recta. Aquinas’s causa is essentially what Alexander of Hales had called
meritum. There is a just causa, says Aquinas, when those whom one attacks
deserve (mereantur) the attack on account of their culpability
; just watches
Carry on, engage
John Finnis
lust for mastery, and anything else of this sort.
The same
goes for the
Yet that malign influence might (and perhaps not
infrequently does)
for revenge, a bellicose and unappeasable spirit, ferocity in hitting back,
leaders: the shaping and adoption of their choice to go to war, of their
aims, and of their strategy will be wrongful if affected by any such seductive
remain undetectable by those who are called upon to participate in the
provide the grounds for particular operations, may reasonablys
To these citizens, the grounds for war, and the war aims and strategy which
ally acceptable. Indeed, those grounds may sometimes be morally accept-
able even when the leaders of the society would in fact not have acted on
them but for their own immoralities of disposition (“spirit”) and motiva-
Correct that it scarcely needs argument, they consider offensive wars to be jus-
seem mor-
tion (“intention”).
Sically evil,” that is, it is
It is primarily by harnessing reason to devise rationalizations that emotions
create temptations to injustice and to other immoralities). Rationaliza-
tions are plausible grounds which make proposals for choice and action
attractive to reason and will but which, in truth (as indeed the deliberating
or reflecting agent could discern), fail to satisfy all the requirements of
practical reasonableness. As we have seen, the first such requirement is
openness to integral human fulfillment, articulated in the tradition as love
of neighbor as oneself
. (The tradition-even, tentatively, in its purely
philosophical articulations25_adds, “Out of love of God, source of the
very being and life of self and neighbor alike.”) All other moral principles
are specifications, more and less general, of this primary moral principle.
One of the most immediate specifications is the Golden Rule of fairness, in
each of its forms, positive and negative: do to/for others as you would have
them do to/for you; do not do to others what you would not be willing to
have them do to you. This in turn is specified in the presumptive obliga-
tions to keep promises, to respect the domain and goods of others, to com-
pensate for wrongful harm, and so forth. And these obligations in turn rule
out a good many alleged grounds for war.
Sifting the
of reason
fight, the tradition became clear that only two could justify such a decision:
ary) of a
self-defense, and the rectification (punitive or compensatory/restitution-
1. Catholic Natural Law Tradition
while not repudiating Aquinas’s resort to arguments which assimilate de-
fense to punishment, do distinguish between defensive and offensive wars:
war is self-defensive if waged to avert an injustice still about to take place;
it is offensive if the injustice has already occurred and what is sought is
redress. 27 And while they consider self-defense a ground so obviously just
tified basically by the justice of retribution (vindicatio).29 An offensive war
is like the action of the police in tracking down and forcing the surrender
of criminals within the jurisdiction, action assimilated (in this line of
) with the action of the judge and the jailer or executioner.
As so often, Suarez’s care brings nearer to the surface of the discussion
an issue which seems to me to present the tradition with a notable diffi-
culty. Private persons may forcibly defend themselves, but “a punishment
inflicted by one’s own private authority is intrinsically
wrong in all circumstances, even when one cannot get retributive or com-
pensatory justice from a judge.”(For punishment is essentially the restora-
tion of a fair balance between the offender and the law-abiding, a balance
which the commission of an offense disturbs by enacting the offender’s
willingness to take the advantage of doing as one pleases when the law
requires a common restraint; and persons who are not responsible for up-
holding the balance of fairness in distribution of advantages and disad-
vantages in a community cannot by “punitively” repressing wrongdoers ac-
complish that restoration of fairness which their act, by purporting to be
punishment, pretends to accomplish.) It is because private punishment is
always immoral that the tradition, following Cicero, 52 insisted on public
authority as one of the essential preconditions for just war (meaning just
offensive war). But in a world without any world government, are not
states and their rulers in precisely the position of private persons? How can
they punish if they are not world rulers, or even international rulers, and
so lack the type of responsibility that grounds acts of punishment—respon-
sibility for maintaining and restoring a balance of justice between wrong-
doers and the law-abiding, or between wrongdoers and their victims? This,
difficulty is often raised in a slightly different form: how can a state or
government rightly act as both judge and party? That is a fair question,
which Suarez identifies and tries to answer, but I think the form in which
I have framed the difficulty is the more fundamental.
The issue is complicated, above all by …
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