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War and Peace: Towards a Theory of Just Peace


Wars cause unconscionable damage and are universally condemned as a scourge of humanity. Yet most of the philosophical literature, in a tradition stretching back at least to Augustine, focuses on its justification, either as a form of national defense or as a means of securing a future peace. And this tradition, which has now crystallized into just war theory, continues to dominate our thinking about war and peace.

Because we use the concepts and principles of just war theory, we are very limited in the range of questions we ask. The dominant concerns have to do with whether there is just cause for war, and what kinds of violence it is permissible for soldiers to use, both against each other and against civilians. Questions of peace rarely enter into the frame, and when they do, it is only in the context of ending or preventing a war.

In this dissertation, I bring peace to the forefront. I argue that war cannot be justified either as a form of national defense or as a means of pursuing peace. Rather than understanding peace primarily in contrast to war, I offer an independent account of peace, as a kind of trusting relationship between political communities. Since peace is a relationship of trust, it cannot be secured by force or threat of force. And so if we seek to live together in peace with our adversaries, under conditions of justice and goodwill, war will be an impossible means. I conclude by considering the question of how, in a world that is marked by so much violence, suspicion, and fear, we can turn away from war and towards peace, and suggest that the answer lies in hope.

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