Contemporary just war theory is divided into two broad camps: revisionists and traditionalists. Traditionalists seek to provide moral foundations for something close to current international law, and in particular the laws of armed conflict. Although they propose improvements, they do so cautiously. Revisionists argue that international law is at best a pragmatic fiction—it lacks deeper moral foundations. In this article, I present the contemporary history of analytical just war theory, from the origins of contemporary traditionalist just war theory in Michael Walzer's work to the revisionist critique of Walzer and the subsequent revival of traditionalism. I discuss central questions of methodology, as well as consider the morality of resorting to war and the morality of conduct in war. I show that although the revisionists exposed philosophical shortcomings in Walzer's arguments, their radical conclusions should prompt us not to reject the broad contemporary consensus, but instead to seek better arguments to underpin it.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Literature Cited

  1. Arneson RJ. 2006. Just warfare theory and noncombatant immunity. Cornell Int. Law J. 39:663–88 [Google Scholar]
  2. Bass GJ. 2004. Jus post bellum. Philos. Public Aff. 32/4:384–412 [Google Scholar]
  3. Bazargan S. 2013. Complicitous liability in war. Philos. Stud. 165:1177–95 [Google Scholar]
  4. Beitz CR. 1980. Nonintervention and communal integrity. Philos. Public Aff. 9:385–91 [Google Scholar]
  5. Benbaji Y. 2008. A defense of the traditional war convention. Ethics 118:3464–95 [Google Scholar]
  6. Benbaji Y. 2011. The moral power of soldiers to undertake the duty of obedience. Ethics 122:143–73 [Google Scholar]
  7. Benbaji Y. 2014. Distributive justice, human rights, and territorial integrity: a contractarian account of the crime of aggression. See Fabre & Lazar 2014 159–84
  8. Buchanan A, Keohane RO. 2004. The preventive use of force: a cosmopolitan institutional proposal. Ethics Int. Aff. 18:11–22 [Google Scholar]
  9. Caney S. 2005. Justice Beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  10. Christopher R. 1998. Self-defense and defense of others. Philos. Public Aff. 27:2123–41 [Google Scholar]
  11. Coady T. 2008. Morality and Political Violence Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  12. Delaney NF. 2006. Two cheers for “closeness”: terror, targeting and double effect. Philos. Stud. 137:3335–67 [Google Scholar]
  13. Dill J, Shue H. 2012. Limiting the killing in war: military necessity and the St. Petersburg assumption. Ethics Int. Aff. 26:3311–33 [Google Scholar]
  14. Doppelt G. 1978. Walzer's theory of morality in international relations. Philos. Public Aff. 8:13–26 [Google Scholar]
  15. Downes A. 2006. Desperate times, desperate measures: the causes of civilian victimization in war. Int. Secur. 30:4152–95 [Google Scholar]
  16. Emerton P, Handfield T. 2009. Order and affray: defensive privileges in warfare. Philos. Public Aff. 37:4382–414 [Google Scholar]
  17. Emerton P, Handfield T. 2014. Understanding the political defensive privilege. See Fabre & Lazar 2014 40–65
  18. Estlund D. 2007. On following orders in an unjust war. J. Polit. Philos. 15:2213–34 [Google Scholar]
  19. Fabre C. 2008. Cosmopolitanism, just war theory and legitimate authority. Int. Aff. 84:5963–76 [Google Scholar]
  20. Fabre C. 2012. Cosmopolitan War Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  21. Fabre C. 2014. Cosmopolitanism and wars of self-defence. See Fabre & Lazar 2014 90–114
  22. Fabre C, Lazar S. 2014. The Morality of Defensive War. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  23. Finlay CJ. 2010. Legitimacy and non-state political violence. J. Polit. Philos. 18:3287–312 [Google Scholar]
  24. Frowe H. 2014. Defensive Killing Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  25. Gross M. 2010. Moral Dilemmas of Modern War: Torture, Assassination and Blackmail in an Age of Asymmetric Conflict Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  26. Grossman D. 1995. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society London: Back Bay Books [Google Scholar]
  27. Haque AA. 2017. Law and Morality at War Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press. In press [Google Scholar]
  28. Hurka T. 2005. Proportionality in the morality of war. Philos. Public Aff. 33:134–66 [Google Scholar]
  29. Hurka T. 2007. Liability and just cause. Ethics Int. Aff. 21:2199–218 [Google Scholar]
  30. Kamm FM. 1993. Morality, Mortality New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  31. Kamm FM. 2004. Failures of just war theory: terror, harm, and justice. Ethics 114:4650–92 [Google Scholar]
  32. Kamm FM. 2005. Terror and collateral damage: are they permissible?. J. Ethics 9:3381–401 [Google Scholar]
  33. Keinon H. 2014. PM: Terrorists watching whether world gives immunnity for attacks from schools, homes. Jerusalem Post Aug. 6 [Google Scholar]
  34. Kutz C. 2005. The difference uniforms make: collective violence in criminal law and war. Philos. Public Aff. 33:2148–80 [Google Scholar]
  35. Kutz C. 2014. Democracy, defence, and the threat of intervention. See Fabre & Lazar 2014 229–46
  36. Lazar S. 2010. The responsibility dilemma for Killing in War: a review essay. Philos. Public Aff. 38:2180–213 [Google Scholar]
  37. Lazar S. 2012a. Morality and law of war. Companion to Philosophy of Law A Marmor 364–79 New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  38. Lazar S. 2012b. Necessity in self-defense and war. Philos. Public Aff. 40:13–44 [Google Scholar]
  39. Lazar S. 2013. Associative duties and the ethics of killing in war. J. Pract. Ethics 1:13–48 [Google Scholar]
  40. Lazar S. 2014. Necessity and non-combatant immunity. Rev. Int. Stud. 40:153–76 [Google Scholar]
  41. Lazar S. 2015. Sparing Civilians Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  42. Lazar S, Frowe H. 2016. The Oxford Handbook of Ethics of War New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  43. Lazar S, Valentini L. 2017. Proxy battles in just war theory: jus in bello, the site of justice, and feasibility constraints. Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, III, ed. P Vallentyne, D Sobel, S Wall Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press. In press [Google Scholar]
  44. Lippert-Rasmussen 2013. Global injustice and redistributive wars. Law Ethics Philos 1:165–86 [Google Scholar]
  45. List C, Pettit P. 2011. Group Agency: The Possibility, Design, and Status of Corporate Agents Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  46. Luban D. 1980a. The romance of the nation-state. Philos. Public Aff. 9:4392–97 [Google Scholar]
  47. Luban D. 1980b. Just war and human rights. Philos. Public Aff. 9:2160–81 [Google Scholar]
  48. Luban D. 2014. Risk taking and force protection. Reading Walzer Y Benbaji, N Sussman 230–56 New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  49. Marshall SLA. 1978. Men against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War Gloucester, UK: Peter Smith [Google Scholar]
  50. Mavrodes GI. 1975. Conventions and the morality of war. Philos. Public Aff. 4:2117–31 [Google Scholar]
  51. May L. 2012. After War Ends: A Philosophical Perspective Cambridge and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  52. May L. 2015. Contingent Pacifism: Revisiting Just War Theory New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  53. McIntyre A. 2001. Doing away with double effect. Ethics 111:2219–55 [Google Scholar]
  54. McMahan J. 1994. Innocence, self-defense and killing in war. J. Polit. Philos. 2:3193–221 [Google Scholar]
  55. McMahan J. 2004. War as self-defense. Ethics Int. Aff. 18:175–80 [Google Scholar]
  56. McMahan J. 2008. The morality of war and the law of war. Just and Unjust Warriors: The Moral and Legal Status of Soldiers D Rodin, H Shue 19–43 Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  57. McMahan J. 2009. Killing in War Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  58. McMahan J. 2010a. Laws of war. The Philosophy of International Law S Besson, J Tasioulas 493–510 New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  59. McMahan J. 2010b. The just distribution of harm between combatants and noncombatants. Philos. Public Aff. 38:4342–79 [Google Scholar]
  60. McMahan J. 2011. Who is morally liable to be killed in war?. Analysis 71:3544–59 [Google Scholar]
  61. McMahan J. 2016. Proportionality and necessity. See Lazar & Frowe 2016
  62. McPherson L. 2004. Innocence and responsibility in war. Can. J. Philos. 34:4485–506 [Google Scholar]
  63. Øverland G. 2013. 602 and one dead: on contribution to global poverty and liability to defensive force. Eur. J. Philos. 21:2279–99 [Google Scholar]
  64. Pettit P. 2015. The Robust Demands of the Good Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  65. Quinn WS. 1989. Actions, intentions, and consequences: the doctrine of double effect. Philos. Public Aff. 18:4334–51 [Google Scholar]
  66. Renzo M. 2013. Democratic authority and the duty to fight unjust wars. Analysis 73:4668–76 [Google Scholar]
  67. Rickless SC. 1997. The doctrine of doing and allowing. Philos. Rev. 106:4555–75 [Google Scholar]
  68. Rodin D. 2002. War and Self-Defense Oxford, UK: Clarendon [Google Scholar]
  69. Rodin D. 2011. Morality and law in war. The Changing Character of War S Scheipers, H Strachan 446–63 Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  70. Rodin D. 2014. The myth of national self-defence. See Fabre & Lazar 2014 69–89
  71. Ryan C. 2016. Pacifism. See Lazar & Frowe 2016
  72. Schwenkenbecher A. 2013. Rethinking legitimate authority. Routledge Handbook of Ethics and War: Just War Theory in the 21st Century F Allhoff, N Evans, A Henschke 161–70 New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  73. Shue H. 1997. Eroding sovereignty: the advance of principle. The Morality of Nationalism R McKim, J McMahan 340–59 Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  74. Shue H. 2008. Do we need a morality of war?. Just and Unjust Warriors: The Moral and Legal Status of Soldiers D Rodin, H Shue 87–111 Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  75. Shue H. 2010. Laws of war. The Philosophy of International Law S Besson 511–30 New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  76. Shue H. 2013. Laws of war, morality, and international politics: compliance, stringency, and limits. Leiden J. Int. Law 26:2271–92 [Google Scholar]
  77. Smilansky S. 2010. When does morality win?. Ratio 23:1102–10 [Google Scholar]
  78. Statman D. 2014. Fabre's crusade for justice: why we should not join. Law Philos 33:3337–60 [Google Scholar]
  79. Steinhoff U. 2008. Jeff McMahan on the moral inequality of combatants. J. Polit. Philos. 16:2220–26 [Google Scholar]
  80. Stilz A. 2014. Territorial rights and national defence. See Fabre & Lazar 2014 203–28
  81. Tadros V. 2015. Wrongful intentions without closeness. Philos. Public Aff. 43:152–74 [Google Scholar]
  82. Taylor C. 1995. Irreducibly social goods. Philosophical Arguments127–45 Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  83. Temkin LS. 1993. Inequality Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  84. Thomson JJ. 1986. Rights, Restitution, and Risk: Essays in Moral Theory Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  85. Thomson JJ. 2008. Turning the trolley. Philos. Public Aff. 36:4359–74 [Google Scholar]
  86. Valentino B, Huth P, Croco S. 2010. Bear any burden? How democracies minimize the costs of war. J. Polit. 72:2528–44 [Google Scholar]
  87. Waldron J. 2016. Deep morality and the laws of war. See Lazar & Frowe 2016
  88. Walzer M. 2006a. Terrorism and just war. Philosophia 34:13–12 [Google Scholar]
  89. Walzer M. 2006b (1977). Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations New York: Basic Books, 5th ed.. [Google Scholar]
  90. Walzer M. 2009. Responsibility and proportionality in state and nonstate wars. Parameters Spring:40–52 [Google Scholar]
  91. Wasserstrom R. 1978. Book review: Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. Harvard Law Rev 92:2536–45 [Google Scholar]
  92. Zohar NJ. 1993. Collective war and individualistic ethics: against the conscription of “self-defense.”. Polit. Theory 21:4606–22 [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error