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The Art of War

War is an extremely controversial topic, especially amongst philosophers. It raises many ethical and political questions, the most important, perhaps, being the circumstances under which going to war are justifiable. Views on the law of war vary greatly. Some believe non-violence is the only acceptable approach, while others believe preventive war is justified. In this paper, we will examine and discuss several philosophers and their ideologies pertaining to war. We will begin with St. Thomas Aquinas.
According to St.Thomas Aquinas, three conditions must be fulfilled in order to wage war. The first condition states “the party waging war must be a legitimate government.” (Bonevac p.427) Aquinas believes only the supreme authority should have the power to declare war, and it is unacceptable for an individual to declare war because it goes against the natural order of things. The second condition states that there must be just cause, which can be described as avenging wrongs in order to restore what has been unjustly seized. The third and final condition states “that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil.” (Bonevac p.427)
Aquinas also discusses whether it is lawful to kill a man in self-defense, and he holds that it is because “it is lawful to repel force by force.” (Bonevac p.428) However, this only applies when killing a man in self-defense is not intended. The only case, in which intending to kill a man in self-defense would be acceptable, is in serving the common good. Even then it must be on behalf of the public authority. As for killing someone by chance, Aquinas believes if a “person is killed as a result of something done for a good purpose” (Bonevac p.428), the person is not guilty. However, if a man caused another’s death while partaking in unlawful activities or failing to take sufficient care, although his actions were not intended or voluntary, he will…


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