Ethics of War and Peace Essay #1
My question: Plato, Aristotle and Cicero all talked about Just War Theory, and emphasis on the Just Warrior. Obedience and loyalty ( can lead to destruction.
Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, the fathers of the Just War tradition, develop and enhance the concept of civic virtue and the necessity to uphold such morality during the most chaotic, violent and brutal of times – war. They each defend the necessity of war; yet emphasize the correct code of conduct in war and what makes an honorable and just warrior. Today, war is much less engrained in our culture; our sons are not born with the future of a warrior. However, when there is war, we hear of many unjust and dishonorable acts such as mass rape, genocide, or specifically the My Lai Massacre. Plato, Aristotle and Cicero lived through a culture of war, defending it as necessary to keeping the peace. Because it was so engrained in their culture, a normalcy, they were not as concerned with the inhumane idea that defines war- killing another human being. Today, we do not live in a culture of constant war, therefore we are more susceptible to becoming overwhelmed by the trauma of violence. Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, provide guidelines of a just warrior however, had not yet discovered what it is that can turn a good man into a bad one, and what horrible aspects of war he may fall victim to. Today, true courage means fighting against dishonor, because unfortunately, war turns the most honorable men into dishonorable ones.
Plato is a philosopher who lived from 469-399 through the Peloponnesian Wars and stressed the belief that for man, there is something worse than death- an unreflective life. Plato reasoned that all people should strive to be pious, or good. He noted that piety is what the God’s hold dear, what all the Gods agree upon therefore, it is these morals that the people should uphold. In war, a soldier should not fear death but rather fear a dishonorable or impious life. He should rather die from pain than he should from shame. The same idea should be used when deciding to go to war or not. There must always be a just reason. In a conversation between Alcibiades and Socrates, Plato describes the importance of waging war for a just cause. ‘Soc: Don’t you know that when we make war we begin to wage war after accusing each other of some affront and what term we use when we begin? Alc: I do – we say we have been deceived, or done violence to, or deprived of something.’ He then elaborates to whom a war can be claimed against:
‘Soc: Now, what of this? Whom will you advise the Athenians to wage war against, those behaving unjustly or those practicing the just things? Alc: What you are asking is a terrible thing; for even if someone had it in his mind that war ought to be waged against those practicing the just things, he would not admit to it, at least.’ Plato seeks the unbiased truth, a critical reflection on why and what to do in a situation, especially regarding war. Each of his answers comes back to being pious and reflective. He believes that war is necessary to keep up a good state, however believes it especially important to uphold pious and virtuous standards as a just warrior, in a just cause, using just means, to accomplish just ends.
Aristotle is the founder of virtue ethics or “Jus in bello”, just actions in war. Aristotle claimed that virtues are described as a mean of excellence, a center between two extremes: excess and deficiency. For example, courage is a balance between cowardice and recklessness. Prudence is practical wisdom that determines the mean of all virtues essentially what determines the mean between two extremes. This is especially important in defining the virtues of a warrior.
Aristotle believes that a “just warrior” is a man who exhibits courage and commits actions that are only noble. He states there should be...
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