University of Illinois at Chicago
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The Ethics of War and Friendship: The Moral Significance of Fellowship of Arms

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posted on 2016-10-19, 00:00 authored by Adam T. Betz
Contemporary just war theorists have focused on the question whether unjust combatants have the same battlefield rights as just combatants--in particular, the equal right to use force. Traditionalists affirm this 'moral equality of combatants' (MEC) thesis, while revisionists insist that MEC cannot be grounded in non-conventional morality. In my dissertation, I develop a middle position between these two extremes. My thesis is that unjust combatants are permitted to defend each other from imminent and direct threats of harm posed by just combatants, a thesis weaker than the traditionalist's MEC but more permissive than the revisionist's wholesale rejection of unjust combatants' defensive rights. I argue that war is a very distinctive form of conflict, constituted by deep and pervasive duress, uncertainty, and shifting circumstances. While these realities of war make equal defensive rights pragmatically indispensable, I further argue that there are stringent duties of friendship that arise in war, and these duties retain their moral force even in unjust wars. Thus, beyond the pragmatic considerations, the moral significance of fellowship of arms is a basic moral consideration underpinning unjust combatants' defensive rights.



Fleischacker, Samuel



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Laden, Anthony Eaton, Anne Sutherland, Daniel Lazar, Seth

Submitted date



  • en

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