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Critically Discuss Augustine's Distinction Between Just and Unjust Wars

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Augustine is highly acclaimed as the originator of the Just War theory. He founded a concept that would be built upon for many years to come. Augustine argued that war was sometimes sadly an unfortunate necessity to preserve order in society. He believed that wars should only be undertaken if they satisfy a certain criteria for a just war. McCellend notes how Ð''the original condition of man's soul was innocence' but since the Fall the soul has been tainted and is thus incapable of achieving goodness. While Augustine was fundamentally against war as he believed it was sinful, he recognised that sometimes there were just wars that could be fought under Gods jurisdiction to obtain a just peace. This essay will examine the criteria that Augustine set about for a Just war and whether his doctrine does indeed encompass justice.

Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and their subsequent fall from grace, for eaten the forbidden fruit has had grave consequences on humanity, according to Augustine. Their have affected every human being and there is no escape from it. From that moment, the human soul lost the capacity to have pure goodness and, as such, men became doomed to sin. They nature will always be motivated by self love and greed rather than selflessness, wars are therefore unfortunately inevitable. Susan Atwood asserts that Ð''Augustine believed that war was the result of sin as well as a remedy for sin' .

Augustine forbid citizens or soldiers, whether just or unjust beings, to challenge unjust rulers unless under the command of another ruler. He thus wished to create a society with no freedom to introduce change unless allowed by the ruler. Augustine's demand of obedience to unjust regimes would be rejected as unacceptable in the contemporary modern society. He puts total faith in the reliability of just rulers to declare war on those rulers who are unjust. He suggests that unjust rulers can only be challenged by other rulers, thus establishing a hierarchy of society, as it suggests citizens have no grounds to protest. While this may have been feasible at the time Augustine wrote the City of God, in the contemporary world there is an increasing demand for free speech and indeed, there is often much outrage when such human rights are violated.

Augustine did not accept that justice could be obtained through killing in self-defence. One should only be permitted to kill only under the instruction of God or a legitimate authority ordained by God. He believed that self-defence should never be a valid justification for causing harm to another man. However, in the Bible one of the ten commandants is that Ð''thou shallt not kill '. In arguing that killing is sometimes an unavoidable evil Augustine contradicts traditional Christian doctrine and goes against the teachings of Jesus.

According to Augustine Christians have a moral duty to contribute to the state. Their duties involve participating in the public office and fighting in a just war if it is deemed necessary by their ruler Augustine asserted that once a war has been declared the soldier must obey his leader regardless of whether he is waging a just or unjust war. The soldier is therefore not guilty if the war he engages in is unjust but instead it is the sole fault of the ruler. Augustine argued that Ð''the soldier is innocent, because his position makes obedience a duty'. To punish a soldier for participating in an unjust war would encourage dissertation and anarchy amongst the ranks. Augustine thus believed that there should be no resistance to political authority even when unjust. However, in doing this Augustine did not allow for the free will of soldiers to refuse to fight if he disagrees with the war. They are merely tools for rulers to wage wars. Augustine completely exonerated soldiers for any war crimes that they may commit, if ordered to do so by their ruler, no matter how ghastly they may be. This unconditional obedience could easily result in mass human rights abuses.

The intention of undertaking a war was very important for Augustine in determining which wars are justified and which are not. In the City of God Augustine used a tale of a youthful prank to clarify what an unjust war is. He talked of stealing pears when he was a young boy;

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