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Interpretations of Conflict

Ethics, Pacifism, and the Just-War Tradition

With today’s world torn by violence and conflict, Richard B.
Miller’s study of the ethics of war could not be more timely.
Miller brings together the opposed traditions of pacifism and
just-war theory and puts them into a much-needed dialogue
on the ethics of war.

Beginning with the duty of nonviolence as a point of
convergence between the two rival traditions, Miller provides
an opportunity for pacifists and just-war theorists to refine
their views in a dialectical exchange over a set of ethical
and social questions. From the interface of these two long-
standing and seemingly incompatible traditions emerges a
surprisingly fruitful discussion over a common set of values,
problems, and interests: the presumption against harm, the
relation of justice and order, the ethics of civil
disobedience, the problem of self-righteousness in moral
discourse about war, the ethics of nuclear deterrence, and
the need for practical reasoning about the morality of war.
Miller pays critical attention to thinkers such as Augustine
and Thomas Aquinas, as well as to modern thinkers like H.
Richard Niebuhr, Paul Ramsey, Martin Luther King, Jr., James
Douglass, the Berrigans, William O’Brien, Michael Walzer, and
James Childress. He demonstrates how pacifism and just-war
tenets can be joined around both theoretical and practical

Interpretations of Conflict is a work of massive
scholarship and careful reasoning that should interest
philosophers, theologians, and religious ethicists alike. It
enhances our moral literacy about injury, suffering, and
killing, and offers a compelling dialectical approach to
ethics in a pluralistic society.

Richard B. Miller is assistant professor of religious
studies at Indiana University.

306 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1991

Philosophy: Philosophy of Society

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Religion: Philosophy of Religion, Theology, and Ethics, Religion and Society

Table of Contents

Part One: Preliminary Investigations
Introduction: Pluralism and Moral Discourse
The Lure of Self-Reflexivity
Proceeding down the Low Road
Terms for Interpretations of Conflict
1. Prior Intimations and Current Questions
The Presumption against Harm
Adumbrations and Approximations
Nonmaleficence and Levels of Moral Discourse
From Convergence to Further Inquiry
Part Two: Roman Catholic and Protestant Approaches
2. The Just War and Civil Conflict: Changing Paradigms in Roman Catholic Social Ethics
Moral Grammar in Transition
The Classical Paradigm
The Modern Paradigm: The Just War
The Modern Paradigm: Civil Conflict
Justice, Friendship, and Otherness
3. Catholic Pacifism in the United States: Ethical Pluralism and the Problem of Tradition
Elements of a Pacifist Ethic
Rights-Based Pacifism
Iconoclastic Pacifism
The Problem of Tradition
4. Pacifism and Just-War Tenets: How Do They Diverge?
The Point of Convergence
Theological Criticisms of Just-War Tenets
Ethical Criticisms of Just-War Tenets
From Divergence to Convergence
5. A Protestant Protest and Transvaluation
The Protestant Principle
Repentance and Conventional Discourse about War
The Objectivity of God’s Sovereign, Immanent Activity
The Transformative Tension between Theology and Ethics
A Repoeticization of War
Part Three: The Problem of Nuclear Deterrence
6. Love, Intention, and Proportion: Paul Ramsey on the Morality of Nuclear Deterrence
Deterrence, Pacifism, and the Just War
Agape, War, and Moral Discourse
Morality and Nuclear Deterrence
Intention: Thin or Think?
7. The Morality of Nuclear Deterrence: Obstacles on the Road to Coherence
Conventional Approaches to the Morality of Deterrence
The Success Thesis
The Just-War Thesis
The Anticipatory Thesis
The Argument from "Supreme Emergency"
The Exceptionalist Thesis
Part Four: Practical Reasoning and Public Discourse
8. History, Moral Discourse, and the Problem of Ideology
History: Didactic or Ideological?
The Grammar of American Exceptionalism
Comparative Justice and the Law of Nature
Intertexualism and Nonsectarian Pacifism
Rationalization and Counterideology
9. On Duty, Virtue, and the Interpretation of Conflict
Plurality and Ambiguity
Phronesis, Memory, and Nonmaleficence
Against Realism and Confessionalism
Can Pacifists and Just-War Theorists Tell a Just War?
Epilogue: Pluralism and Irony

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