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Just war

Saint Augustine

Date of publication: 28/12/2011



St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430) is one of the Fathers of the Church and (with St Thomas Aquinas) its most influential philosopher.  His City of God is one of the greatest treaties on theology ever written.  He is regarded, among other things, as an author of concept of just war, and he is therefore invoked by those who claim to be acting in the just war tradition and using it to override the tenets of national sovereignty.  

However, Augustine's words on just war are few.  Where he does discuss the issue, he concludes that an unjust peace is preferable to a just war. 

"But, say they, the wise man will wage just wars . As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars. For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing party which compels the wise man to wage just wars; and this wrong-doing, even though it gave rise to no war, would still be matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrong-doing. Let every one, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils, so horrible, so ruthless, acknowledge that this is misery. And if any one either endures or thinks of them without mental pain, this is a more miserable plight still, for he thinks himself happy because he has lost human feeling."  (St Augustine, City of God, Book 19, Chapter 7.)


Centre for the Study of Interventionism