The Heart of the Matter? The Callousness of Just War

Studies in Christian Ethics

Author/s (editor/s):

Cian O'Driscoll

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:

Cian O’Driscoll, ‘The Heart of the Matter? The Callousness of Just War’, Studies in Christian Ethics, 28(3) 2015: 273-80.

Nigel Biggar’s In Defence of War delivers a stout defence of just war thinking. It refuses to shy away from the tough questions raised by modern warfare. Instead, it submits that thinking clearly about these questions may require just war scholars to demonstrate a toughness to match, by callousing themselves to the human suffering their vocation forces them to confront. This article seeks to tease out Biggar’s understanding of callousness, challenging the reader to consider what is lost and enabled by it. It concludes that Biggar offers a revealing account of callousness in war, but leaves us with many searching questions. Is callousness a vice or virtue, and is it an Achilles heel or a basic prerequisite of just war thinking?

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