Hedgehog or Fox? An Essay on James Turner Johnson’s View of History

Journal of Military Ethics

Author/s (editor/s):

Cian O'Driscoll

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

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Taylor & Francis

Cian O’Driscoll, ‘Hedgehog or Fox? An Essay on James Turner Johnson’s View of History’, Journal of Military Ethics, 8(3) 2009: 165-78.

Drawing on Isaiah Berlin’s celebrated essay on Tolstoy, this paper poses the question should James Turner Johnson be deemed a hedgehog or a fox? That is, it considers whether Johnson should be regarded as a monist (hedgehog) or a pluralist (fox) in his contribution to the just war tradition. It contends that his commitment to history, while superficially indicative of a hedgehog, serves to conceal a deep-lying pluralism – or at least the possibility of such – in his views on the meaning of history. Contrary to initial appearances, then, Johnson’s commitment to history is not univocal: it does not speak with one voice, and to one purpose. Rather it suggests a variety of voices or positions, and is amenable to multiple interpretations, not all of which are of a piece with one another. This paper seeks to uncover these various voices or positions, with a view to raising some searching questions pertaining to how we should properly understand the just war tradition today.

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