The fragility of justified warfare: a comment on Steinhoff

Michael Neu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this essay I evaluate Uwe Steinhoff’s arguments for “The Moral Equality of Modern Combatants and the Myth of Justified War.” I introduce, and briefly explore, several ways of critiquing Steinhoff’s claim that combatants fighting on two sides of a war have an equal liberty-right to kill each other even if one side is fighting a justified war and the other is not. Moreover, I contend that Steinhoff’s thesis about the myth of justified war, despite being too strong, does not suffer from a lack of general plausibility. The notion of “just” warfare is fragile for moral as well as epistemic reasons, and this fragility may not have found sufficient recognition and expression in contemporary moral thinking about war. While Steinhoff’s intricate moral architecture may not be aesthetically pleasing, it seems better suited to account for the fragility of justified warfare than moral accounts which draw strictly binary distinctions between just and unjust warfare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalTheoretical & Applied Ethics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


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