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Defending the Common Life: National-Defence After Rodin

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David Rodin has recently put forward a compelling but disturbing argument to the effect that the traditional justification in Just War Theory of a state's right to self-defence (what Rodin calls national-defence), which is derived from the legitimate case of personal self-defence, fails. He concludes that the only way to justify forceful responses to aggression against states by other states or non-state groups is by viewing the right to do so as falling under a form of law-enforcement, which in turn requires the existence of some overarching universal state. In this paper I argue that there exists a possible justification for national-defence that Rodin has overlooked due to an underlying commitment to what Charles Taylor calls ‘the primacy of rights thesis’. My claim is that a particular family of views that see human identity as being crucially bound up with society offers the resources to avoid the pitfalls that Rodin points out befall other attempts to justify national-defence.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5930.2006.00340.x

Affiliations: School of Philosophy and Ethics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Publication date: August 1, 2006

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