Interpretations of Conflict: Ethics, Pacifism, and the Just-War Tradition

With today’s world torn by violence and conflict, Richard B. Miller’s study of the ethics of war could not be more timely. Miller brings together the opposed traditions of pacifism and just-war theory and puts them into a much-needed dialogue on the ethics of war.

Beginning with the duty of nonviolence as a point of convergence between the two rival traditions, Miller provides an opportunity for pacifists and just-war theorists to refine their views in a dialectical exchange over a set of ethical and social questions. From the interface of these two long-standing and seemingly incompatible traditions emerges a surprisingly fruitful discussion over a common set of values, problems, and interests: the presumption against harm, the relation of justice and order, the ethics of civil disobedience, the problem of self-righteousness in moral discourse about war, the ethics of nuclear deterrence, and the need for practical reasoning about the morality of war. Miller pays critical attention to thinkers such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, as well as to modern thinkers like H. Richard Niebuhr, Paul Ramsey, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Douglass, the Berrigans, William O’Brien, Michael Walzer, and James Childress. He demonstrates how pacifism and just-war tenets can be joined around both theoretical and practical issues.

Interpretations of Conflict is a work of massive scholarship and careful reasoning that should interest philosophers, theologians, and religious ethicists alike. It enhances our moral literacy about injury, suffering, and killing, and offers a compelling dialectical approach to ethics in a pluralistic society.

Richard B. Miller is assistant professor of religious studies at Indiana University.