Cicero And Augustine And Concepts Of Just War Politics Essay (2023)

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Just war theory and the concept of warfare have been framed and examined by numerous philosophers, political theorists and theologians since the Roman era with many having a major influence on the way in which the moralities of war are considered. Two of the earliest theorists could be argued to have had the largest and most enduring impact on the notion of just war having developed the concept through their writings. Those theorists are Marcus Tullius Cicero, an early Roman philosopher, and Augustine of Hippo, who was an influential figure in the development of Christianity some 400 years later. In order to fully understand the concept of just war, it is necessary to examine the arguments of both men and compare them to note how the concept progressed as times changed. As such, this essay will examine the concepts of just war and warfare in the works of Cicero and Augustine with a view to arguing that firstly, although both could be deemed pacifists who were basically concerned with the morality of war, Augustine’s theory of just war was more developed than Cicero’s. Secondly, it will argue that the fundamentals of the theories espoused by both men differed as a result of the changes in both the political climate and nature of Christianity.

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The methodology that will be used in order to prove the thesis statement outlined above entails examining the primary texts of Cicero and Augustine and offering analysis of the points made by both men individually before closely comparing the theoretical definition and perspective of each argument. In addition, secondary texts will be used to reinforce the relevant points that are made in relation to the concepts of just war and warfare. It will be necessary to examine a number of critical perspectives in order to present a rounded argument so the use of a comprehensive bibliography will be applied.

According to Adeney, Cicero was the architect of the first concept of just war that was both comprehensive and broadly designed to apply to the moral circumstances of all wars[1]. As such, the points that he made in relation to war could be described as relatively unique. Whereas warfare had been used extensively in the past for the slightest perceived ill, Cicero offered the following assertion to weave a thread of morality into the concept: “…no just war can be waged except for the purpose of punishment or repelling enemies… the only excuse… for going to war if that we may live in peace unharmed.”[2]In effect, this quote from Cicero suggests that the state is important to the notion of just war or, more specifically, protecting the interests of the state and therefore Rome. Although morality does seem to be a part of this particular theory, there does seem to be a question as to whether it is universal morality or that divined by Roman law. However, the fact that a just war would assure long term peace implies that the concept should be used for a degree of protection. Given the political instability of the era and the continuous state of war[3], it stands to reason that Cicero would advocate a just war in the interests of achieving peace on a long term basis.

Augustine, on the other hand, offers the following definition for just warfare: “As a rule just wars are defined as those which avenge injuries, if some nation or state against whom one is waging war has neglected to punish a wrong committed by its citizens, or to return something that was wrongfully taken.”[4]This effectively summarises the coherent and concise concept of just war that Augustine developed based on not only the theory that Cicero had previously espoused but also his strong Christian faith. As per the quote, Augustine’s concept of just war therefore had three specific facets – firstly occurring for a just reason that is unrelated to either power or personal gain, secondly as a result of a resolution based on authority invested in the state, and thirdly that the motive is never lost no matter how violent war actually is[5]. These practical points were supposed to define the moral debate that was to take place prior to any declaration of war to ensure that it was not only justified but also featured a strong detachment from any form of greed, selfishness and hatred. In effect, it was to keep war as a neutral solution that was a last resort. Augustine also stressed the need to achieve peace as a result of war rather than attempting to apply Christian pacifism impractically to a situation that indeed merited a war on moral grounds[6]. As such, he addressed both entering into war without just cause and neglecting to enter into war as a result of a misguided concept that could ultimately jeopardise security. Furthermore, he asserted the need to keep sight of goals in a political context to ensure that any war remained just throughout[7].

The definitions of the concept of just war as espoused by Cicero and Augustine demonstrate differences that are immediately obvious in some areas, thus distinguishing them from each other. For example, Augustine’s criteria for a just war is based on three distinct principles, all of which have to be fulfilled in order to ensure that there is a fundamental basis in morality[8]. As a result of his Christian beliefs, the normative Christian tradition[9]and disapproval of immoral actions on the part of those seeking power, Augustine was able to focus on the morality of war in terms of state defence and religious principles. On the other hand, Cicero actively based his theory of just war on the need for justice. For example, Moreno-Riano’s interpretation of his theory declared the following: “Justice should circumscribe the basis of any war, and the most just war seems to be that which is provoked by the injustice of the offending party.”[10]However, this is a particularly broad definition and therein lays a major weakness of Cicero’s argument as compared to that of Augustine. The perception of injustice had no particular criteria to fulfil: “Of injustice there are two kinds, – one, that of those who inflict injury; the other, that of those who do not, if they can, repel injury from those on whom it is inflicted.”[11]Therefore any invading force would be able to claim injustice based on any well argued platform related to the notion of injustice regardless of the morality underlying the claim made.

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Another major fundamental difference in the concepts of just war espoused by Cicero and Augustine lies in the credence given to political power. According to Augustine’s theory of just war, religious justification must be reconciled with state interests in order to form a solid foundation of a just war: “For Augustine, the desire of Christians to be faithful to the Christian message of nonviolence had to be reconciled with the need for a state to base its defence on loyal and obedient citizens.”[12]This ethical political stance could be said to be based on Christian values but in actual fact it is a practical formula that every war could be based upon. It is therefore far more comprehensive and, according to Regan, morally correct than Cicero’s theory because the “…particulars of Cicero’s explanation of just war are less important than the fact that he required war to be somehow justified.”[13]Steffen reinforces this particular point by highlighting the fact that Cicero takes Roman law to be the only form of moral guidance[14]. By basing his concept of just war on one political philosophy, especially one that is biased towards self interest, undermines the scope of the theory itself and leaves it open to exploitation as well as criticism. For example, Lackey advocates that: “It is clear that Augustine enlarged the scope of just wars far beyond the limits envisioned by Cicero. According to Cicero, a war is just if it repels an injury; according to Augustine a war is just if it is a struggle against sin.”[15]By acknowledging that the scope of both concepts is different, it is easy to see how the nature of religion and indeed the political climate were able to make such an impact on how just war was not only framed but also used.

In conclusion, there can be little doubt that both Cicero and Augustine were instrumental in developing the theory of just war and the criteria any individual or collective would need to meet in order to ensure that they were indeed justified in going to war. However, similarly, there can be little doubt that there are fundamental differences in the concepts that each developed, thus ensuring that they are easy to distinguish. Cicero’s argument for just war does have fundamental weaknesses that are based on not only self interest but also a distinct belief that the Roman way was the only way. As such, he was undoubtedly influenced by the political climate. Augustine, on the other hand, was influenced by political and religious factors and balanced the two. As a result, his argument was far more developed, coherent and logical than his predecessor. Despite the fact that the two are fundamentally different, though, both are instrumental in developing the concept of just war and developing the notion of warfare based on morality.

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What is the concept of St Augustine about the just war theory? ›

St Augustine

He believed that the only just reason to go to war was the desire for peace. We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace.

How was Augustine influenced by Cicero? ›

In The Republic, Cicero creates the model state and argues that this state had the right to use military action on a group of people who were not capable of exercising justice. This influenced Augustine to develop his own theory of the perfect state, which also had this right to use military action.

What are the 5 principles of the just war theory? ›

The Jus Ad Bellum Convention. The principles of the justice of war are commonly held to be: having just cause, being a last resort, being declared by a proper authority, possessing right intention, having a reasonable chance of success, and the end being proportional to the means used.

What two motives for war does Cicero identify? ›

A Roman leader, therefore, must have a just cause (iusta causa) to go to war. “No war can be undertaken by a just and wise state, unless for faith or self-defense,” Cicero wrote.

What was St Augustine message? ›

The most fundamental message of the Rule is this: Love -- love of God, love of neighbour -- is the centre of Christian life. The Rule of Augustine is one of the oldest monastic rules in the Church.

What is the concept of a just war? ›

Definition & Introduction

Just war is warfare that is justified by a moral or legal tradition. Just war theory presumes that there are legitimate uses of war but also sets moral boundaries on the waging of war.

What is Augustine's view of Cicero? ›

Augustine continued to suggest that the New Academy was characterized by an esoteric dogmatism until at least 410: in his Letter 118, Augustine describes Cicero as an author who explicitly suggests that on the Platonist scheme “the highest good and the cause of things and the trustworthiness of reason” (August. Ep.

What were Cicero's political views? ›

Cicero argues that the best political system is not the rule of one individual, or a few, or many—but a mixture of all three: kingship, aristocracy, and democracy. The collective body of all citizens should have some input into political decision-making (because the republic belongs to them), but only some.

What were Cicero's political beliefs? ›

Cicero proposed that the ideal government "is formed by an equal balancing and blending" of monarchy, democracy, and aristocracy. In this "mixed state," he argued, royalty, the best men, and the common people all should have a role.

What is the central purpose of just war theory? ›

Just-war theories aim "to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable uses of organized armed forces"; they attempt "to conceive of how the use of arms might be restrained, made more humane, and ultimately directed towards the aim of establishing lasting peace and justice".

What are the 6 conditions of the just war theory? ›

Six conditions must be satisfied for a war to be considered just: The war must be for a just cause. The war must be lawfully declared by a lawful authority. The intention behind the war must be good.

What did Cicero believe about justice? ›

Cicero concluded that the principles of justice are fourfold: (1) do not initiate violence without good reason; (2) keep one's promises; (3) respect people's private property and common property; (4) be charitable to others within one's means.

How did Cicero influence US government? ›

For almost two millennia, Cicero was the inspiration for those who subscribed to what would later become liberal principles such as natural rights, constitutional government bound by a higher law, and a separation of powers.

What did Cicero do that was significant? ›

He wrote many works relating to philosophy, such as On the Republic, On Invention, and On the Orator. He established himself as a prolific Roman author. He also made many speeches and wrote letters that have been preserved, allowing the modern world to gain knowledge of the politics and culture of Cicero's era.

What are the 5 values of St Augustine? ›

Always conscious of the virtues of honesty, integrity, and compassion as fundamental to the Christian way of life, 23 members seek in every effort to work for unity, making justice and peace, the fruits of love, a reality in the Church and in the world.

What are the three Augustinian core values? ›

With Insunza and McCloskey's comments, three core values of Augustin- ian education can be identified: Unitas (Unity), Veritas (Truth), and Caritas (Love).

Who invented the just war theory? ›

The just war theory was first developed by St Thomas Aquinas . Aquinas was one of the most influential theologians of the last 1,000 years. The theory set out conditions against which to judge the following: whether or not a war should be waged - jus ad bellum (Latin for 'right to war')

What are the problems with the just war theory? ›

Some people argue that the Just War doctrine is inherently immoral, while others suggest that there is no place for ethics in war. Still others argue that the doctrine doesn't apply in the conditions of modern conflicts. war so disrupts the normal rules of society that morality goes out of the window.

What is Augustine's view on politics? ›

While Augustine believed that man is social, and would have been so without our sinful nature, political society would have no real purpose without the need to coerce its citizens to act with justice. [12] Even with this coercion, government cannot create the heavenly city here on earth.

What is title of Cicero's book that Augustine read? ›

In the course of his studies, Augustine reads Cicero's Hortensius, and it changes his entire outlook. Reading the book excites his love of philosophy, and he resolves to pursue true wisdom.

What did Cicero say about war? ›

Wars, then, ought to be undertaken for this purpose, that we may live in peace, without injustice; and once victory has been secured, those who were not cruel or savage in warfare should be spared.” Marcus Tullius Cicero, On Duties I. 34-35. eds.

What is Cicero's most famous quote? ›

A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

What political party was Cicero? ›

During the chaotic middle period of the first century BC, marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government.

What is the concept of St Thomas Aquinas about the just war theory? ›

The Saint referred to the Bible and regarded some wars as necessary to amend an evil. Saint Thomas Aquinas revised Augustine's version, creating three criteria for a just war: the war needed to be waged by a legitimate authority, have a just cause, and have the right intentions.

What are the eight principal elements of St Augustine's just war theory and how can they be applied to contemporary assessments of war? ›

Augustine's just war theory involves eight principal elements: a) a punitive conception of war, b) assessment of the evil of war in terms of the moral evil of attitudes and desires, c) a search for authorization for the use of violence, d) a dualistic epistemology which gives priority to spiritual goods, e) ...

Who proposed just war theory? ›

The just war theory was first developed by St Thomas Aquinas . Aquinas was one of the most influential theologians of the last 1,000 years. The theory set out conditions against which to judge the following: whether or not a war should be waged - jus ad bellum (Latin for 'right to war')

What are the 3 main points of Aquinas theory? ›

Aquinas's first three arguments—from motion, from causation, and from contingency—are types of what is called the cosmological argument for divine existence. Each begins with a general truth about natural phenomena and proceeds to the existence of an ultimate creative source of the universe.

Where does Thomas Aquinas write about just war? ›

Thomas Aquinas discusses the three conditions for a just war (1265-74) The great Aristotelian philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas discusses in the 2nd part of Summa Theologica the 3 conditions for a just war: The first thing is the authority of the prince by whose command the war is to be waged.

What is Augustine's ethical thought based on? ›

Augustine regards ethics as an enquiry into the Summum Bonum: the supreme good, which provides the happiness all human beings seek.

Which are the two major conventions of the just war theory? ›

Contemporary just war theory is divided into two broad camps: revisionists and traditionalists. Traditionalists seek to provide moral foundations for something close to current international law, and in particular the laws of armed conflict. Although they propose improvements, they do so cautiously.

How was the just war theory created? ›

The early Church developed first a consistent theory of just war in an attempt to serve Caesar without abandoning totally its pledges to God. The Church father Augustine argued that a just war redresses a moral wrong and restores the violated moral order. 1. It must be declared by legitimate authority as a last resort.

When did the just war theory start? ›

The concept of just war was developed in the early Christian church; it was discussed by St. Augustine in the 4th century and was still accepted by Hugo Grotius in the 17th century.

What are the branches of just war theory? ›

Today, just war theory is divided into three categories, each with its own set of ethical principles. The categories are jus ad bellum, jus in bello, and jus post bellum. These Latin terms translate roughly as 'justice towards war', 'justice in war', and 'justice after war'.


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