Date of Award

Spring 1985

Document Type





Just as Plato and Socrates sought truth by dialogue, so does this paper. In keeping with this Socratic tradition, my friend Tommy Collier and I began this study with a formal philosophical dialogue. Our subjects of debate soon turned to matters of politics and ethics, and we found ourselves discussing war. We became more engrossed in our topic and realized that mere discussion was not enough—research and study also were needed. I stated, "It seems, my friend, that our analysis of war, its whys and wherefores, is not generating any answers." Collier replied, "This is not in the least bit unusual from my experience in discussing this topic. It seems as if everyone has an opinion concerning war, especially nuclear war, and very few consider any philosophy in the matter. We are in the same boat." "Let us not remain complacent in our ignorance. Let us study the facts and arrive at some rational conclusions rather than just bantering away and pretending to solve all the world's problems." "I agree." "It appears to me," I continued, "that we should first set our study in a framework. The most convenient and logical one, from my background, would be the tradition of natural law because of its emphasis on reason." "Let us use it, then." "Following a short study of natural law, we should turn our attention to war and peace in a general sort of way, with definitions found for war, peace, justice, and the like, and study just what is involved in a philosophical discussion of war." "Fine. I propose further," said Collier, "that we examine in detail the Catholic Church's dominant teaching on war, the just war theory." "Very good. After the just war theory, it would seem appropriate to mention nuclear war, which some maintain cannot be reconciled with just war criteria, and concentrate on the more pressing nuclear war issues." "And we are most fortunate that the American Catholic Bishops have recently issued a pastoral letter on war entitled The Challenge of Peace. Our philosophical study would most certainly not be complete without its inclusion." "For our purposes, could this field of study give us adequate preparation on which to base our conclusions?" "I am of that opinion," replied Collier. "As am I, but it is disheartening to realize the wealth of material on thse subjects with the potential to multiply details ad infinitum. There are so many issues of war, just war, and nuclear war that we may only reasonably examine the major points and arguments." "True. But we also may investigate quite extensively and become quite well versed in our topic." I'said, "Allow me to prepare a discourse to develop the subjects that we have decided to study. After we reflect on this discourse, we may meet again and voice our conclusions on these subjects." "You give yourself a great task, my friend, but please do as you have suggested. Your study will be quite adequate for us." With Collier's support, I presented my findings.