Professor Doug Ambrose, Charter Fellow of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) and leader of its Christopher Dawson Society, has organized a reading group, open to the public, on the theme of the evolution of Christian Just War theory.

Discussion of a possible United States intervention in the conflict in Syria, like the discussions over the last decade surrounding U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, have raised the question of whether such actions are “just.”  Participants in these discussions often invoke–even unwittingly at times–concepts and language that derive from a nearly two-thousand year old conversation within Christianity regarding the notion of “just war.”  The AHI’s Christopher Dawson Society for the Study of Faith and Reason will examine the development of the Christian Just War Theory through a series of meetings over the next three months. 

Looking at the classical, medieval, and early modern roots of the theory, the challenges that twentieth-century warfare posed to it, and its relevance to our world today, the series will also feature a Leadership Luncheon discussion on November 13, hosted by Dr. Joseph Capizzi, Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America and a leading authority on the just war tradition.

The inaugural meeting will take place 7:00-8:00 p.m. on October 21 in the Browsing Room, Christian Johnson Building, Hamilton College.  Subsequent meetings will take place at the same time and in the same location on November 4 and December 2.  The special Leadership Luncheon featuring Dr. Capizzi will be held in the Banquet Room of the AHI, beginning at noon, November 13.  Assigned reading follow:

Meeting 1 (October 21):  The Development of Just War Theory.  Read:  Augustine, selections from The City of God (426); Thomas Aquinas, “Is War Always Sinful?” from the Summa Theologica (1265-1274); and Francisco de Vitoria, “On the War Against the Indians” (1539) and “On the Law of War” (1539).

Meeting 2 (November 4):  Just War Theory in the Modern World.  Read: John C. Ford, “The Morality of Obliteration Bombing,” (1944); Elizabeth Anscombe, “Mr. Truman’s Degree” (1958) and “War and Murder” (1961).

Meeting 3 (November 13):  Leadership Luncheon with Professor Joseph Capizzi, Catholic University.  Readings: “The Challenge of Peace,” National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1983) and “Just War Theories Reconsidered,” Baer and Capizzi (2005).  

Meeting 4 (December 2):  Just War Theory in the 21st Century. Readings TBA.

The Christopher Dawson Society for the Study of Faith and Reason was founded in 2007 by AHI co-founder Douglas Ambrose and AHI Fellow Sheila O’Connor-Ambrose.  It seeks to investigate the relations between religious belief and intellectual inquiry, between faith and reason, within the Western intellectual tradition. Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) was a distinguished British historian of culture and the first recipient of the Chauncey Stillman Chair of Roman Catholic Studies at Harvard University.

All sessions are free and open to the public.