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A Critical Analysis Of Thomas Nagel's War And Massacre

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Relations between countries are similar to interpersonal relations. When the conflicts between countries escalates to some extent, any resolutions become unrealistic except violence, and wars then occur. Although wars already include death and pain, moralists suggest that there should still be some moral restrictions on them, including the target toward whom the attack in a war should be performed, and the manner in which it is to be done. A philosopher named Thomas Nagel presents his opinion and develops his argument on such topic in the article “War and Massacre”. In this essay, I will describe and explain his main argument, try to propose my own objection to it, and then discuss how he would respond to my objection. In his article “War…show more content…
He emphasizes that such principle is prior to any calculations of the possible outcomes that may occur if the rule is broken.(136) In other words, it is morally wrong to break the rule no matter how good the consequences will be. He then presents the principle in the form of how countries should act in a war: aggression that are directed toward someone can only be justified by something about that person that merits not only the aggression itself but also the type of aggression being used. Without the justification of something about that person, the aggression then will lose the characteristic of personal interaction, which is one of the essential qualities that a war has, and, as Nagel mentioned, will become “purely bureaucratic…show more content…
The suffering that the enemies have when the weapons are used is simply the side effect of what people have done to them. In other words, people who are using those weapons are indeed aiming at the threat that the enemies have, as the damage that those weapons do can definitely eliminate the enemies’ ability to continue to fight. And the agonies that people cause are what they bring about, but not what they intentionally do to the target. As Nagel has also discussed in his article, what absolutists care about is what one does to the other, but not what one brings about to the other. Therefore, the use of those weapons that cause extra pain does not violate the principle of not “fighting dirty” from the perspective of absolutism, and thus should not be regarded as immoral. This example also reveals a more general problem in Nagel’s problem: it is difficult to draw a line between what one does to another and what one brings about to the other, especially in a war, in which any operation may have caused complex effects, and it is difficult distinguish what are intended as mere means and what are side