Filozofija i Društvo (2007-01-01)

Can patriotism justify killing in defense of one’s country?

  • Pavković Aleksandar

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 18, no. 1
pp. 127 – 139


Read online

Cosmopolitan liberals would be ready to fight - and to kill and be killed for the sake of restoring international justice or for the abolition of profoundly unjust political institutions. Patriots are ready to do the same for their own country. Sometimes the cosmopolitan liberals and patriots would fight on the same side and sometimes on the opposite sides of the conflict. Thus the former would join the latter in the defense of Serbia against Austria-Hungary (in 1914) but would oppose the white Southerner patriots in the American Civil War (in 1861). In this paper I argue that fighting and killing for one’s country is, in both of those cases, different from the defense of one’s own life and the lives of those who cannot defend themselves. Killing for one’s country is killing in order to fulfill a particular political preference. The same is the case with fighting for the abolition of a profoundly unjust political institution. It is not amoral or immoral to refuse to kill for any one of these two political preferences because there is no reason to believe that either political preference trumps our moral constraints against killing.