HERMENEUTIC INQUIRY AND JUST WAR THEORY: FINDING MEANING IN A POST-WAR SOCIETY
Phillips, Jennifer Leigh
The jus post bellum tenets of Just War Theory serve as a nation’s guide as the tedious task of returning to peace begins. However, one should not presume that the concepts associated with justice and order hold normative value to all human persons in societies. Time and again, programs and policies implemented by victors fail when the notions driving these activities are incommensurate with the principles, ideals and ethical presumptions regarding order and justice among the affected society. The practical reality of modern conflict and demands of jus post bellum should not allow seemingly irreconcilable differences to force actors into a state of paralysis or inaction. The principles, ideals and ethical foregrounding of individuals and societies find their locus in the historical horizon of the individual and the society. How do we achieve order and justice in a society post bellum when the yardstick for measuring order and justice appears indeterminate and variable? This thesis explores possible answers to these questions and others through a hermeneutic conception of inquiry.The case of post-2001 Afghanistan will be used as a specific historical event in which this hermeneutic conception of understanding and language would have assisted policy makers and practitioners in pursuing a more disciplined approach to post-conflict activities. Understanding specifically will be explored further within the framework of hermeneutics as a process rather than a goal. By endeavoring to proceed via a hermeneutically informed approach to address this challenge of understanding across historical horizons, this thesis carries an assertion regarding the nature of reality. Discipline in dialogue by the practitioner in a post-conflict society promises a clearer approach to engaging the prejudices present within both our own historical horizon and that of the Other. It creates an environment for differences within the same reality to be seen as opportunities rather than a threat to one’s own ‘way of life’ through the fusion of historical horizons.Dialogue in the spirit of a postmodern hermeneutic inquiry offers an alternative to both subjective speculation and the objective, normative metanarrative of the Western expression of Just War Theory. Hermeneutics allows the human person to move beyond a mere validation of this tradition solely within the context of one’s own historical horizon. It allows the person to remain open to a process of questioning in which the person subjects their own prejudice to the Other in reflective openness to the questions at hand. The virtual openness of meaning within language (understood as the potential for meaning to be constantly redefined) is the only legitimate claim to truth finite man can make. Through responsible judgment in the pursuit of disciplined dialogue, engaging the event of understanding in the fusion of horizons, the person can engage truth. Truth being the universal nature of human dignity found in freedom – the openness to differ within the same reality.
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Hehir, J. Bryan (1992-09)