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Cicero on War - Dictionary of Arguments

Höffe I 86
War/just war/ Cicero/Höffe: In passing, Cicero very briefly sketches the building blocks of a "theory" of just war, which via Augustine enters into the Christian natural justice of Thomas Aquinas and has an impact far into modern times. According to Cicero, three conditions must be met: The war must be announced, it must be declared and may only demand the return of property, which excludes any form of punishment(1).
The "theory" of the just war obviously has an impact on the legitimacy of Roman world domination.
KarneadesVsCicero: Contrary to Rome's self-understanding of having only waged just wars, Karneades declared that Rome's world domination was based on nothing more than the mere unfolding of power, which did not fulfil even the formal minimum conditions of a just war.
CiceroVsKarneades: Cicero on the other hand, as a self-confident Roman, considers the dominion acquired through military expansion to be justified.
Höffe: One of his arguments reminds of Aristotle's legitimation of slavery "by nature"(2): Because "just the best by nature are given dominion for the greatest benefit of the weak"(3), the subjects can be glad to be subjects in the Roman Empire.


1. Cicero De re publica III 35
2. Arist. Politika I 6
3. De re publica, III 36


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The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016


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