Philosophy

Reviews

Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War: Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7…, By Ted Honderich, London: Continuum, pp. vii + 206, £12.99

The Philosophy of War and Peace, By Jenny Teichman, Exeter: Imprint Academic, pp. viii + 260, £17.95

Paul Gilbert

“I hate war,” de Fontenelle confessed, “for it spoils conversation.” And does it spoil philosophy too, which is always a kind of conversation? Or can philosophers write about war, as now we surely must, in a way that keeps the conversation going without belligerence? Only so, perhaps, can philosophy shed light on this dark field; but how to do it is itself obscured by the passions that wars evoke. Ted Honderich advocates advocacy, “an advocacy of arguments and judgements. A decent philosopher dealing with moral and political questions … is in a line of life higher than that of a trial lawyer, but not out of sight of that line of life. If there is what can be called moral truth, it is not ordinary truth. Desire sits onto it” (7). Honderich's book may be viewed in this light as a sustained speech for the prosecution in the impeachment of Tony Blair and George W. Bush for waging terrorist war and supporting the terrorist wars of others. It is, then, a polemical work, but, unlike a lawyer's, founded on Honderich's own convictions, which are themselves rooted in philosophical belief.