A Comparative Grammar of Just War: Contrasting Augustinian Christian and Vedic Hindu Worldviews

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Gomes, Keith Jude




This dissertation examines some of the metaphysical assumptions that inform how people think about warfare. In the Christian West, rules on warfare developed into the just war doctrine, and St. Augustine is often acknowledged as the person who introduced these ideas to Western philosophy. However, all of Augustine’s thought is rooted in his understanding of reality through the lens of his Christian faith – a fifth century Roman Catholic worldview (Weltanschauung). As a result, current norms in international law on warfare (such as R2P) also reflect these Christian metaphysical assumptions.
This dissertation examines not only how Augustinian metaphysical assumptions impact our ideas of warfare in international law but also how these ideas would change if one did not subscribe to this Augustinian worldview. Since Hinduism is often associated with non-violence, a Hindu worldview is examined to determine what kind of just war theory, if any, would arise. First, the link between Christian philosophy and modern international law is outlined, tracing the development of thought from Augustine to modern times by examining Bible verses and writings by political theorists and others on
just war theory and Christian theology. Then, Christian metaphysical assumptions are examined in order to determine how these assumptions influence Christian ideas of warfare. Psychological impacts of Christian assumptions are also looked at through the lens of Girardian analysis. In the second half, Hindu political writings, scriptures and religious texts as well as books about Hinduism are examined to discover how Hindus have thought about war. Hindu metaphysical assumptions are examined and inferences are made to show the connection between these assumptions and Hindu ideas of
non-violence. The following aspects are examined in order to see how they generate ideas about war: ontology, creation myths and conceptions about God, the afterlife and end of the world, axiology, praxeology and epistemology. The research shows that Christian metaphysical assumptions (which many Christians now consider outdated) continue to influence modern ideas about war idea while Hindu metaphysical assumptions tend to influence the kind of non-aggression associated with Gandhi.


International law
International relations
Religion - Philosophy




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Political Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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