On Time in Just War Theory: From Chronos to Kairos

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This article examines the role of time in Just War theory. It maintains that contemporary Just War theory’s legalist focus on rules and principles, rather than judgment and interpretation, makes a serious engagement with timing appear quite irrelevant. To deal with this shortcoming, the article clarifies the dual nature of political time as both chronos and kairos, and argues that a cogent account of the justice of warfare needs to incorporate the two faces of political time. In addition, the article contends that a casuistic re-orientation of Just War theory would have the beneficial effect of putting critique back on the agenda. The moral core of the argument is that judgment and interpretation ought to be guided by the spirit of “pragmatic fallibilism,” which combines the willingness to assertively uphold one’s values with a disposition to revise one’s commitments through reflection and deliberation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-546
Number of pages27
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • casuistry
  • Just War theory
  • political time
  • legalism
  • pragmatism


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