Review Of "The Political Morality Of The Late Scholastics: Civic Life, War And Conscience" By D. Schwartz

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Writing during the baroque and early modern era, against the backdrop of the revival of Catholic theology, late scholastics were concerned with morally pressing practical problems arising in civic life and war—what today is known as applied ethics. Diverse opinions were welcome, as were arguments rebutting an opposing opinion and supporting one’s own. There was also a genuine willingness to admit the existence of gray areas where reasonable scholars could disagree. Some of the controversies seem astonishing today: e.g., is it permissible for the best electoral candidate to offer money to electors? Others still resonate: e.g., what is owed to the poor who are not part of one's community? Schwartz (political science and international relations, Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) devotes the first half of the book to questions about civic life. In the second half he examines how just war was understood and justified, raising vexing questions about whether both sides could have "probability" on their side, what individuals could do if they concluded that a war initiated by their king is unjust, and what justice and charity required in war’s aftermath. The answers to these questions are surprising. Though primarily for specialists, this clearly written and engaging book can be read with ease and pleasure by anyone. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


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