How Shall We Read the History of Ethics? A Response to Melvin Endy
This response suggests that in writing the history of ethics, it is important to take seriously what the principals wrote and believed, distinguishing it carefully from our own responses to their writings, or from subsequent uses to which their writings may have been put. For example, when reading Thomas Aquinas and Francisco de Vitoria on just war against non-Christian peoples, forcible conversion and conquest are clearly condemned. Whatever the attitudes of their contemporaries, not to mention later thinkers up to the present, there is no foundation in Aquinas and Vitoria for holy war or “exceptionalism,” American or otherwise.
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