Friday, June 12, 2020

Dharmyam Yuddham

A very interesting discussion of the ethics of war, partly explicit (i.e., expressly stated) and partly implicit (i.e., in context in the Mahabharata), found in the Bhagavad Gita:

The lesson of the Mahābhārata generalizes; conventional morality places constraints on people who are conventionally moral, and this enables the maleficence of those who act to undermine conventional morality by undermining those who bind themselves with it. Call the latter, who use conventional morality as a weapon against the conventionally moral, moral parasites (Kauravas) and the former, who are happy to be bound by conventional morality, moral conventionalists (Pāṇḍavas). The moral parasite is someone who, for instance, wishes you to be honest and to abide by conventions of transparency so they can steal from you. The moral parasite is someone who, for instance, wishes for you to behave in a manner that is courteous, kind, and accommodating so they can assault you, without resistance. The only way to end this relationship of parasitism is for the conventionally moral to give up on conventional morality and engage moral parasites in war. This would be a just war—dharmyaṃ yuddham—and the essence of a just war because the cause would be to rid the world of moral parasites. Yet, from the perspective of conventional morality, which encourages mutually accommodating behavior, this departure is wrong and bad. Indeed, relying purely on conventional standards that encourage social interaction for the promise of a good, an argument for pacifism is more easily constructed than an argument for war.

Shyam Ranganathan, "Just War and the Indian Tradition: Arguments from the Battlefield"