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What Is at Stake in the Debate over Presumptions in the Just War Tradition


The debate over whether the just war theory begins with a “presumption against violence” has raged among Christian ethicists for more than thirty years. One camp argues that the theory begins with a presumption against violence that can be overridden in exceptional circumstances. The other camp claims that the just war tradition instead begins with a presumption against injustice. A careful analysis of the debate, however, reveals that the term “presumption against violence” has been used in three different ways, and that clarifying these usages can show the common ground in the debate and move it toward a resolution.