The Ascetics of War: The Undoing and Redoing of Virtue

Team Members/Contributors

Aristotle Papanikolaou Fordham University Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Contemporary discussions of just war theory in Christian ethics focus on whether Christians should be in the business of defining criteria for the decision to go to war and for the proper engagement in combat. There is very little attention to the way in which, debates about just war criteria notwithstanding, combat soldiers are forced to engage in practices, both in training before war and during war, that fine-tune the body to the constant threat of violence—what I term an ascetics of war. My project intends to explore the tradition of thinking on virtue in the Eastern Christian tradition in order both to illuminate the effects of the ascetics of war—military training, the exposure to threat of violence, or the experience of actual violence—on the combat soldier, and to provide resources for alleviating/mitigating/healing the effects of such an ascetics of war. The originality of this project is twofold: 1) It explores the tradition of thinking on virtue in the Christian East, which has been ignored in the theological revival of virtue ethics; 2) it brings this tradition of thinking to bear on Christian discussions of war, which have primarily focused on just war theory; and, in so doing, addresses two key questions overlooked in discussions of war: a) How do theological accounts of virtue ethics shift the debate on war from just war criteria to the effects of war on the human person, especially the combat veteran? 2) How can virtue ethics be a resource for the pastoral care of combat veterans?

Image Title Year Type Contributor(s) Other Info
  Toward a Godly Mode of Being: Virtue as Embodied Deification 2013 Journal Article Aristotle Papanikolaou
Studies in Christian Ethics August 2013 vol. 26 no. 3 271-280