In the Mail: Matthew Evangelista, Law, Ethics, and the War on Terror

by Kenneth Anderson

Many of us who are law professors know Matthew Evangelista, who teaches in the government department at Cornell.  I have just finished reading his Law, Ethics, and the War on Terror (Polity 2008).  I teach a seminar on Just War Theory and ethics of war, so this is both professionally and pedagogically important for me.  Evangelista is a graceful writer, and this is graceful book.  If the measure of a philosophy text is the careful, sympathetic, finely tuned care with which it treats the views it ultimately disagrees with, then this book is high on the list in this subject area.  This is a field filled with overwrought writing – including some of mine, I’m afraid – but if you value clarity, and especially the rhetorical virtues of fidelity and charity in argument, this is an outstanding example.  I disagree with very large amounts of this book – and learned more from it at the level of moral, social and political philosophy than 90% of the stuff I have read in this field in the last two years.  OJ readers might not see it, I suppose, because most OJ readers would likely incline to too-easy agreement with Evangelista’s conclusions – but if you are a critic, like me, then you are much more attuned to the extraordinary care he takes with his argumentation.  Highly recommended.

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