War demands moral clarity, not moral certainty

The virtue of not picking sides

In times of war, we feel an urge to know who is in the right and who in wrong. Picking sides makes us feel comfortable that we are “on the right side of history”. But we must resist this urge and interrogate our certainties if we are to gain some moral clarity beyond oversimplified good vs evil narratives, argues Matt McManus.


War, repugnant and vicious as it is, continues to have strong hold on people’s thinking. Despite it being declared the constant and even greatest nemesis of our species, we are drawn into its distorting gravitational field. One of the reasons for this obscene attraction is that war provides us with a sense of moral certainty as few other things can. War has the edifying effect of removing so many of the confusions and ambivalences which pervade modern society, as if a fog clears. The kind of faux intellectual moral relativism many carry around as badges of sophistication gives easy way to existence forcing itself upon us, individ

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