Stephen Nathanson (2009). Patriotism, War, and the Limits of Permissible Partiality. Journal of Ethics 13 (4). This paper examines whether patriotism and other forms of group partiality can be justified and what are the moral limits on actions performed to benefit countries and other groups. In particular, I ask whether partiality toward one’s country (or other groups) can justify attacking enemy civilians to achieve victory or other political goals. Using a rule utilitarian approach, I then (a) defend the legitimacy of “moderate” patriotic partiality but (b) argue that noncombatant immunity imposes an absolute constraint on what may be done to promote the interests of a country or other group involved in warfare or other forms of violent conflict.
A major issue in political philosophy is the extent to which one or another version of nationalism or, by contrast, cosmopolitanism, is morally justified. Nationalism, like cosmopolitanism, may be understood as a position on the status and responsibilities of nation states, but the terms may also be used to designate attitudes appropriate to those positions. One problem in political philosophy is to distinguish and appraise various forms of nationalism and cosmopolitanism; a related problem is how to understand the relation of patriotism to each. Nationalists may tend to be patriots, but need not be; patriots may tend to be nationalists, but need not be. Like nationalism, patriotism may also be considered in propositional forms or in related attitudinal forms; but unlike nationalism and cosmopolitanism, patriotism can exist in the form of an emotion: roughly, love of one’s country. This paper characterizes nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and patriotism in both forms and argues for a conception of patriotism on which it is both distinct from nationalism and compatible with certain kinds of cosmopolitanism. It also suggests that, in qualified forms, nationalism and cosmopolitanism may overlap in what they require of their proponents.
Patriotism and cosmopolitanism are often presumed to be mutually exclusive, but Immanuel Kant defends both. Although he is best known for his moral and political cosmopolitanism, in several texts he defends the claim that we have a duty of patriotism, claiming that cosmopolitans ought to be patriotic. In this paper, I examine Kant’s different accounts of the duty of patriotism. I argue that Kant’s defense of nationalist patriotism fails, but that his argument for a duty of civic patriotism succeeds.
This essay focuses on what patriotism is, as opposed to the value of patriotism. It focuses further on the basic patriotic motive : one acts with this motive if one acts on behalf of one’s country as such. I first argue that pre-theoretically the basic patriotic motive is sufficient to make an act patriotic from a motivational point of view. In particular the agent need not ascribe virtues or achievements to his country nor need he feel towards it the emotions characteristic of love. Why should one ever act on behalf of one’s country as such, if one does not particularly admire it or feel a special affection for it? In answer to this question I offer a further articulation of the basic patriotic motive, invoking a particular understanding of what it is to be the member of a political society. Building on this articulation I then consider how one might characterize a patriotic act, a patriotic person, and the relationship of patriotism and pride.
Political choices favoring one''s country or one''s nationality are wrong if they conflict with a principle of universal free acceptability, prohibiting choices that violate every set of rules to which any willing cooperator would want all to conform. Despite its universalism, this principle requires patriotic favoritism in political choices and permits individuals to assert nationalist interests in claims for state aid. But it deprives patriotism and nationalism of any distinctive role in establishing the legitimacy of wars and uprisings. These restrictions are appropriate even if stronger forms of patriotism and nationalism are psychologically indispensable for achieving social goals required for universal free acceptability.
The moral issues about nationalism arise from the character of nationalism as a form of partiality. Nationalists care more about their own nation and its members than about other nations and their members; in that way nationalists are partial to their own national group. The question, then, is whether this national partiality is morally justified or, on the contrary, whether everyone ought to care impartially about all members of all nations. As Jeff McMahan emphasizes in [another chapter of the book in which this essay appears], a philosophical examination of this question must consider the specific features of nationalism as one form of partiality among others. Some partiality--for example, toward one's spouse and children--seems morally acceptable and even a duty. According to commonsense moral thinking, one not only may but also should care more about one's family members than about strangers. But other instances of partiality, most notably racial partiality, are in most circumstances widely condemned. Is national partiality more like familial partiality or more like racial partiality? To answer this question, we must know what in general justifies attitudes of partiality. Caring more about certain people is appropriate when one stands in certain special relations to those people. But what are these relations, and to what degree do they hold among members of the same nation? Assuming they are present within families and not within races, to what degree are they present within nations?