chapter  8
18 Pages

The Agony for Justice


The title of this chapter, “The Agony for Justice,” comes from an expression that I’ve borrowed from a 1951 article by Ernest Kantorowizc entitled “Pro Patria Mori (in Medieval Political Thought).”1 It comes toward the end of the text, when the author evokes the moment-around the thirteenth century-at which a mutation takes place in the West’s attitude toward death and war. Because of this mutation, the Western, Christian world passes from the holy wars of the Crusades to a secularization (of war)—an essential point indicated by the preposition “for”/“pro” in “pro patria mori,” dying for the fatherland. “For” condenses, in effect, the “for what” (pourquoi) as well as the “for whom,” both the cause and the ends. In a word, it expresses that entire order which calls out for a reason for war, that justifi es war and that gives it the appearance of being just. Let us note that, in French, we can draw two separate meanings from the word “just”: one that refers to justice, and another that refers to a state of conformity to a rule and/or a given reality. In the fi rst case, the contrary of “just” is the “unjust”; in the second case, its opposite is that which is false or erroneous, and it is only in the contemporary era that the two meanings have melded, with justice coming to designate the conformity to a positive rule of law. There are indeed languages, such as in Arabic, in which these two semantic currents are designated by different words: “adl” or “insâf” mean justice as a moral value, and “çahih” or “haq” designate the conformity to a rule, reality or truth.