Francis Bacon on Just Warfare
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Francis Bacon
just war
Alberico Gentili
Justus Lipsius

How to Cite

Francis Bacon on Just Warfare. (2021). The Political Science Reviewer, 45(1), 69-106.


This article situates Bacon’s criteria for necessary and just wars—his notion that a just fear of a neighbor power makes preventive war on that power licit, permissible, or even needful—in the context of the theories of three of his notable predecessors, Justus Lipsius, Alberico Gentili, and Matthew Sutcliffe, an Anglican divine and member of the Essex circle. If something is needful or necessary in warfare, Bacon contends, it is thereby just. Wars, for Bacon, are justified if and only if they are considered necessary. This article will also look at Bacon’s more general treatments of the theme of external (as opposed to internal) war, with the aim of elucidating Bacon’s notions of necessity and justification as they pertain to war. One such treatment is the seventh section of Bacon’s 1609 work, On the Wisdom of the Ancients (De sapientia veterum), “Perseus, or War,” in which Bacon aims to interpret and elucidate what he takes to be the politic and philosophic significance underlying chosen Greek myths.



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