Why cosmopolitan war is an ethics of fantasy?

In: European Review of International Studies
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  • 1 PhD, Department of Political science, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark,
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This article argues that Fabre’s cosmopolitan war is implausible because it ignores the psychological realities of war. Building on J.L. Mackie’s notion of an ‘ethics of fantasy’ – a morality reduced to lip-service and incapable of action-guiding – I argue that a view based on a flawed view of either human agency or the context in which it is exercised is doomed to practical irrelevance. In rejecting patriotism and advancing a highly individualistic view of war, Fabre relies upon a highly flawed view of human agency, ignoring the psychological mechanism of depersonalisation essential to large-scale cooperation and the practice of war.

In Part i, I offer an initial account of what an ‘ethics of fantasy’ is and offer one major reason why certain moralities fail as practical guidance. In Part ii, I contrast Fabre’s moral cosmopolitanism with ancient cosmopolitanism; I focus on her rejection of patriotism and other identity-based forms of partiality. In Part iii, I summarise key findings, mostly in social psychology, on how large-scale social cooperation is achieved. I highlight the central role of depersonalisation and its felicity conditions. In Part iv, I argue that Fabre’s view faces a dilemma. Either her cosmopolitanism is compatible with identity-based partiality, or it is not. If not, then she does not even have a view of war given that large-scale cooperation requires it. If her view is compatible, then she needs a functional replacement for patriotism. I conclude by showing that the alternatives fail to satisfy the felicity conditions of depersonalisation which war requires.

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