Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

It’s a little late in the day to remember this, but today is the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The Catholic Herald has commemorated the day with the remarkable story of eight Jesuit priests who survived the atomic blast although they were less than a mile from the detonation point. Over at Public Discourse, Chris Tollefsen has a reflection on “what it means to take the lives of innocent civilians intentionally” and the consequences for America today:

How are the lives of innocent Japanese and German women, children, sick, elderly, and non-military personnel to be weighed against the lives of Allied fighters in such a way as to make clear that saving a certain number of Allied lives was “better” all things considered than killing a much larger number of enemy civilians? The impossibility of such a calculation, and the dignity of each human being, as a free and rational creature, seem together to be at the root of the traditional injunction never intentionally to kill the innocent. Meanwhile, the  abandonment of this injunction seems to be at the root of the philosophical and cultural move in the direction which Anscombe called consequentialism.

The Allied bombings were, therefore, by the standards of traditional, non-consequentialist morality, utterly wrong and intrinsically unjustifiable. And this great moral evil has itself had consequences, some of which it is salutary to note now, more than half a century later.

You can read the rest of Tollefsen’s piece here .

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles