The Constitutional term "war"
edlind at dickinson.edu
Wed Aug 9 10:38:04 PDT 2006
Ok, last one from me on this thread (I hope). From the perspective of
interpretive semantics, the crux of the difficulty lies in thinking that
by defining the referent of justice better (utility, retribution,
equality, etc.), we will understand the concept of justice better. On
the interpretive semantic account, the point is that we disagree
pervasively and fundamentally about what justice is, what it means.
Defining the referent better won't advance the ball for someone who
simply does not understand the concept of justice to be captured by a
utilitarian calculus (or whatever). We need to think about the
relationship between language and concepts differently (at least for
interpretive concepts that don't submit well to reference theories of
Mary's and Eugene's posts demonstrate that the same may well be true for
war. Think of a possible criterial semantic understanding of "war" in
the U.S. constitutional context: "The Congress shall have power . . .
to declare war . . ." One account could be that the definitive
criterion for "war-ness" is a congressional declaration. Does this mean
that a war cannot exist, in constitutional terms, unless Congress has
declared it? Was the military intervention in Korea a war or a "police
action"? When did WWII begin? People disagree about all of these. The
criterial semantic view is deceptively unhelpful in resolving these
contests over conceptual meaning. But that is no reason for us to stop
thinking and talking about what war is and what it means to us.
Sean Wilson wrote:
> ... I doubt any more so than any other commonly used non-analytic term.
> Obviously there are degrees to which clarity exists in utterances of any
> kind. The example of "justice" is a good example of a term that
> anthropologically "signs" different families of concepts and either
> references a simple confusion on the part of its user (not realizing
> that what is meant has not yet been said) or simply needs further
> clarification as to its referent (utility? retribution? equality?). So
> what I am saying is this: "war" is more determinate than the term
> "justice." War is probably as determinate as the term "speech" or
> "taking." Though these labels are difficult, they are not
> "indeterminate" in the sense of gibberish, vacuity ("do good" "do
> justice") or meaninglessness ("being both green and red at the same
> time"). To the contrary, they "sign" a cognitive structure that has an
> overall order to the clutter of possible references. It is the job of
> the philosophers, I think, to make sense out of the clutter.
> */Mary Dudziak <mdudziak at law.usc.edu>/* wrote:
> Just an historical aside, in light of the original question of the
> constitutional meaning of "war".
> A while ago I posted a question on this list & the legal history
> list: "when was World War II?" The answers were all over the map.
> This helps to show that even if the term "war" can be narrowed down,
> and even if we're talking about a formally declared war as opposed
> to slipperier ones like Vietnam (when did it begin??) or the "war on
> terror," "war" is indeterminate and difficult to pluck out amid an
> ongoing environment of global conflict.
> Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
> Penn State University
> Do you Yahoo!?
> Everyone is raving about the all-new Yahoo! Mail Beta.
Douglas E. Edlin
Department of Political Science
P.O. Box 1773
Carlisle, Pennsylvania 17013
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