Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Philosophy

Content Description

1 online resource (47 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Jon Mandle

Committee Members

Kristen Hessler


Humanitarian Intervention, John Rawls, Just War Theory, Michael Walzer, Moral Permissibility, Just war doctrine, Humanitarian intervention

Subject Categories



In this paper, I seek to develop a normative account of the moral permissibility of humanitarian intervention based upon Rawls's work The Law of Peoples. In the first section of this paper, I argue that four specific criteria governing the permissibility of humanitarian intervention result from a close examination of The Law of Peoples. First, there must exist an on-going human rights violation in either an outlaw state or a burdened society. Secondly, this human rights violation must be grave in nature. Third, the intervening state must hold a sincere and reasonable belief that a grave violation is occurring and that intervention is morally permissible to aid the victims of the violation. Finally, the intervening state must they themselves qualify as either a well-ordered people or a benevolent absolutism. In the second section of this paper, I attempt to fill out my Rawlsian account of humanitarian intervention through an examination and comparison of Michael Walzer's work Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. In particular, I conclude that Walzer's analysis, regarding the necessity that the goals of the intervening state converge with the goals of the victims, can be utilized to help define what my second criterion of graveness might look like. Finally, in the third section of this paper, I explore the question of the extent of intervention allowable or the morally permissible objectives of intervening states engaging in humanitarian intervention. Ultimately, I argue that The Law of Peoples supports my contention that complete regime change ought to be the morally permissible objective in humanitarian intervention, and in fact, that this objective rises to the level of a moral obligation, as opposed to being merely morally permissible.

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