The effort to periodize the birth of just war theory in the Western cultural space is characterized by a lack of consensus. An overview of academicians’ proposals to place the origins of just war theory on a timeline unveils the surprisingly vast span of the theory’s history. This paper takes an unconventional approach to the problem of defining the period of its creation by turning attention to the use of language. It conducts a semantic analysis of the concept of “theory”, demonstrating the various sometimes conflicting uses of the term within the field. It argues further that this greatly complicates discussions about determining the beginning of just war theory. The final part provides a general reflection on the essential characteristics and the very nature of just war theory as a field of study. The paper concludes that some of the specifics of the discipline make it virtually impossible to answer certain questions about the theory’s origins (as well as about the identification of an undisputable founding figure).
Just war theory, Just war tradition, History of just war, Origins of just war idea