The Ethiopian Campaign and French Political Thought

Yves R. Simon
Edited by Anthony O. Simon
Translated by Robert Royal
Foreword by A. James McAdams

Yves Simon was one of the preeminent Thomistic philosophers and political theorists of the twentieth century. He saw it as a moral duty to understand human reality and to use philosophical analysis to examine contemporary politics when they embodied philosophical errors or vicious ideologies. In The Ethiopian Campaign and French Political Thought, Simon extracts principles from the 1894 Dreyfus Affair in France and applies them to Italy’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia. As Simon’s analysis shows, the relatively obscure events leading up to the Italian invasion had larger implications for Europe and the world, perhaps even paving the way for Vichy France’s collaboration with Hitler’s German New Order.

This book, available for the first time in English, offers an interesting case study of such ethical concerns as just war theory and pre-emptive war, and is of particular relevance in our modern political climate.

YVES R. SIMON (1903–1961) was the author of twenty books and professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago.

ANTHONY O. SIMON is the director of the Yves. R. Simon Institute.

“_The Ethiopian Campaign and French Political Thought_ offers a very important discussion grounded in traditional metaphysics and in a sound sense of historical circumstances. This little book is a gem.” — George Anastaplo, Loyola University of Chicago

“The Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 led to the memorable plea of Emperor Haile Selassie before the League of Nations as his country’s freedom died. Easier to forget is that it also sparked a surprisingly familiar intellectual dispute over the legitimacy of the bombing and the relevance of international law, as depressingly many European intellectuals rallied behind Benito Mussolini’s campaign as a defense of the West and the cause of ‘civilization.’ The unsparing critique leveled against these frequently religious apologists for imperialism by Yves Simon, French Catholic thinker and later American university professor, is an eye-opening reminder of the terms of debate, and the larger constellation of forces of the turbulent era. Anthony Simon and his colleagues deserve thanks for making this precious and moving document available, since its ethical kernel, like its model of Catholic intellectualism, remain highly relevant.” — Samuel Moyn, Columbia University


“It is easy to see why we should care about Simon’s timeless, penetrating work on ethics, metaphysics, and political theory. . . . The Ethiopian Campaign and French Political Thought deserves to be read, but not as a work of prophesy or as a hornbook that saves us the trouble of wrestling with unique facts. We should read it with attention because it provides an inspiring and challenging model of citizenship.” — Public Discourse

“This book was written in 1936, not as a history, but as a moral critique of a broad segment of the Catholic intelligentsia in France who supported Mussolini’s aggression against Ethiopia, even though it failed to meet the terms of the Catholic doctrine of a just war.” — Catholic Library World

“Simon’s reflections on the moral hazards inherent in the use of military force ‘to civilize others’ raise important questions about the current practice by some powerful countries to bring ‘democracy’ to others through military invasion and occupation. With this reflection, Simon reminds us that truth is more important than triumph, justice is more important than force, and that a better society is possible if politics were to free itself from ‘hatred’ and be guided by an ‘interior attitude’ that values truth and justice.” — International Journal of Ethiopian Studies