The Ethics of Pacifism

Philosophy 15 (59):227 - 242 (1940)

Abstract
Everybody is to some extent pacific, as everybody prefers to attain his ends by peaceful means if he can. Even the most bloodthirsty militarist uses threats of war rather than war, if threats will do the work. Though most people prefer persuasion to violence and peace to war, they are prepared as a last resort to go to war and use violence, when that seems the only means to attaining some end they consider to be of vital importance. The one hundred per cent pacifist, however, refuses to engage in war or support warlike action under any circumstances whatever. It is his case that I wish to consider. It is not my purpose to try to persuade anyone to be a pacifist or to be the opposite, but to point out that absolute pacifism carries with it certain logical consequences which are not particularly palatable. The opposed view, which I shall call the case for civic virtues, also carries unpalatable though different consequences. These two appear to be simple and clear-cut opposed views which I propose to state as fairly as I can, with their consequences. Certain qualifications and modifications will have to be considered later, but I do not think that there is actually any possible mean position which avoids the dilemma I am concerned to present. I shall state the case for civic virtue first and the pacifist case second
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100036160
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