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A Philosophic and Reflective Essay About Pacifism and its Morality

Updated on December 20, 2010

Ethics offers a wide range of different types of ideas which are all spread from pure absolutism which means that humanity follows strict moral rules to relativism which says that there are no definite rules and that people should consider each of their moral decisions separately. Because of the large variety of ethical ideas this essay will only look at a few theories which could help to consider this debate if pacifism is immoral.

What is pacifism exactly?

Pacifism means the rejection of each kind of war and violence. If everyone would be a pacifist all conflicts of nations would be settled by international gatherings such as the UN. For Pacifists the use of weapons is always and so in every kind of situation wrong. For example a country of pacifists who would be attacked by an opposing army could not defend itself. Pacifism is a very broad term and so there are many different types of it e.g. Absolute Pacifism which says that you can not be violent in any situation.

A Surprising Question: Is Pacifism Immoral?

There are a lot of theories who would agree that pacifism is immoral. Utilitarianism would say that if you never use aggression for things that would lead to good consequences it is immoral because Utilitarianists think that only the acts are moral which lead to the most happiness. “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.” – Jeremy Bentham. So it might be right to fight for your country if you only want to defend it. For example if there would be a fascistic regime which says that it will kill everybody who has blond hair it might be a good solution to defend your country against this regime even if you have to kill some people for it.

Situation Ethics which is basically saying that you should always do the most loving thing would in many cases agree with this sentence, too. “The law of love is the ultimate law.” – Tillich

This is because it can be a loving thing to fight. For example it may be an act of agape if you try to save your family from opposing forces and this could lead to the greatest happiness for most people because there could be more survivors if you take defence position.

Pacifisms Morality


On the other hand there is a variety of ethical theories which disagree with the statement that Pacifism is immoral. Firstly there is Kantian Ethics which simply says that every action of you shall be able to be universalised. “Act only on that…Which you can at the same time will that it should become universal.” – Immanuel Kant

So, if you compare this basic rule of Kantian Ethics with Pacifism it agrees because followers of these theories look at the act itself and if this is peaceful it is no problem for them. For example it would be right if you never fight even if you are in situations where you just defend yourself.

Another theory which has major problems with this sentence is the Natural Law Theory by Thomas Aquinas. He had the opinion that you should follow Primary and Secondary Precepts which were inspired by the bible. “To disparage the dictate of reason is equivalent to condemning the command of god.” – Thomas Aquinas

One of these primary precepts is that you shall never murder and so it agrees with Pacifism. People shall never kill and so they shall not go to war even if the people of a country just do it because they would be otherwise executed.

In conclusion it can be said that this is a statement which is not very clear and which needs to be examined. There are philosophers who would agree with it but these seem to have the problem that their theories are too utopical. There were always wars in the last years and you can never be sure that nobody uses violence. The thoughts off the opposing site are not always true either because they can justify horrendous acts of brutality such as the mass murder of soldiers. So it can be said that these sentence can not be categorised as true or false.


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      Corine 2 years ago

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      Howard Schneider 7 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Very interesting and thought provoking Hub. I believe that Pacifism may be a good ideal to be pursued but it is impractical for a country's government to pursue. Diplomacy is always the optimal path for a nation to take to satisfy disputes. But that same nation cannot allow another to attack them with impunity. A government's prime duty is to protect its people so pacifism is not an option. But violence and war should always be a last resort.