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Volume 25 • Number 1

January 2011



 

 

Pacifism without Right and Wrong


by Daniel Diederich Farmer


Moral philosophers generally regard pacifism with disdain. Forty years ago, Jan Narveson called it a "bizarre and vaguely ludicrous" doctrine, and that assessment is, in some form or other, still common today. Few contemporary ethicists self-identify as pacifists, and in peace and war studies, just war theory is now the standard. That standard perpetuates the stereotype of pacifism as naïve and wrongheaded. The only way to make nonviolent commitments respectable under the prevailing view is by subsuming them under just war logic, as in John Lango's recent appeal for nonviolent interventionism. In brief, just war theory dominates the discourse. What makes this dominance problematic is that just war theory systematically misconstrues and caricatures the pacifist position. Pacifist commitments can only be properly understood when the lenses of just war theory are put aside. Only then is it possible to understand why pacifism appears ridiculous in the literature. Straw men usually do.


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ISSN: 2152-0542