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Is Extreme Pacifism Unrealistic?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Gary Childress, Nov 15, 2013.

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Is extreme pacifism unrealistic?

  1. Yes

    11 vote(s)
    50.0%
  2. No

    7 vote(s)
    31.8%
  3. Undecided

    4 vote(s)
    18.2%
  1. Gary Childress

    Gary Childress Student for and of life

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    Is pacifism taken to the extreme a position that can be realistically defended?

    I take it to be the case that there are varying degrees in which one can be a pacifist. A person can be an absolute pacifist, believing that there is absolutely no such thing as a justified war or one can be a contingent pacifist believing that war is only justified under the most rare circumstances. By "extreme pacifism" I mean those who are either absolute pacifists or else relatively close to them.

    I was reading a couple essays today by John Dewey and one essay from a critic of his regarding the decision for the US to go to war against Germany in 1917. Apparently around the turn of the 20th century the US was largely dominated by very pacifist elements which included most in the church. These days it seems almost impossible for an American to believe in pacifism. Those who profess pacifism in the US are often met with jeers about how they are being unrealistic and just inviting another Pearl Harbor or 911. Is being prepared for war the only way to keep peace? It seems almost paradoxical and yet it seems to make a kind of logical sense these days.
     
  2. timtofly

    timtofly One Day

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    I would assume that it is plausible that a lot of humans may have given up their life in such an endeavor. If death is the defensive position and yet such a group prevailed, realistically although not practically it could be defended.
     
  3. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    That depends on whether you accept that you may suffer or not. I believe Leo Tolstoy even referred to his brand of pacifism as "resistance through suffering". In this aspect, I think most radical pacifists accept that.
     
  4. Hygro

    Hygro soundcloud.com/hygro/

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    I don't believe being pacifist was one of the causes of 9/11.
     
  5. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    Even more, 9/11 was indirectly a result of blowback, or the conduct of military operations that are unknown to the general public of the nation that conducts them, while resulting in broad hatred against that nation abroad.
     
  6. Gigaz

    Gigaz civoholic

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    There are many extreme pacifists but I think for the majority there will always be a point where violence counts as justified. An extremely pacifistic society is most likely unrealistic.
     
  7. Arachnofiend

    Arachnofiend Perturbed Pugilist

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    An extreme pacifist is a target.
     
  8. Borachio

    Borachio Way past lunacy

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    I'd count myself as an extreme pacifist. But it's not for everyone, I recognize.

    I just don't think there's any reason to kill another human being. Though there may be a number of causes which are worth dying for.

    I also don't have any dependents. Which may be an important consideration.

    There have been, and are, a number of pacifist societies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacifism

    Einstein
     
  9. Defiant47

    Defiant47 Peace Sentinel

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    I believe extreme pacifism to be morally wrong, since it heavily restricts the moral imperative to do good. An ethical system should be more results-oriented, not blindly principle-following. If such extreme pacifism results in a greater amount of worldwide pacifism and peace in the long run, then it is the right thing to do. But I doubt that would be the outcome.
     
  10. Gary Childress

    Gary Childress Student for and of life

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    Specifically what military operations were the cause of 9/11? I sort of wonder if most of the history of military operations in the middle east have been a game of tit for tat. one side hits the other then the other hits them back. Not sure who started the whole thing. I've heard it said by some that the US started the ball rolling. If so what was the act that started it?

    @ Hygro: While it's perhaps true that 9/11 wasn't the result of being pacifist, I've heard it argued by some that had the US NOT countered with invading Iraq and Afghanistan there would have been more attacks on US soil, that the invasions essentially took the war elsewhere as it were and may have prevented worse things happening. Also getting rid of Saddam and the Taliban might not be or have been such a bad thing. I've heard it argued that pacifism is "naïve" and that things would be worse today had the US been pacifist. I suppose according to theories of Realpolitik the US is getting the better end of things by playing the game the way it is currently playing it.

    Personally I wish the US would give pacifism a try. I don't think any administration, republican nor democrat has really been pacifist in any way, shape or form. Perhaps 9/11 was simply blowback and perhaps there will be future blowback from the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. But it seems to me that someone has to stop the craziness and not retaliate. Then there won't be any reason for a future attack. :dunno:
     
  11. timtofly

    timtofly One Day

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    So it is morally good to cause harm to come to others? If every one was a pacifist, that would be an extreme form of pacifism. However there would be no offenses taking place, thus cancelling out the need to even be a pacifist.

    If one thinks that people should just be aggressive, because that is morally right, does not make sense.
     
  12. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    I've noticed that when people pose arguments like this, they always use "unrealistic" to mean "inconvenient". It's a plain misuse of the word.
     
  13. Defiant47

    Defiant47 Peace Sentinel

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    It can be.

    You've obviously missed my point then. People who are into extreme pacifism and do not take the "aggressive" actions necessary to do a greater good (e.g. prevent a terrible bad) are not inherently moral due to their pacifist nature. In fact, quite the opposite.

    Depends on the purpose one assigns to one's ethical system. If it is to help humanity, for example, extreme pacifism may be cognitively-convenient, but outcome-unrealistic.
     
  14. timtofly

    timtofly One Day

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    Then they are not pacifist for pacifist sake, but for convenience sake like Traitorfish so aptly put it.
     
  15. Borachio

    Borachio Way past lunacy

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    This is certainly a point of view.

    On the other hand, someone who uses lethal force in order to prevent someone else from using lethal force is caught in a self-contradictory logic.

    So that: if I maintain it's illegitimate to kill someone but I can kill someone if they are trying to kill someone, then I'm recognizing the legitimacy of them trying to kill someone, because I think that it's legitimate to kill them. Do you see?

    Pacifism doesn't prevent anyone from "doing good". In the final analysis, all it really prevents is the use of lethal force to do good, imo. It's the pacifist position, I believe, that the use of lethal force cannot do good, in the long run.

    If you think that pacifists cannot use any kind of physical action at all, I think you mistake pacifism. (And, indeed, "action" itself.)
     
  16. Hygro

    Hygro soundcloud.com/hygro/

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    I'm not sure what an "extremely" pacifistic society is because I'm not sure at what point pacifism is extreme. Nevertheless, a real pacifist society is internally very stable and self-reinforcing and therefore entirely realistic given that there's no extra-societal social risk. Aka if all societies were at one point pacifist at the same time, it's likely we would stay that way for a long time. So in a way it's the most realistic outcome other than eventually killing ourselves.

    I was debating the word violence during a long drive home tonight, and the nature of value as a function of feelings. In the US many of us consider an attack on property an act of violence. That may or may not be wrong, but it's frequently misleading. For it to be correct, violence has to be tied into an attack on the same feelings that an attack on property can be is (vandalism or theft). My friend, who was arguing that an attack on property can't be violence, and made a perfectly compelling case, made an argument similar to yours, only swap in "oppressive" to inconvenient, but then attacked the idea of an attack on (corporate, specifically) property even being oppressive, or that treating it so leads to greater oppression (and orthodox violence).

    But yeah, I agree. They do mean inconvenient, but they're still wrong. It's just inconvenient to get there, not to stay there.
     
  17. Defiant47

    Defiant47 Peace Sentinel

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    What is "pacifism's sake"? What is the point of pacifism, or any other kind of view, at all? Is it to prevent or reduce war, violence, aggression? What if the use of war is one of the best ways to prevent war?

    How so? You can seek a goal in many ways. If I want to save money, is it contradictory if I spend a lot of money to buy in bulk, or make a super-smart investment that will yield a great return?

    It is only contradictory if your approach is "prevent lethal force; also, in a completely unrelated matter, I will not use lethal force".

    That's incredibly short-sighted. The same act can have different legitimacy based on the context and details of the situation. You need only realize this.

    So I can be legitimate in killing a criminal without legitimizing them killing innocents by doing so.

    And that's why I feel it to be short-sighted, unrealistic, and morally wrong. The means of achieving the end are so unrealistic and ineffective that they may even do more harm than good.

    I ask you this: does it really matter that much how the means is achieved? If I want to make it my imperative to force everyone to stay in their house, should I do it by staying in my house? I will fail. If I want everyone to stop using paper, should I do it by stopping my own use of paper? I will fail. If I want everyone to stop using lethal force, should I do it by not using lethal force myself? I will fail.

    Lethal force can be used to do good, and preventing such use is wrong.

    And "never using lethal force" can be an effective means of achieving the goal of stopping the use of lethal force. I, however, do not believe it to be so.
     
  18. Borachio

    Borachio Way past lunacy

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    This analogy lacks a very great deal, imo.

    You're perfectly entitled to believe this. But I don't actually understand you.

    I don't agree.

    Quite the contrary. It's my belief that the use of lethal violence is the short-term fix. It's true that by killing someone you do stop them in their tracks. But the long-term consequences are, almost inevitably (there is exactly one notable exception that I can think of, and I'm surprised you haven't mentioned it yet) counter-productive.
    The end never justifies the means, imo. But it seems evidently so in the case of lethal force.

    And if you truly want everyone to stop using paper, the first thing to do is to stop using it yourself. Otherwise you're just a hypocrite.

    The last thing any pacifist would do is prevent the beneficial use of lethal force. If there was any such beast.

    But if a pacifist can prevent the use of lethal force, wouldn't it be beneficial to do so?

    If it only it could!

    But I don't understand what you mean by "it can be... [but] I... do not believe it".

    However, again, pacifism simply isn't for everyone.

    As for the OP question: "Is Extreme Pacifism Unrealistic?" is any alternative more realistic? Isn't universal peace the ultimate goal? And without someone saying universal peace is possible, how will it ever be achieved?
     
  19. Defiant47

    Defiant47 Peace Sentinel

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    It's meant to highlight the fact that seemingly counter-intuitive methods can be achieved to fulfill a goal. Such as spending money to save money, or killing people to save people.

    What I mean is that "not using lethal force myself" is an addendum to the moral goal of stopping the use of lethal force. It's not a necessary limitation. It's an arbitrarily imposed one that presupposes the final goal over the means of achieving that goal.

    Can't say any more on this one. The very same act can have different moral standing based on context; killing is no different.

    See, that's entirely dependent on what stage of success we've reached, and what state the world is in. Your approach may be downright criminal at certain stages, and the best way to go at others.

    In a world where anarchy and chaos runs rampant, and you need to kill to save innocents from genocide, your pacifist approach would be outright morally reprehensible. By doing nothing violent, you would allow countless innocents to die. In a world where peace is already the standard, and killing would provide a better short-term solution, further peace may strengthen the resolve of worldwide pacifism; and as such, the approach would be heralded as the best ever.

    But to make a blanket statement like that ignores confounding factors and moral imperatives.

    What end and what means? Does a lofty good end not justify slightly questionable means? Does even a slight tainting of a means render the entire practice wrong regardless of the good end?

    Hypocrisy does not disprove a point. I could be smoking, shouting out "smoking is bad for your health and you shouldn't do it", and still be correct, despite being a hypocrite. I could be killing people left and right, ironically championing the cause of pacifism, and my actions would not disprove pacifism as a good way of life.

    Likewise, I could be using tons of paper to print out fliers telling people to stop using so much paper, in a hypocritical fashion, and end up saving much more paper in the long run by spreading my message effectively.

    Hypocrisy is only meaningful because it typically reveals a person to be selfish and seeking their own goals rather than the ones they espouse. It does not discredit an idea; it merely identifies the idea as coming from a person that could be of poor moral character, and thus increases the pre-analysis probability that the idea is wrong.

    For example, if a politician champions for no premarital sex, but then has premarital sex, all it tells us is that they could have been championing it for a sinister reason, or they are weak. It warns us that the stuff that's coming out of his mouth may be lies. But it doesn't show that "no premarital sex" is a wrong idea. (that's something we arrive at through other means of analysis)

    And there would be nothing with such a pacifist. But there would be something wrong with an "extreme pacifist" (the point of the thread) who would oppose beneficial use of force.

    And I'm not talking about opposing the use of force in principle since governments misuse it, and the "beneficial" part is most likely a lie when espoused. I'm talking about opposing it even if it were shown to be truly beneficial.

    Invading Iraq was mostly based on lies. There wasn't much of a "beneficial" part to it, so this isn't a counter-example; it's an example of a government administration lying about it. When the US considers invading Syria, I won't disrespect those who oppose the invasion on grounds that the government is lying about it being beneficial, and they oppose it because they believe the government is doing it for its own benefit. I will disrespect those who would oppose such an invasion, even if it were somehow true that it would be overall beneficial.

    Absolutely.

    Let's say Borachio believes that one of the ways to achieve world peace is through pacifism and extreme pacifism. Great evil will occur and many will die as a result of the military inaction. But in the long run, a lasting peace will be achieved, and many more will be saved, than the amount that were condemned to die through such inaction.

    Defiant understands this point and acknowledges that it could be a good strategy. But does not believe it to be so. Defiant believes more people will die on an overall basis than if judicious use of lethal force is applied when and where necessary. Defiant may even go so far as to believe that Borachio's approach will not even achieve a lasting peace, and will fail, rather than just succeed but at a higher bodycount.

    A more realistic alternative is harder to swallow and trickier to enact. Either we can sit around debating "well then who gets to decide who lives and who dies?" or we can take action to save lives. Uncomfortable actions with uncertainties and moral ambiguity in some instances, but with the ultimate goal of peace.

    We must identify the goal we're striving towards, and avoid putting unnecessary, unrealistic, but seemingly-intuitive restrictions on our approach.
     
  20. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Surely, the purpose of ethical systems is to tell us what ends we should pursue, not to tell us how to get there?

    What you seem to be describing is more of a code of conduct, which is something else altogether.
     

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