Is pacifism ethical?

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Is pacifism ethical?

Postby SabreKGB » Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:23 am UTC

My answer would be an emphatic "no" to this, but i'm curious as to the outlook of others here. I've seen quite a bit of idealistic anti-violence opinions associated with some very intelligent people, many even going so far as to extol pacifism. I see any philosophy that rules out just violence as being deeply ethically flawed, personally.

Simply: Some things are worth fighting for. And, contrary to Mahatma, worth killing for. Right?

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby schmiggen » Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:44 am UTC

You'd better be sure you're right first.

It's hard to be sure you're right.

Can't see that I'd say no to pacifism quite so emphatically -- at least not to the extent that I'd call others unethical for idealizing it. On the other hand, I would call them unethical if they claimed to want a particular outcome from a situation and failed to act on it (barring cases where it was too dangerous or costly or something).
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Numzane » Sat Apr 12, 2008 1:43 pm UTC

What's unethical about not wanting to hurt people?
SabreKGB wrote:I see any philosophy that rules out just violence as being deeply ethically flawed, personally.

I believe that the ruling out of violence is due to the belief that all problems that can be solved violently can be solved by better, non-violent means. I also believe that it's based on the idea that violence leads to more violence, which is not an unreasonable idea.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Fenix » Sat Apr 12, 2008 1:58 pm UTC

SabreKGB wrote:My answer would be an emphatic "no" to this, but i'm curious as to the outlook of others here. I've seen quite a bit of idealistic anti-violence opinions associated with some very intelligent people, many even going so far as to extol pacifism. I see any philosophy that rules out just violence as being deeply ethically flawed, personally.

Simply: Some things are worth fighting for. And, contrary to Mahatma, worth killing for. Right?


In order to have effective discourse on this, you need to qualify your terms. Particularly the term 'just'.

When it comes right down to it, violence and the use of force are tacit admissions that one believes one is entitled and/or justified and/or superior to another and, therefore, it is alright to disregard all things of another -- usually, those same things that are inevitably claimed or set forth as sacrosanct for self. This, the most abject hypocrisy, is often touted as 'just', but usually by those who have no real grasp of the underlying criteria by which 'just' is vetted.

For my part, it seems those who extol violence and justify it using any argument that posits one human being is somehow entitled to something another possesses simply by "virtue" of their desiring of it are a little more than unethical themselves. This tendency in those who support violence (and often decry pacifism) is generally quite idealistic, I find.

Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Numzane » Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:50 pm UTC

It occurs to me that OP might be mistaken in his idea of what pacifism is, so here is a definition:
Dictionary.com wrote:1. opposition to war or violence of any kind.
2. refusal to engage in military activity because of one's principles or beliefs.
3. the principle or policy that all differences among nations should be adjusted without recourse to war.

Feel free to give another definition if you object to this one.

Fenix wrote:When it comes right down to it, violence and the use of force are tacit admissions that one believes one is entitled and/or justified and/or superior to another and, therefore, it is alright to disregard all things of another -- usually, those same things that are inevitably claimed or set forth as sacrosanct for self. This, the most abject hypocrisy, is often touted as 'just', but usually by those who have no real grasp of the underlying criteria by which 'just' is vetted.

I agree with this, with the exception that those things which are claimed to be sacrosanct are not, in a sense, inalienable in that society grants rights, but also requires that one behave in a certain manner to continue enjoying those rights. Some of your rights are forfeit if you do not uphold certain responsibilities, e.g. the right to freedom of movement is forfeit when breaking the law in a severe enough case to warrant being detained.

Finally, shouldn't all this be in this thread?
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby 4=5 » Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:54 pm UTC

well we try to train kids and adults to have this view point in their dealings with other people(don't just smack the kid next to you and take their toy when they won't give it to you). So I think society sees it as quite an ethical ideal.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Indon » Sat Apr 12, 2008 4:05 pm UTC

I don't believe ethics are applicable on that level. Defending oneself is neither an ethical nor an unethical act. Aggression itself (while not necessarily moral) seems also neither ethical nor unethical.

Now, I'd say there would be specific methods of aggression or self-defense that could be viewed as ethical or unethical. Haven't really given much thought on it though.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby TheStranger » Sat Apr 12, 2008 4:36 pm UTC

4=5 wrote:well we try to train kids and adults to have this view point in their dealings with other people(don't just smack the kid next to you and take their toy when they won't give it to you). So I think society sees it as quite an ethical ideal.


That's more of a non-violent attitude, rather the pacifism. What the OP seems to be referring to is Total Pacifism (no violence under any circumstance). It's a standpoint that appears ethical, but is also quite at odds with my own philosophy (which finds the act of violence is contextually ethical/non-ethical). Such an absolute statement is inherently untenable, as we cannot account for all situations.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Adalwolf » Sat Apr 12, 2008 6:38 pm UTC

Total pacifism is morally wrong, as it allows others to be killed when you have the opportunity to stop them from dying. Example: You don't stand by and watch your family getting murdered and say that you cannot save them because because doing so requires a violent method.

There are many situations where methods other than violence can be used to solve problems. There are some where violence is the only answer.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby SabreKGB » Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:45 pm UTC

As for definintions, i'll go with the first one that you posted, with the caveat that i'm referring to a stict adherence to such a philosophy. Total or complete pacifism, as another poster mentioned. I wish there were less violence in the world, and i'm not suggesting that aspiring to that goal is a bad thing. What i am saying is that to espouse non-violence in every situation is a bad thing. This goes to both personal and national levels. Peace is a good thing, peace at any cost is not.

What's unethical about not wanting to hurt people?


Nothing, but it's unethical to say that people should never be hurt. " Some people need killin' ", as it were.

I believe that the ruling out of violence is due to the belief that all problems that can be solved violently can be solved by better, non-violent means. I also believe that it's based on the idea that violence leads to more violence, which is not an unreasonable idea.


There are 2 points that you are making here, and i think they're both flawed. First, that anything that can be solved with violence can be solved better by non-violent means. Do you have any evidence that this is actually the case? What is the better, non-violent way for an armed homeowner to stop an armed theif in his home? Keep in mind that the credible threat of violence is, for the purposes of our discussion, violence as well, albeit in a different form.

The next point is more grey, but i don't think it's any more accurate. Violence doesn't always lead to more violence...expecially if the other guy is dead. For a historical example, take the Pax Romana.

In order to have effective discourse on this, you need to qualify your terms. Particularly the term 'just'.

When it comes right down to it, violence and the use of force are tacit admissions that one believes one is entitled and/or justified and/or superior to another and, therefore, it is alright to disregard all things of another -- usually, those same things that are inevitably claimed or set forth as sacrosanct for self. This, the most abject hypocrisy, is often touted as 'just', but usually by those who have no real grasp of the underlying criteria by which 'just' is vetted.

For my part, it seems those who extol violence and justify it using any argument that posits one human being is somehow entitled to something another possesses simply by "virtue" of their desiring of it are a little more than unethical themselves. This tendency in those who support violence (and often decry pacifism) is generally quite idealistic, I find.


By just violence, i mean violence that is morally justifiable or that would be a moral good. Now, what "just violence" is would seem to vary from person to person as their moralities differ, but some good examples that i hold to be just violence are: self-defense, the defense of one's allies or the "innocent", and the use of force to end egregious injustice (slavery, for instance).

No, use of violence doesn't always mean those things you mention, but use of violence in a moral way does imply that you beleive you are justified. And the assumption that one can never actually be justified in doing so is the great moral fault of pacifism, i think.

What are these underlying criteria of "just" that i don't grasp?

Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.


What sanctamonious bullshit. Moral cowardice or incorrect thinking != higher intelligence or ethical behavior. This meme that only the dumb resort to violence and that a love of peace at all costs is somehow a mark of an enlightened mind is pure crap. You put that at the end of your post...after failing to make any cogent arguments at all, or use any examples to support yourself...and then you call me unintelligent and unethical by implication? Ha! Rise from your ashes with something better than "violence are dumb and bad" :roll:

well we try to train kids and adults to have this view point in their dealings with other people(don't just smack the kid next to you and take their toy when they won't give it to you). So I think society sees it as quite an ethical ideal.


You'll notice, though, that (most) parents don't tell their kids that there is never a time to hit someone back. Don't hit first, yes, but after that...?

I don't believe ethics are applicable on that level. Defending oneself is neither an ethical nor an unethical act. Aggression itself (while not necessarily moral) seems also neither ethical nor unethical.


I tend to disagree. I see it as a moral good to defend yourself against another's violation of your rights. Not only is it good from a personal standpoint, but it also can be considered a good in that you are reducing the amount of injustice in the world and contributing to the respecting of the rights of everyone, even if in a small way.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Vaniver » Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:01 pm UTC

Is [moderately defined word] [poorly defined word]?
Well, that depends on the definitions.

I'm of the opinion that non-violence is often rather useful, but don't value non-violence more highly than my property or life. If someone attempts to take something of mine and will not be dissuaded by non-violent means, I will use violent means to dissuade them.

Fenix wrote:Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.
Thanks for the condescension! So, if I'm dealing with someone who believes that violence is beneficial to them (and note that they don't have to be unintelligent to think this!), why should I sacrifice my life, property, or other things I value so that I don't have to sacrifice my non-violence?
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Indon » Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:37 pm UTC

SabreKGB wrote:
I don't believe ethics are applicable on that level. Defending oneself is neither an ethical nor an unethical act. Aggression itself (while not necessarily moral) seems also neither ethical nor unethical.


I tend to disagree. I see it as a moral good to defend yourself against another's violation of your rights. Not only is it good from a personal standpoint, but it also can be considered a good in that you are reducing the amount of injustice in the world and contributing to the respecting of the rights of everyone, even if in a small way.


If you'll note from my text, I'm distinguishing moral behavior from ethical behavior. As Vaniver implied, there's a definition issue there.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby SabreKGB » Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:40 pm UTC

Granted.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby ThomasS » Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:44 pm UTC

This one of my favorite "koans" (I actually love "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones", but this, well, you'll see...). I've no idea where I saw/heard it.

One, a samurai and a student of Zen entered the same mountain shrine, in order to shelter from rainstorm. They started discussing the nature of their respective arts, and how long they had been training. Eventually the Samurai offered a demonstration. He stepped out into the rainstorm and simply seemed to blur through the rain. He steps back into the shrine, completely dry.

"I ran between the raindrops."

The student of Zen thought for a moment. Stepped into the rain. Stepped back in completely soaked.

"I'm dry on the inside."

The samurai thought about this for moment. And decided it was Zen, but also disrespectful. So being a samurai, he cut the student of Zen in two.

Zen or no Zen, sometimes you need steel to back it up.


Maybe there is always a better way, but often smart and nominally sane people don't find it. On a macro scale, I thought "The Fog of War" gave a great perspective on this. There was also a great article in "Foreign Affairs" c.a. 2000. Basically, it compared the deaths in Iraq from embargo induced poverty to the deaths from a reasonably well focused bombing campaign. They had a very good argument that bombing would have been far more ethical, and possibly more efficacious. Maybe violence never really solves anything, but sometimes it seems like the only way to avoid atrocity. (Trying really hard not to trigger Goodwin's law here.)

On a more micro scale, I remember high school. Ignoring bullies did not work, and I still remember situations in which I now honestly think that throwing a punch would have been the right thing.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Numzane » Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:00 am UTC

SabreKGB wrote:As for definintions, i'll go with the first one that you posted, with the caveat that i'm referring to a stict adherence to such a philosophy. Total or complete pacifism, as another poster mentioned. I wish there were less violence in the world, and i'm not suggesting that aspiring to that goal is a bad thing. What i am saying is that to espouse non-violence in every situation is a bad thing. This goes to both personal and national levels. Peace is a good thing, peace at any cost is not.


Well, Total Pacifism, or strictly adhering to the policy of non-violence, seems stupid to me. I will concede that some situations are unsolvable through non-violent means, but these are not nearly as common as one would imagine. When a situation is unsolvable through non-violent means I would not object to violence.
Problem -> Unsuccessful attempt at non-violent solution -> Successful attempt at violent solution -> Solution is superior to
Problem -> Unsuccessful attempt at non-violent solution -> Problem.

Note that
Problem -> Unsuccessful attempt at non-violent solution -> Successful attempt at violent solution -> Solution is also superior to
Problem -> Successful attempt at violent solution -> Solution
because in the former the chance for a non-violent solution took place.

SabreKGB wrote:
I believe that the ruling out of violence is due to the belief that all problems that can be solved violently can be solved by better, non-violent means. I also believe that it's based on the idea that violence leads to more violence, which is not an unreasonable idea.


There are 2 points that you are making here, and i think they're both flawed. First, that anything that can be solved with violence can be solved better by non-violent means. Do you have any evidence that this is actually the case? What is the better, non-violent way for an armed homeowner to stop an armed theif in his home? Keep in mind that the credible threat of violence is, for the purposes of our discussion, violence as well, albeit in a different form.

The next point is more grey, but i don't think it's any more accurate. Violence doesn't always lead to more violence...expecially if the other guy is dead. For a historical example, take the Pax Romana.

I agree that it is somewhat naive to say that problems can always be solved by non-violent means, and that is why I disagree with strict following of pacifism, or Total Pacifism. However, I will say that in many more cases than one might imagine non-violent solutions are viable. I disagree that threatening violence is violent. Violence is necessarily physical, which threatening is not. Threatening is a form of persuasion. Whether or not you consider threats ethical or not is another issue.

Yes, violence doesn't alyways lead to more violence, but this is the exception, not the rule. In many cases violence only serves to escalate the conflict, which is why I say attempt a non-violent solution before a violent one. Violence can be a conclusive solution, it just often isn't. So if you're going to be violent, be very sure you're going to solve the problem.

ThomasS wrote:On a more micro scale, I remember high school. Ignoring bullies did not work, and I still remember situations in which I now honestly think that throwing a punch would have been the right thing.

Pacifism =/= inaction. So in this case, ignoring is not the only course of action. Schools try to open paths of non-violent resolution of conflict, such as reporting behavior etc. Even if these are ineffective, the problem doesn't lie in the policy of non-violence, it lies in the implementation of non-violent solutions in this case.

My opinion in a nutshell: Violence isn't always unethical, but it is relied upon far to heavily. Non-violent solutions are often available and should be tried before violent solutions. Violence should never be the first resort. I think that non-violent solutions can be used to solve most situations. Someone from another thread:
Jjarro wrote:Gandhi also wrote: "I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence... I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor."

I'm with Gandhi on this one; if no other option exists, then violence is reasonable.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Jjarro » Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:11 am UTC

I think that the absolute avoidance of violence is unrealistic and invites tragedy. It's not a moral good in my mind, but I only see it as "unethical" in certain situations where it leads to tragedy.

I see no honest upside to absolute pacifism.

On the other hand, taking other definitions of pacifism, it can be admirable. If by pacifism we mean "non-aggression/non-initiation of violence/practical avoidance of violence even when reasonable" then it can be a fine thing. If someone avoids violence when it's unreasonable to do so, that goes back in a negative direction for me. Such situations are rare. Of course, my above definition of pacifism is also a stretch.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Gelsamel » Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:30 am UTC

schmiggen wrote:Can't see that I'd say no to pacifism quite so emphatically.


I would, pacifism is equivalent to negligence in some situations.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Miles Invictus » Sun Apr 13, 2008 2:28 am UTC

Fenix wrote:Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.


How do you deal peacefully with someone who is determined to do you harm?
How do you deal with someone who is prepared to do violence on your behalf?

I presume you have ready and applicable answers.

Total pacifism is a poor idea because it only works in a world where everyone practices it. In the real world, it invites evil people to take advantage of you.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Adalwolf » Sun Apr 13, 2008 3:08 am UTC

Miles Invictus wrote:
Fenix wrote:Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.


How do you deal peacefully with someone who is determined to do you harm?
How do you deal with someone who is prepared to do violence on your behalf?

I presume you have ready and applicable answers.

Total pacifism is a poor idea because it only works in a world where everyone practices it. In the real world, it invites evil people to take advantage of you.


Exactly! Well said!

I'd like to add that it invites people to take advantage of people you care for, in addition to yourself.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby fjafjan » Sun Apr 13, 2008 3:36 am UTC

Those questions have not been unawnserable hypotheticals for the latest century or so, African National Congress pursued a largely pacifist campaign successfully while attacked by the government, Ghandi has been mentioned, Martin Luther King, etc. The argument is that if you want to achieve a moral society you must you moral ways to get there, and I think more pragmatically it is far harder for someone in power to justify violence against a group that are merely a nuisance than someone who is violent. So it's largely a sound philosophy.

Now fine, a society will not function if it is not a benevolent state which has a monopoly of violence, but considering every moral philosophy I ever heard of have some pretty poor consequences if taken outside of its context, which with pacifism is both normal interactions between people, and social movements, where it does work quite well.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Miles Invictus » Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:18 am UTC

@fjafjan:
Total pacifism -- no violence, no matter what -- takes a good idea and removes the context that makes it a worthwhile philosophy. It's simply too absolute. Adhered to rigidly, you not only must refuse to defend yourself, but you must refuse help from others who may use violence to protect you. Violence by proxy is still violence, after all.

The wisest pacifist is the one who realizes his philosophy is not absolute; he grudgingly accepts that violence is sometimes the only way to prevent greater violence.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Fenix » Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:21 am UTC

SabreKGB wrote:By just violence, i mean violence that is morally justifiable or that would be a moral good. Now, what "just violence" is would seem to vary from person to person as their moralities differ, but some good examples that i hold to be just violence are: self-defense, the defense of one's allies or the "innocent", and the use of force to end egregious injustice (slavery, for instance).


Well, considering you've already set the boundaries of the discussion to be within the context of 'What I think is ethical' rather than 'What may be demonstrated to be ethical', I'd say it just became a pointless discussion.

SabreKGB wrote:No, use of violence doesn't always mean those things you mention, but use of violence in a moral way does imply that you beleive you are justified. And the assumption that one can never actually be justified in doing so is the great moral fault of pacifism, i think.

What are these underlying criteria of "just" that i don't grasp?


It wasn't criteria you missed, it was insight. People can always find reasons to justify themselves. You seem to want to try and pretend this is not the case. Feel free to do so, but it is rather unethical of you.

Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.


SabreKGB wrote:What sanctamonious bullshit. Moral cowardice or incorrect thinking != higher intelligence or ethical behavior. This meme that only the dumb resort to violence and that a love of peace at all costs is somehow a mark of an enlightened mind is pure crap. You put that at the end of your post...after failing to make any cogent arguments at all, or use any examples to support yourself...and then you call me unintelligent and unethical by implication? Ha! Rise from your ashes with something better than "violence are dumb and bad" :roll:


Gee, ad homenium, I'm so surprised.*

There isn't much point to trying to discuss something with someone who demonstrates their mind is closed, is there? All the same, you may wish to pick up a copy of 'Normative Discourse' by Paul Taylor (if you can get your hands on a copy these days). It is quite an excellent study on the difference between valuations, ethics, and morals... an area in which you are, in this thread, demonstrating a bit of... well... lacking.

* - I'm not at all surprised.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Telchar » Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:26 am UTC

Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.


It is interesting that people who don't fight always assume those that do really want to.

What was the quote from The Big Libowski...

'I tried pacifism once. Not in Nam, of course..."

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Fenix » Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:57 am UTC

Telchar wrote:
Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.


It is interesting that people who don't fight always assume those that do really want to.

What was the quote from The Big Libowski...

'I tried pacifism once. Not in Nam, of course..."


Assumptions are never a good idea on fora:

Incorrect assumption #1: That I do not fight.
Incorrect assumption #2: That I personally hold the opinion I am presenting.
Incorrect assumption #3: That you know something of someone whose words you read upon a fora without directly asking them.
Incorrect assumption #4: That I assume those who do really want to.

Don't feel too badly for it, it is certainly common (as may easily be demonstrated by the reaction of the OP). But, if you're going to draw conclusions, maybe you could ask enough questions to insure their validity? Just a thought.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Miles Invictus » Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:39 am UTC

Fenix wrote:Incorrect assumption #2: That I personally hold the opinion I am presenting.


Fenix wrote:For my part, it seems those who extol violence and justify it using any argument that posits one human being is somehow entitled to something another possesses simply by "virtue" of their desiring of it are a little more than unethical themselves. This tendency in those who support violence (and often decry pacifism) is generally quite idealistic, I find.

Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.


For my part, it seems like you hold the opinion you are representing.*

* This may or may not be my personal viewpoint. Don't make assumptions.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Telchar » Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:46 am UTC

So, you are asking me to hold blind faith in the fact that you are argueing for the sake of cognitive dissonance?

You effectively just devalued everything you wrote as being without conviction.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Greyarcher » Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:05 am UTC

Fenix wrote:
SabreKGB wrote:By just violence, i mean violence that is morally justifiable or that would be a moral good. Now, what "just violence" is would seem to vary from person to person as their moralities differ, but some good examples that i hold to be just violence are: self-defense, the defense of one's allies or the "innocent", and the use of force to end egregious injustice (slavery, for instance).

Well, considering you've already set the boundaries of the discussion to be within the context of 'What I think is ethical' rather than 'What may be demonstrated to be ethical', I'd say it just became a pointless discussion.
To meaningful discuss 'what may be demonstrated to be ethical' first depends on an agreed notion of 'ethical', and this retrogresses to discussion and agreement on what is thought by various "I"'s. In the absence of this question and discussion, your proposed question would be baseless and confused, relying on differing undisclosed notions of what is thought as "ethical".

Fenix wrote:
Fenix wrote:Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.

SabreKGB wrote:What sanctamonious bullshit. Moral cowardice or incorrect thinking != higher intelligence or ethical behavior. This meme that only the dumb resort to violence and that a love of peace at all costs is somehow a mark of an enlightened mind is pure crap. You put that at the end of your post...after failing to make any cogent arguments at all, or use any examples to support yourself...and then you call me unintelligent and unethical by implication? Ha! Rise from your ashes with something better than "violence are dumb and bad" :roll:

Gee, ad homenium, I'm so surprised.*

There isn't much point to trying to discuss something with someone who demonstrates their mind is closed, is there? All the same, you may wish to pick up a copy of 'Normative Discourse' by Paul Taylor (if you can get your hands on a copy these days). It is quite an excellent study on the difference between valuations, ethics, and morals... an area in which you are, in this thread, demonstrating a bit of... well... lacking.

* - I'm not at all surprised.
Firstly, there were no particular personal attacks, so you probably mis-applied "ad hominem". Rather, he was summing up the rest of his post by asserting that your post was lacking in proper support for your position. He was further noting that your post--the quoted section--blatantly implied that anyone who disagreed with you was dumb, incapable, and unethical. And even if it were ad hominem, you should indeed be unsurprised insofar as his remarks were in response to an attack upon the character and capabilities of any persons who disagreed with you.

Bluntly, I think you dismiss people who disagree with you far too easily. Upon reflection, would you not say that a person who writes, "violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability (emphasis mine) to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others", displays a disdain for people of opposing positions that suggests that the writer is, in fact, the person displaying a closed mind? For someone who lauds patience, I say again, you perhaps dismiss others too easily due to perceived slights, while at the same time dealing out slights of your own.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby TheStranger » Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:27 am UTC

fjafjan wrote:Those questions have not been unawnserable hypotheticals for the latest century or so, African National Congress pursued a largely pacifist campaign successfully while attacked by the government, Ghandi has been mentioned, Martin Luther King, etc. The argument is that if you want to achieve a moral society you must you moral ways to get there, and I think more pragmatically it is far harder for someone in power to justify violence against a group that are merely a nuisance than someone who is violent. So it's largely a sound philosophy.


This is only true in situations where those who opposed those movements were restrained from using violence themselves. MLK and Ghandi are fine examples of how people in a free state can oppose their government. Take that free state away (replace the US with the USSR under Stalin and then ask how successful MLK would have been?).

Non-violence is possible in an environment that already excludes violence. Take that exclusion away and a non-violent attitude becomes far more difficult to maintain. Take a store for example...
I 'know' that when I go in to buy something that the cashier is not going to pull a gun and rob me. Violence is not needed in that situation, even if I get into a yelling match with the sore manager I can be reasonably certain that the manager will not pull a gun out.
Flip that around... If I go to buy something from people who are likely to rob me then I'll surely be ready to fight for what is mine.

Now fine, a society will not function if it is not a benevolent state which has a monopoly of violence, but considering every moral philosophy I ever heard of have some pretty poor consequences if taken outside of its context, which with pacifism is both normal interactions between people, and social movements, where it does work quite well.


I'd be more inclined to refer to this as a Non-Violent attitude instead of a Pacifistic one.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby EsotericWombat » Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:51 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:I would, pacifism is equivalent to negligence in some situations.


This, precisely. Perhaps the smartest person I know happens to be a radical pacifist. He believes that given the two choices, "let the man shoot the child" and "shoot the man before he shoots the child," that the death of a child and the death of someone intending to kill said child are equivalent. It boggles the fuck out of me.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Numzane » Sun Apr 13, 2008 11:57 am UTC

I think pretty much everyone here agrees that neglecting to solve a problem because the only possible solution requires violence is unethical as it allows whatever suffering / damaging to continue. The frequency of such situations and what degree of violence should be used is another bag of lice.

@EsotericWombat: Logically shooting the man is the right way to go since the man has proven that he's capable of killing/hurting whereas the child has not. Therefore the man is less deserving of his right to not get hurt (in my mind) or, if 'shooting' here is lethal, then killing the man prevents further damage whereas letting the child die does not.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Fenix » Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:53 pm UTC

Telchar wrote:So, you are asking me to hold blind faith in the fact that you are argueing for the sake of cognitive dissonance?

You effectively just devalued everything you wrote as being without conviction.


It occurs to me at this point that the notion of taking up a point as if your own to debate it is alien to a good many of you. The same seems likely in relation to not feeling the need to convince or convert others.

I have a good many convictions, friend. I just don't feel the need to beat other people over the head with them.

@Greyarcher

Greyarcher wrote:Bluntly, I think you dismiss people who disagree with you far too easily. Upon reflection, would you not say that a person who writes, "violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability (emphasis mine) to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others", displays a disdain for people of opposing positions that suggests that the writer is, in fact, the person displaying a closed mind? For someone who lauds patience, I say again, you perhaps dismiss others too easily due to perceived slights, while at the same time dealing out slights of your own.


Sure you can assume it is meant disdainfully, but whose problem is that assumption? Or are you trying to say that violence and force are the first choices of an intelligent mind?
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Gelsamel » Sun Apr 13, 2008 2:03 pm UTC

Fenix, I would call you a total asshole*... However I can't, because I'd get in trouble, because this is serious business. So I won't call you that.

What I will say is that you're crying wolf, and if you keep doing it then NO ONE will take you seriously when ever you say anything in any xkcd SB thread. You can play this whole unfalsifiable "assumption" line if you want, but play it at your own peril.

*Which is huge coming from me, since I'm pretty sure people (at least online) consider me a fucking asshole, I may be wrong.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Fenix » Sun Apr 13, 2008 3:08 pm UTC

Gelsamel wrote:Fenix, I would call you a total asshole*... However I can't, because I'd get in trouble, because this is serious business. So I won't call you that.

What I will say is that you're crying wolf, and if you keep doing it then NO ONE will take you seriously when ever you say anything in any xkcd SB thread. You can play this whole unfalsifiable "assumption" line if you want, but play it at your own peril.

*Which is huge coming from me, since I'm pretty sure people (at least online) consider me a fucking asshole, I may be wrong.


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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Greyarcher » Sun Apr 13, 2008 3:35 pm UTC

Fenix wrote:
Greyarcher wrote:Bluntly, I think you dismiss people who disagree with you far too easily. Upon reflection, would you not say that a person who writes, "violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability (emphasis mine) to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others", displays a disdain for people of opposing positions that suggests that the writer is, in fact, the person displaying a closed mind? For someone who lauds patience, I say again, you perhaps dismiss others too easily due to perceived slights, while at the same time dealing out slights of your own.

Sure you can assume it is meant disdainfully, but whose problem is that assumption? Or are you trying to say that violence and force are the first choices of an intelligent mind?
Regarding your first question: it is not a matter of assumption, but of presentation. If you make a blanket statement that disparages the intelligence and capabilities of those holding an opposing position, you are--for lack of a better term--displaying disdain. Perhaps, to be more precise, you are displaying a lack of respect for your discursive peers; and, implicitly, there is entailed a prejudice against those who would argue against you. On reflection, though, the fact that it was a "blanket statement that disparages the intelligence and capabilities of those holding an opposing position" should already make it clear that it was a faux pas--this should need no further explanation.

Regarding your second question: no (or, perhaps it would be more clear if I responded, "mu"). If you read over my post, you will find that I, in fact, only discuss how your disparaging comment and lauding of patience are in tension with your speed in dismissing others as "close-minded"; I also assess how accurate your "ad hominem" complaint is. From this, there is no basis for inferring that I am "trying to say that violence and force are the first choices of an intelligent mind"--indeed, that question is a complete non-sequitur. Moreover, even if I actually denied that "violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others", to then hypothesize that I am saying such a thing is still an overly large inferential leap to a proposition that has little relation to the denied statement.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Indon » Sun Apr 13, 2008 4:06 pm UTC

Fenix wrote:Or, more succinctly, violence and force are for those who lack the intelligence and ability to manage the patience and ethics required to deal peacefully with others.


I disagree.

Let us hypothesize the existence of an intelligent but fundamentally not human being - it feels no empathy and has no desire or use for human society.

Let us say our being wishes a human-skin coat. Now, because intelligence is about problem solving, one would presume that our intelligent being would select the optimal solution to the problem.

Our being's problem is that it wants to skin humans and make the skins into a coat. The variables it wishes to optimize are time (it doesn't want making the coat to take forever), and effort (it would rather work less than more for its' coat). It can go about obtaining its' coat multiple ways.

It could, for instance, ask for volunteers who would be willing to lose part of their skins. However, this is a time and effort-inefficient solution - there are not many individuals who would be willing to be skinned for this being to make its' coat, which would mean waiting, and he may have to recompense them in some way, which would involve effort. In addition, he would need to contact a number of humans about his desire to make such a coat, which means even more effort.

Our being could clone mindless humans and skin them, but this would also be a time and effort-inefficient solution - time to allow the clones to grow and effort to, well, grow clones.

Our being could use some non-human skin for his coat, but then it would not be a human-skin coat, and he will have failed at his primary objective (being to get a human-skin coat).

I would posit that the optimal solution, and therefore the solution reached by the more intelligent being, would be to kill (well, you really wouldn't necessarily have to kill them, but skinning them for the maximum amount of skin is likely to kill them anyway by blood loss) and skin humans for the human-skin coat.

This would seem to be a proof by counterexample that intelligence does not lead to pacifism. But, if you could figure out a quicker and easier way to make a human-skin coat than to skin humans, that would be a valid rebuttal.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Ceorle » Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:21 pm UTC

If the intelligent being doesn't want backlash from everyone on the planet, he won't kill anyone. He would be captured or killed quite soon by law enforcement. I'd say take a bit of effort and don't spend your life on the run...

Part of the argument for pacifism is that you have to live with these people until you or them die (or someone moves), so it's best not to start violencing.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Indon » Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:25 pm UTC

Ceorle wrote:If the intelligent being doesn't want backlash from everyone on the planet, he won't kill anyone.

Or just won't kill someone in a way that it'll be noticed.

Certainly, in a world in which the consequences for violence are very difficult to avoid, our friend would be in a conundrum. But so long as all it takes is to go to the neighboring city and kill someone in a slum?
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Ceorle » Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:43 pm UTC

He's still putting himself in unneeded risk, and he can't be sure he got away, so he'll spend a bit of time in agony. Why start killing?

[Edit] And he doesn't have the "ability to manage the patience required to deal peacefully with others", so, to me, it's a moot point. As long as we're just trying to make things mathematically optimal, patience barely exists.

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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby Indon » Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:08 pm UTC

Ceorle wrote:He's still putting himself in unneeded risk, and he can't be sure he got away, so he'll spend a bit of time in agony. Why start killing?

Because minimal risk is worth taking for a sufficient payoff. Any rational being could tell you that it's the payoff that's what matters, not merely risk avoidance - and nor is the risk unneeded - after all, he's out to get human skin, that's not something you get at a corner store. Nonetheless, his intelligence guides him to the optimal solution, which may easily involve risk if the payoff justifies it.

Ceorle wrote:[Edit] And he doesn't have the "ability to manage the patience required to deal peacefully with others", so, to me, it's a moot point.


Of course he does - during any time in which dealing peacefully is the legitimately best solution (for instance, if it were really better to ask/pay people to let him skin them), he would execute it without difficulty. But when it is not, he discards it, because our nonhuman is a highly intelligent being, who will then find the best solution to his problems, and a fundamentally rational being, and so will use the best solution to his problems.

Ceorle wrote:As long as we're just trying to make things mathematically optimal, patience barely exists.


Nah. Many problems call for solutions that require a low time preference. This example just doesn't happen to involve that factor.

Edit: As an example, had our being not preferred to optimize his time, then he may be best served by obtaining the bodies of recently deceased individuals from morgues and funeral homes.

Edit again: So long as they're fresh, that is.
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Re: Is pacifism ethical?

Postby EsotericWombat » Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:13 pm UTC

[quote="Numzane Logically shooting the man is the right way to go since the man has proven that he's capable of killing/hurting whereas the child has not. Therefore the man is less deserving of his right to not get hurt (in my mind) or, if 'shooting' here is lethal, then killing the man prevents further damage whereas letting the child die does not.[/quote]

Which is exactly the argument I put forth, but he said it didn't matter. I have no idea how to debate the issue rationally with him if he can't even agree that he'd rather a murderer get shot than a child.
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