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Philosophy Night

Hey Philosophers!

This week we will be discussing a very important topic: Pacifism and Violence? Is violence ever justified, if so, under which circumstances? See you Thursday!
- Scott (Your discussion moderator)

For some food for thought on the subject below the Eventbrite information.



Some opposing views of Pacifism vs Just War Theory:


"Ethics is nothing other than Reverence for Life. Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil."

— Albert Schweitzer

James Brabazon (Author of the Biography of Albert Schweitzer) defined Reverence for Life with the following statement:

"Reverence for Life says that the only thing we are really sure of is that we live and want to go on living. This is something that we share with everything else that lives, from elephants to blades of grass—and, of course, every human being. So we are brothers and sisters to all living things, and owe to all of them the same care and respect, that we wish for ourselves."

— James Brabazon

I make bold to say that violence is the creed of no religion and that, whereas nonviolence in most cases is obligatory in all, violence is merely permissible in some cases. But I have not put before India the final form of nonviolence.

I object to violence because, when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

—Mahatma Gandhi

If I kill a man who obstructs me, I may experience a sense of false security. But the security will be short-lived. For I shall not have dealt with the root cause. In due course, other men will surely rise to obstruct me. My business, therefore, is not to kill the man or men who obstruct me, but to discover the cause that impels them to obstruct me and deal with it.

I do not believe in armed risings. They are a remedy worse than the disease sought to be cured. They are a token of the spirit of revenge and impatience and anger. The method of violence cannot do good in the long run.

—Mahatma Gandhi


Just War theory (jus bellum iustum) is a doctrine, also referred to as a tradition, of military ethics studied by theologians, ethicists, policy makers, and military leaders. The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: ‘the right to go to war’ (jus ad bellum) and "right conduct in war" (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war and the second with moral conduct within war.[1] Recently there have been calls for the inclusion of a third category of Just War theory—jus post bellum—dealing with the morality of post-war settlement and reconstruction.

Just War theory postulates that war, while terrible, is not always the worst option. There may be responsibilities so important, atrocities that can be prevented or outcomes so undesirable they justify war.[2]

Opponents to Just War theory indicate that there has never been a single political philosopher in all of history that has actually argued that war poses any real benefit to either party.

Augustine holds that wars, once begun, must be fought in a manner which:

1. represents a proportional response to the wrong to be avenged, with violence being constrained within the limits of military necessity;

2. discriminates between proper objects of violence (that is, combatants) and noncombatants, such as women, children, the elderly, the clergy, and so forth.; and

3. observes good faith in its interactions with the enemy, by scrupulously observing treaties and not prosecuting the war in a treacherous manner.

Contemporary just war theory is dominated by two camps: traditionalist and revisionist.[3] The traditionalists might as readily be called legalists. Their views on the morality of war are substantially led by international law, especially the law of armed conflict. They aim to provide those laws with morally defensible foundations. States (and only states) are permitted to go to war only for national defence, defence of other states, or to intervene to avert “crimes that shock the moral conscience of mankind” (Walzer 2006: 107). Civilians may not be targeted in war, but all combatants, whatever they are fighting for, are morally permitted to target one another, even when doing so foreseeably harms some civilians (so long as it does not do so excessively).[4]

Revisionists question the moral standing of states and the permissibility of national defence, argue for expanded permissions for humanitarian intervention, problematise civilian immunity, and contend that combatants fighting for wrongful aims cannot do anything right, besides lay down their weapons.