Is violence never justified? What are your thoughts?

I believe there is no such thing as total and absolute pacifism. Human existence is defined by conflict whether it be internal, environmental, interpersonal, or international. Further, sometimes violence must be employed to minimize greater violence.
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Though not exactly a pacifist myself, I am inclined to the belief that there IS a such thing as total and absolute pacificism. It's practitioners sometimes die in the explication of their philosophy, but nonetheless, it does happen. I've seen it.

I would also argue that human existence is defined merely by the existence of humans, in the same way that rock existence is defined by the existence of rocks. No further qualification is needed.

But as to the latter point - that sometimes violence must be employed to minimize greater violence - I cannot argue with that.

Rommie

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Actually, I don't know why pacifists are so often regarded as "unrealistic". I read the following in a Greg Egan book:
Tell some people you're a pacifist, and in ten seconds flat they'll invent a situation in which millions of people will die in unspeakable agony, and all your loved ones will be raped and tortured, if you don't blow someone's brains out. (There's always a contrived reason why you can't merely wound the omnipotent, genocidal madman.) The amusing thing is, they seem to hold you in even greater contempt when you admit that, yes, you'd do it, you'd kill under those conditions.


I think I'd go along with that. Like I said, I'm not a pacifist, but I know people who are, and I have never yet found a convincing argument that says their philosophy is wrong. We can all contrive outrageous thought-experiments, but what does that prove? Such situations are absurdly unrealistic. The odds of something that bizarre happening to a human within a human lifetime are probably less likely than being struck by lightning.

However - there is a difference between pacisim as a PERSONAL philosophy, and pacifism as a SOCIAL SYSTEM. I would be very interested to hear on this thread from anyone who might argue that, for example, it was wrong for the allies to have fought Hitler in WWII. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who might argue that all war is wrong, always. Any takers?
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Regarding the quote...

I guess this all depends on whether you consider wounding / maiming to be pacifism. There are differences between vigilantism and state administered capital punishment, and individual pacifism and social pacifism. A strict (personal) pacifist commits no violence, for whatever reason.

Thought experiments, unrealistic as they may be at times, can be used to determine if a philosophy is logically sound. Yes, the above example is unrealistic, but if it is so black and white, doesn't it deserve an answer? For every ridiculous situation that can be made up, many more probable situations may present themselves in real life than can be planned for. That's why investigating the extremes is important.

Has anyone read Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series? I'm thinking about the tinkers in particular. They are basically wandering bands of pacifists who, in the distant past, were the elevated servants of a powerful priest-like ruling class. In the real world, pacifist societies tend not to persist unless they are protected by an over-class that is not pacifist. Conquerers rarely share in such philosophies.

I'm inclined to agree with most of what this guy says:

http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/ProblemWithPacifism.HTM
None of which matters on an individual level though. If an individual say "I will not do X" as part of their personal philosophy then that's up to them. It doesn't matter whether "X" is "eat brussel sprouts", "have children", "own a Ford Cortina" or "kill people". Personal choice is personal choice, and if they're not harming anyone else against their will, I have no problem with that, and wouldn't dream of attempting to persuade them that their philosophy is "wrong". Personal pacifism is just another value for "X", that's all.

If someone else's philosophy doesn't make sense to me (which happens all the time, actually), I just think "Ah well - live and let live". I'm not really an evangelist, see.

Much of the argument in the article you cited appears to run like this: (1) define "pacifism" in a way I can easily knock down, and then (2) knock it down. It's a semantic argument, based on the meanings of words. But I believe that people should be able to do what they like, and call themselves what they like. (I only find objection when people start trying to impose their will on others against their victims' will.)

In summary then, if an individual chooses to call themself pacifist - or gay, or christian, or vegetarian, or any other self-defined label, then good luck to them. It's not my problem unless they want me to join in too.

Rommie
Well, I can't really argue with that. If we're going to have free license to define terms to suit a specific agenda, no argument for or against any value of X can be made. The author of the above article I quoted simply suggests why certain behavior does not qualify as pacifism if pacifism means "non-violence", and then makes an argument why such a philosophy does not always err on the side of caution. Yeah, he's a little caustic... but I think he makes his point.

All I'm trying to say is that absolute pacifism is not self-consistent because it promotes violence by submitting to the will of the violent. If we choose to define pacifism as some shade of gray, there's really no convincing argument that can be made either way. If that's the case, there's no point discussing who is right. I just abhor rampant relativism because it gets us nowhere in a discussion.

Certainly in real life, there are no absolutes. That doesn't preclude us thinking about them to develop a crude model or partially discredit irrational modes of thinking.

I also have no problem with people calling themselves gay, christian, daffy duck, etc. Everyone has a right to express themselves as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. But if you say you have brown eyes when you have green eyes, there's something to be said for that assertion, whatever right you may have to state it.
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If you look in the mirror and see brown eyes, you have every right to say you have brown eyes - even if everyone else sees green.

No philosophy is ever self-consistent. (Please feel free to demonstrate by counterexample that I'm wrong on this). Every religious dogma, for example, contains innumerable contradictions, but that doesn't compel me to insist that everyone conform to my way of thinking. Indeed, even my own "live and let live" philosophy is not self-consistent, because it is an ideal impossible to achieve in practice. I often have to choose between one harm and another ... and that of course is the stem of all moral dilemmas, and part of the reason I'm not a pacifist.

But I shall strive to stay on topic here:

"Is violence never justified? What are your thoughts?" -- In Rommie's philosophy, violence is sometimes the course of minimal harm, and I would call that "justified" in those circumstances.

"I believe there is no such thing as total and absolute pacifism". -- I have met total and absolute pacifists, so I cannot agree with that. If someone refuses to commit violence as a philosophy, and lives by that philosophy with such passion that they are prepared to die in the persuance of those beliefs, then who are we to argue with that?

"Human existence is defined by conflict whether it be internal, environmental, interpersonal, or international." -- I don't understand. Humans exist. Human existence is simply a fact.

"Sometimes violence must be employed to minimize greater violence." -- I agree.

Rommie
" "I believe there is no such thing as total and absolute pacifism". -- I have met total and absolute pacifists, so I cannot agree with that. If someone refuses to commit violence as a philosophy, and lives by that philosophy with such passion that they are prepared to die in the persuance of those beliefs, then who are we to argue with that? "

All I want to know from this statement is would a total pacifist stand idly by while greater crimes are being committed? If so, how in the world does that qualify as non-violence?

I guess the distinction we're not jiving on is how is a total pacifist required to interact with other people? If he has an obligation as a pacifist to intervene in a situation where others may come to harm by violence, he should never talk to anyone or interact in any way with anyone since the unintended consequences of his action maybe violent. Out of sight out of mind. If on the other hand, he is only responsible for his own direct actions and has no obligation to act in response to the actions of others, then there's no problem...you watch the violence as it happens and tolerate it because you didn't cause it. I'm saying that both interpretations seem inconsistent.

Sure, lots of other systems of behavior are inconsistent. Humans don't have to make sense. I'm just singling this system out because it doesn't make sense in a way that can cause large numbers of people to come to harm.

But since we agree on the last point you wrote, I guess we're both preaching to the choir. Emotion: smile
I'm not entirely comfortable with answering on behalf of someone else since I can't get inside their head and give you a full justification, but, my pacifist friend would consider that he is, as you say "only responsible for his own direct actions and has no obligation to act in response to the actions of others". So not only would he die for his beliefs, but he would let other people die for them too. You could argue that that does not qualify as non-violence, but from his point of view it's a religious thing.

I think largely we are agreeing with each other, and we just ended up on this point because it was the only thing about which we disagreed (there being no pacifists joining in to make their case personally).

But I am still interested in discussing the larger issue implied by the thread title - War vs Pacifism. Not personal violence versus personal non-violence, but WAR versus NON-WAR. Questions like:
Was the participation of the allied forces in Earth's World War One justified?
Was Hiroshima justified?
Was Luke Skywalker justified when he launched a bomb into the Death Star and killed thousands of people?


Yes? No? Why? Why not?

In the extreme, even the perpetrators of S-11 presumably thought of themselves as justified, and even that their god would reward them in the afterlife. How can we say that they were wrong, but that some of the other actions in my list were not wrong?

Rommie
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