Sunday, January 31, 2010


I just launched a new blog devoted entirely to pacifism, defined as a commitment to peace and opposition to violence and war. It's called and it's meant to be a place to discuss pacifism from the broadest standpoint, without focusing on any single tradition or framework. Here's part of my introductory post:

I see pacifism as a direction of thought and action rather than a fixed point, as I have illustrated below:

At the far right-hand side is what some have termed "absolute pacifism". In its strongest form such a commitment would prohibit violence even in self defense, and perhaps violence against non-human living things. At the other extreme is a total lack of concern about violence. Someone holding this view might oppose a given war, but not because it involves violence. For example such a person might object that this particular war is not cost effective.

I suspect that not many people hold to one of the views at either end of my diagram. Instead, most of us fall somewhere in between. If it were possible to formulate a "pacifism index", then someone with no concern at all about the use of violence would score a 0%, and an absolute pacifist would score a 100%. I would be interested in where readers would place themselves (or perhaps historical figures) on such a scale. Of course it's just a thought experiment, but it demonstrates how pacifism is not a fixed point, but a tendency. To the extent that you believe that your society is too ready to use violence, I would say that you have pacifist leanings.

What I find particularly striking however, is that discussions of pacifism so often gravitate towards debating the absolute pacifist position. Although I recognize the philosophical value in considering the boundaries of an issue, I think that one must not ignore the domain where most choices are actually faced. One shouldn't spend too much time worrying about scaling Mount Everest if one has trouble climbing a couple of flights of stairs. And yet pacifism is routinely dismissed based on this sort of reasoning!

I'd like to invite folks to visit, and join the discussion!
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