The Instigator
Pro (for)
2 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Is the pen mightier than the sword?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/21/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 29,946 times Debate No: 33993
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)




Is the pen mightier than the sword? I think that the written word is more powerful than any show of physical force. History has shown that more damage can be done with a pen than any weapon. I intend to prove my point in this debate.

First Round Acceptance
No new arguments in the last round
No profanity

To be clear, pro (me) will be arguing that the pen, or written word, is more powerful than any type of physical force, while my opponent (con) will argue that the pen is weak and flimsy against the sword.

Enjoy and good luck!


I accept.

Since my opponent is arguing that written word is mightier than any phyiscal force, I will be striving to prove that there are phyiscal forces greater than written word.

Good luck.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting my debate. I would like to make clear on a mistake that I wrote before. I do not think that the pen is stronger than ANY physical force (a black hole could easily beat the pen). I would like to restructure my argument to say that a man can do more damage with a pen than any weapon. I apologize that I wasn't clear before and I hope this doesn't disrupt your argument.

I shall open with three points:

1. War
“The military don't start wars. Politicians start wars.” This quote was said by General William Westmoreland who served in the Vietnam war. The military is commanded by the politicians who must sign a decree of war in order to deploy troops. Also, politicians make speeches that can stir an entire country up in arms. These speeches are prepared and written beforehand. Obviously it would be too much pressure to make up an entire speech right there on the podium while millions of people wait anxiously. The point is that war is created and ended on the back of speeches, treaties, and declarations.

2. Religious Texts

The Bible has caused millions of death. While I'm not arguing that the Bible is without any positive effects, it has also led to many misled crusades such as the Crusades. These religious texts have inspired many people to believe that their god or version of him is correct. There are so many wars to take into account such as the Iran/Iraqi conflict today,
civil wars, and the Ottoman-Persian War. Lastly, consider that these horrible interpretations of these holy texts lead to hate crimes. How many people have been beaten or killed because of religion? The point is that religious texts and their interpretations have lead to many deaths over the years.

3. Manifestos

In 1848, Karl Marx wrote a manifesto that would sweep the world for centuries to come, the communist manifesto. In this manifesto, he made famous the terms Bourgeois and Proletariat, or the owners and the workers. More importantly, this led to the creation of the theory of Communism, which would become integral to the governments of Russia, China, Cuba, and many more. The communist party did several atrocities during their rule: they created a secret police that oppressed and killed their own people, led to the conflict in the Korean and Vietnam War, and created a cold war. Without the creation of communism that was written by just one man, all of these events would have never happened.

It's important to understand that while weapons created by mankind may do the killing, it is the pen that commands the weapons. One important text in our society could destroy or save the world. A writer can cause more damage with a pen and an audience than the most highly trained commando can.

Sites Used:


I will start out by making my own arguments before addressing my opponent's arguments.

1. Power

If you think about it, a pen cannot be mighty without a sword to stir. Words usually stir people to action but the thing that truly solidifies the "power" of the pen is the sword. The pen is nothing without the sword. How can the pen be mightier than something it depends on to be mighty? A manifesto has no power without people willing to raise a sword. A written document, even if it stirs many hearts, can do very little harm if not backed by true might. The sword still holds the true power in the relationship. If people were not willing to swing a sword, the pen would have no power at all.

2. Fear

People do not fear the pen as they fear the sword. During the Cold War, people did not fear the Communist Manifesto as much as they feared the nuclear bomb. The sword holds true might and causes people to fear more because of this might. If someone gave you a provocative piece of literature to your head or a gun to your head which would you fear more? The gun. Because the sword, true violent power, holds more sway over the human psyche than the pen has.

My opponent's arguments:

A. War

War is frightening because the true power and destruction comes from the sword. Also, many wars are started by acts of violence and not writing or ideas. WWI was started by an assassination. The War on Terror was started by the bombing of the World Trade Center. World War II, for the US was started by the bombing of Pearl Harbor. War, in many cases, is started by acts of violence that stem from things that are not necessarily based in writings. Also, I will reiterate the point that war would not happen if it were not for the sword and the true damage comes from the violent action and not the pen.

B. Religious Texts

Religious texts have not killed anyone. (Well unless someone smashed a Bible over someone's head and killed them.) The true damage comes from the sword, which can perhaps be encouraged by writing, but in the end the sword is swung by a hand that is disconnected from the pen. The religious texts can perhaps implant hatred or ideas but in the end what is the true wielder of might? The sword. Violence. Weapons. They hold the true power. Religious texts, without the malice of the sword, cause no harm. Christians in the Western Europe and America have lived in relative harmony without the blood thirst and politics of past days. The sword hold true power.

3. Manifestos

The Communist Manifesto would never had made an impact on history without the help of the sword. Alone, in the late 19th century, the Manifesto made few waves in Europe. It wasn't until the unstable political system of Russia provided a sword and an arm to swing it with. It was the Russian Revolution and the might of the Russian militaristic attitude that put the Manifesto on the map. Without the might of the sword the writings of Karl Marx would have faded into obscurity.


In conclusion writing and the pen can only hold true power when accompanied by the might of the sword. However, the sword can always be mighty on its own without any motivation or idealistic backing. Therefore, the sword is mightier than the pen because it holds its own power while the pen is dependent on the power of the sword.
Debate Round No. 2


I thank my opponent for his argument. It seems like I've come across a highly intelligent debater.

His counters brought up an interesting point about the relationship between the pen and the sword. He believes that the pen is dependent on the sword in order to get anything done. To an extent, yes. However, this fails to take into account that the pen is dominant in the relationship. The pen commands the sword in order to act. Religious texts have inspired many to risk their lives to fight for a higher power. While the sword does the work, it is the pen that commands it.

Consider this analogy: What causes wars? Is it the politicians or the soldiers? The answer would be the politicians. While the soldiers provide the fighting power, it is the word of kings and presidents that control war. We should not just see a sword or a gun as the destructive force, but the words and writing motivating it.

Also, in regards to fear, I do admit that the sword does have fear over others. The fear of a gun in your face or a knife to your throat is terrifying. That being said, I think that the pen can bring out more fear than any simple weapon can. Let's look at a few quick examples of how the pen causes fear.

1. A government puts in a mandatory draft. Many people become fearful of putting their jobs and families on hold. This affects everyone in a country that is eligible, while the sword only can harm those drafted. Families become fearful of losing people overseas.
2. An expose about wrongful commercial/industrial practices is published. Many become horrified and scared that the products they use could be contaminated, dangerous, or harmful.
3. Religious texts and their interpretations lead to hatred/fear of those who follow the wrong religion. This leads to xenophobia and a failure to work in the global community.

Merriam Webster defines might as:
"the power, authority, or resources wielded (as by an individual or group)"

With this definition in mind, let's take a look at another aspect of how the pen is mightier than the sword. The pen does not need the sword in these cases. Although I have earlier argued that the pen controls the sword, I would like to supply more points to support my thesis.

The question I pose is: In regards to the definition I have supplied, in what ways does the pen have authority and power?

1. Religious Texts
Let's look at the same topic but in a different light. Many religious texts inspire people and serve as a code of ethics. People look at the Torah and the Bible for inspiration and guidance in dark times. Religious followers have the potential to do many selfless acts in the name of their beliefs or gods. A sword cannot claim this same power; it is usually dependent on the pen for commands.

2. Constitutions
Many governments declare their base beliefs in a constitution. The American Constitution is the pillar that all laws must rest on; new laws must work in harmony with the constitution in order to be passed. The core beliefs of many nations are declared in key documents such as the Constitution.

In conclusion, it would be impossible to refute that the sword has no power; the fear of death is very powerful. However, when we look at the overall picture, the pen is what creates conflict in the first place. I ask again, do the soldiers create the conflicts or is it the politicians? The swords or the pens?

I thank you for the debate. This is going much better than I had anticipated.


My opponent concedes the fact that the pen relies on the sword for action.

"To an extent, yes"

He agrees this argument holds weight, which it does.

My opponent then goes into an argument about the cause of war. He claims politicians cause war when this is not always the case and for long stretches of history it was quite the opposite. For much of history in many parts of the world there was no written language. Furthermore, up until very recently in human history most people were also illiterate. And yet was there not still war? Was there not still bloodshed? Violent crime? Blood oaths and revenge schemes? The answer all of these questions is yes. Because the power of the sword is completely independent of the power of the pen and can be enacted at will by any actor with enough drive to use it.

If we go back to the First Round definitions my opponent describes the pen as "written word". For much of human history bloodshed and war was waged without written word for many reasons. Speeches could sway medieval knights into battle. Marauding armies would march into a territory unannounced as Alexander did in Persia and India. There was no written word to accompany these acts of violence.

Also, things such as WWI, which was started by an assassination, an act of violence, which ultimately started the conflict not words or politicians.

Again, I reassert, the sword can operate with destructive force completely without the guidance of the pen.

Now, back to my opponents fear argument. I never said that the pen could not instill fear in others, but rather that the sword does it more effectively because it holds more power. If you went up to someone, a mom and a son, and said "either join the draft willingly or die" while holding a gun to their heads, there's a good chance they're going to join the draft without a peep. While writing can indeed instill fear, threat of violent force instills more. There's a reason torture and torture of loved ones is always an effective tool of coercion rather than say serving them with court papers.

1. Religious Texts
Force can guide people to inspiration and action. Unwilling people can be coerced into action via force without some divine text. This power is not solely available to the pen. I could control a room full of people with a gun for example without a single written word.

2. Constitutions
Before written word, you know what kept order? The sword. Tribes and groups would keep themselves and their enemies in line via force. Therefore, your argument that Constitutions are necessary and somehow override the power of the sword is fallible. The only reason we write it down now days is because it is efficient. What makes you fear breaking the laws of the Constitution? Coercive force. Without the sword there would be no rule of law because there would be no operative force to enforce it, making law useless.

In conclusion, the sword is mightier than the pen. Violence existed in the world in areas and times where written word wasn't invented or used. Indiscriminate acts of violence can still be committed, starting wars and conflicts. The sword holds far more coercive and fear mongering force than the pen. It can be wielded without a pens guidance while the pen still holds very little power of its own.

The sword is mightier than the pen.
Debate Round No. 3


Since this is the last round, I will make my closing statements.

I think that my opponent has made many interesting points in his debate, but let's really take a second and remember that modern day conflicts are run on the written word. Let's consider that the written word commands the sword into numerous conflicts around the world. How can the sword be more mighty than the pen if the pen commands it effortlessly? The pen has the ability to command conflict and peace.

Which leads me to another point I made earlier. The sword can only threaten and intimidate, while the pen can do ANYTHING IT WANTS. It can inspire and demoralize. We couldn't have this lovely debate right now with swords or guns. My opponent argued earlier that the pen wasn't always around, that parts of human history was illiterate. Consider that writing can still influence those who cannot read.

The sword is confined only to acts of violence, which it uses in order to intimidate the victims into submission. Writing can do that and more. It can do anything. My opponent keeps talking about how the pen wasn't always around, but that doesn't prove that it is stronger, only that it is older. If we are to say that the sword is stronger because it is older, perhaps we should also say that horses are better than cars because they're an older form of transportation. Forgive me for the comparison, it grows late.

I thank my opponent for a lovely debate (I'm drowning in a sea of forfeits). I'm sorry my conclusion isn't longer but I have work in the morning.


I want to thank my opponent for a good debate. It turned out much more interesting than I thought it would.

Closing Statements

I would like to reiterate the point that the case for the pen's power relies heavily on the sword for action. Alone, the pen can be an influencial tool, sure, but is it more powerful than the sword on it's own? No. A lovely poem, a good idea, a moving speech, these things are great but only derive true power when they motivate someone to take up the sword. Furthermore, the sword can act on it's own with indescriminate power while the pen cannot.

My opponent claims that the sword can only threaten and intimidate, which is partly true, it can also coerce, destroy and maintain order among other things. These things might be narrow in scope but they fit handily into the category of MIGHT. Which is what the debate is centered around. As a whole, the sword is much more mighty than the pen because it does have all of these powers and they can all be weilded independently without the pen. To truly coerce, the pen needs the backing of the sword.

Also, I would like to clarify that my comparison of the sword's age was used to show that the power of the sword was used long before the pen was around. It demonstrates that the sword can always act without the pen, even though in today's society we like to pair the two together, the point is that they don't have to be paired together. The sword has always been it's own powerful independent tool.

Thanks again for a good debate.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by dbee23 5 months ago
The pen is not reliant upon the sword for validation -- the pen provokes the sword and eventually quells it, and as such the sword is always within its control. The sword appears mightier than the pen, in the short term. The further the sword is from justice, however, the greater the investment required to wield it. Violence is highly effective, but generates its own demise in that people become weary of it, even in victory. The sword will ultimately fall to a just pen, though it may take millennia. Our own global history shows a declining reliance on the sword as the ability to share and swiftly validate a just pen, increases.
Posted by logic111 2 years ago
Pen is NOT mightier than Sword in any way. It should be noted that the opponent's first statement proves it to be a totally false saying, words really usually used to encourage people to act,to execute the power of pen you have to take sword in hand. Without Sword,Pen is as useless as knowledge without applied action. Pen is dependent on the sword,that's the undeniable fact . If some thieves break into your house and attempt to rape your women,what would you be doing? Would take sword or a pen who you say being mightier than sword? If someone cannot understand this, then he/she can blindly consider him a robotic slave.
Posted by ElHombre 3 years ago
Not just the pen but the lips. Words in general are a weapon of incredible power when used properly, or improperly. Far more so than instruments of steel and iron.
Posted by CanWeKnow 3 years ago
I take that all back and say that the Pen is mightier, but only in a situation where the goal of the Pen & Sword can not be achieved by one strike of the sword.
Posted by CanWeKnow 3 years ago
What came first the pen or the sword? I think it's conceivable that the sword came first. Why? I could kill you right now without any reason other than I want to kill you. Now, I could also have done it because someone wrote a convincing argument that made the case that you needed to be killed. Why would they have written an argument like that? Because they wanted to kill you. In which case, what agent holds the most authority here? Lets do a thought experiment.
You are on stage and there is a large crowd of people gathered to watch you. In one experiment you bring out a person and kill them with the sword. In the other experiment you bring out the person, but then convince the entire audience using the pen that it is necessary for this person to be killed, and then the crowd kills him. They both fulfill their purpose in the death of the person. The sword has immediate effect and the pen has a latent effect. However, this is assuming both means are equally effective all the time. The sword has one arm and the only thing it can do is swing it around in order to achieve it's desired effect. The pen has one arm also, but with this one arm it can control a number of potentially infinite sword-type arms. The sword will still kill the man. The pen will still kill the man. The difference is that the pen will feel morally justified hahahahaaha. Ok sorry i'm just rambling now.
Posted by The_argueonator 3 years ago
con also says that pearl harbor was caused by the sword but before that someone in japan signed a document saying that they could bomb the U.S (with a pen)

ww1 before computers and phones someone must have gave the assassin the info to kill the person before he killed them
Posted by The_argueonator 3 years ago
you can not use a weapon in war unless the war has been declared/ signed so technically speaking you can not use the sword with out the pen.

behind every weapon is the design for the weapon. therefore the weapon would not be their unless the pen was therefore the pen technically makes the sword.

therefore the pen is the creator and controller of the sword.
therefore the pen is much stronger then the sword/ pen > sword
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Juris_Naturalis 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:23 
Reasons for voting decision: Great debate.