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The Contender
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pacifism is just as bad as warmongering

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/3/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,616 times Debate No: 59774
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




my position is that pacifism is just as bad as instigating and unjust war.
round 1: acceptance
round2/3 : debate


I accept the debate and will argue against the notion that pacifism is just as bad as initiating an unjust war (as you have called it, warmongering).

Thanks for the interesting topic and good luck.
Debate Round No. 1


the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.

the idea of pacifism is just another extreme like warmongering. if a genocide is going on in another country should the neighboring country just allow it to happen or what if the country they share a border with invades their country should they let it happen. but thats not the only example what about people oppressed by a dictatorship like Nazi Germany where anyone who speaks out against the government gets killed by the government. these are instances where pacifism cant work. pacifism is just the opposite extreme just like theres far left and far right pacifism is an extreme just like warmongering.



Let me restate the question at hand to make it clear:

Is pacifism morally equivalent to starting an unjust war?

I will adopt a consequentialist approach to morality (1). This means that for two actions to be equally bad they should both produce roughly the same balance of negative versus positive consequences.

1) Wars of aggression are very, very bad

If we look at a few examples of wars of aggression (2), we will quickly see that they cause incredibly large amounts of suffering. A historical example might be the Mongol Invasion of the Song Dynasty in China in which there were 10,000,000 plus Chinese killed (3). A modern example might be the Nazi invasion of Poland (4) in which there were 900,000 casualties. Very few actions can even come close to the suffering caused by wars of aggression.

2) There are few, if any, examples of pacifism leading to similar levels of destruction

I am unaware of any historical pacifist movement whose existence led to mass death and destruction. If my opponent has an example, I encourage them offer it up. Thus far, my opponent relies on thought experiments alone to support the dangers of pacifism.

3) Pacifism has the potential to be very positive whereas wars of aggression are almost always bad

There are several instances of pacifism in which there were positive outcomes. For example, the African-American civil rights movement was largely successful in using a mostly non-violent approach for change (5). It would seem that at least some of the time, pacifism can help achieve political ends while minimizing suffering. Wars of aggression, on the other hand, seem to almost always result in violent means being used for oppressive political ends.

An action that is sometimes positive (i.e., pacifism) is morally superior to an action that is almost never positive (i.e., wars of aggression).

4) Pacifism does not need to be a good idea to be better than wars of aggression

Finally, I am not arguing that pacifism is the ideal strategy for conflict. It is true that pacifism is not helpful with some opponents. However, the debate is not on the merits of pacifism but on whether it is morally equal to wars of aggression. As such the burden of proof is much more severe for my opponent than it is for me. They must show that men like Gandhi and Dr. King are morally equivalent to Hitler and Genghis Khan. All I need show is that this is not the case. It is worse to try to conquer and kill your enemies for your own self-interest than to be dogmatically against violence.

I thank my opponent and await his rebuttal.


Debate Round No. 2


the main reason pacifism is as bad as warmongering is because being passive or not trying to effectively solve the problem is as bad as instigating an unjust war because letting it happen is unknowingly condoning an atrocity. I also never said that ghandi and MLK were like Hitler im talking about pacifism as an ideology and that pacifist way of thinking is just as extreme as warmongering. like I said before its an extreme and like all extremes its as as bad as the other extreme. that and the consequences of allowing things such as genocide and aggression towards other nations could have disastrous consequences like millions of deaths in a genocide sounds worse than trying to fight it.
allot of times non violence is as bad if not worse than the alternative.



I thank my opponent. I will offer a rebuttal and then a closing statement.


1. My opponent is wrong to claim that allowing for an atrocity is as bad as instigating the atrocity

The moral equivalence my opponent draws between doing nothing and committing evil runs counter to much of common sense morality. We can draw a distinction between the failure to rescue someone and the willful infliction of harm on others. The latter is usually judged more harshly. This is even seen in our legal system where punishment for purposefully hurting someone is almost always worse than for failing to rescue a person in need (usually stipulated in a Good Samaritan law) (1). In fact, not all states punish a failure to rescue and Good Samaritan laws are often controversial. This just speaks to the shared moral intuition that purposefully doing evil is worse than passively witnessing evil (though in the next point, I will argue that this is not what pacifists do).

2. Ignoring the possibility of non-violent resistance

My opponent is implicitly stating that the only means to resist evil is through the use of violence. This is simply not supported by the historical evidence. Many pacifist movements have used non-violent resistance as a means of overcoming their enemies (2). What's more, non-violence has been successful in several political struggles at achieving political freedom (2).

3. Not all ideologies are equal

My opponent draws a moral equivalence between all "extreme ideologies". Why should all extreme ideologies be equally bad? Perhaps some are more destructive than others. It would seem that Nazism, for example, would be more dangerous for society, than say extreme pacifism. As mentioned in my argument in round 2, there are few instances in which pacifism was associated with massive destruction whereas more militaristic cultures and ideologies abound with such examples. As such, I find it hard to believe that an equivalence can be drawn between pacifism and aggressive militarism.

4. Failure to provide examples in which pacifism leads to disastrous consequences

Once again, my opponent has failed to provide historical examples in which pacifism caused disastrous consequences.


My opponent's original argument was that pacifism is as bad as starting an unjust war. This position is untenable and despite a valiant effort by my opponent, would be very hard to defend even for the strongest debater.

First, pacifism is being compared to perhaps once of the worst possible events, a war of aggression. This would mean that pacifism would have to be very bad indeed. However, when we consult the historical record, we find that pacifism has rarely, if ever, resulted in disaster and has frequently resulted in successful resolutions of conflict. In fact, pacifists have done a great deal of good in the world.

Second, my opponent seems to be focused on the possibility that a pacifist could stand by and watch an atrocity without helping. With regard to this possibility, my opponent neglects the possibility of non-violent resistance. What's more, they also neglect that even if pacifism was wrong in certain instances, it would still be a large leap to say that it is just as bad as doing evil willfully.

In sum, the pros and cons of pacifism can be debated and there may very well be limits to when it should be invoked. However, it is pure hyperbole to say that taking a pacifist stance is as bad starting a war of aggression.

Thank you for your time.


Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by leonitus2464 7 years ago
would you care to elaborate on how a pacifist nation would stop an aggressive country like the Nazi Germany without fighting if they don't have the will to fight they cant stop Hitler or the Nazis so they would be powerless in that situation that results in letting it happen.
Posted by AppleWedge 7 years ago
"the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means."
-your definition for pacifism

"if a genocide is going on in another country should the neighboring country just allow it to happen"

A pacifist, according to your definition, would not "just allow" a genocide to happen. A pacifist would attempt to settle the dispute peacefully. In most cases, this would result in failure; however, you misrepresent pacifism by saying it would allow genocide.
Posted by Walt 7 years ago
This should be interesting.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by FuzzyCatPotato 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: War is worse than not-war, even in the few cases where atrocities aren't being enacted.

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