Cheyney Ryan

in The Oxford Handbook of Ethics of War

Published in print March 2018 | ISBN: 9780199943418
Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780190460945 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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Pacifism is the alternative to just war theory. In its strongest form, it is fundamentally opposed to war, unconditionally and absolutely. Because the pacifist position is undertheorised, a principal aim of this chapter is to review its main elements with an eye to further discussion. Two types of pacifism, personal and political, are discussed. The first is more religiously based and opposes war because it opposes all individual acts of killing. The second emerges from the Enlightenment, then coalesces in the nineteenth century. It opposes war because it opposes the war system and all acts of war as instances of that system. Some classical objections to pacifism are considered, as well as some new developments, such as ‘contingent pacifism’. Ultimately, the quarrel between just war theory and pacifism can only be resolved by expanding the discussion of war to include historical and institutional considerations.

Keywords: Pacifism; contingent pacifism; nonviolence; self-defence; absolutism

Article.  8257 words. 

Subjects: Social and Political Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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