Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis explores and critiques the ethical perspective on warfare known as 'anti-war pacifism'. Anti-war pacifism maintains that although interpersonal lethal self-defence is permissible in certain contexts, participation in the massive use of lethal force in warfare is morally prohibited. On this unique pacifist view, the magnitude of killing coordinated and exercised by enormous groups of soldiers differentiates killing in war from killing in private self-defence. Yet, some writers have suggested that in certain contexts the principle of self-defence can by itself justify the resort to war. If this is view is correct, then it would seem that those theorists who wish to hold onto the principle of self-defence must necessarily withdraw their allegiance to the pacifist camp. Consequently, advocates of the anti-war pacifist position must admit that war can be justified in certain contexts, and that participation in war is sometimes morally permissible. Such an admission would necessarily render the anti-war pacifist position incoherent, since to claim both the principle of self-defence and an absolute moral objection to warfare is to argue that war is sometimes permissible and that war is never permissible. Building on Robert K. Fullinwider's analysis. and incorporating the account of self-defence articulated by Suzanne Uniacke, this thesis defends the view that acceptance of the principle of self-defence is tantamount to an acceptance of certain limited wars. A war justified according to the principle of self-defence, the 'self-defensive war', is subject to numerous constraints in regards to its initiation and conduct. Nevertheless, the theoretical possibility of the self-defensive war renders the anti-war pacifist position an impotent moral theory of warfare, one that cannot be theoretically defended and therefore ought to be abandoned.
Gatha, Andrev, "Anti-War Pacifism and the Principle of Self-Defence" (2001). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6496.
McMaster University Library