For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Practical Pacifism
  • Andrew Fiala
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Practical Pacifism.
Sound Bite

The United States has a unique responsibility and opportunity to use democracy to end war; but, after 9/11, many can no longer imagine pacifism in any form. Practical Pacifism argues for an approach to peace that aims beyond religion toward a moral consensus that is developed pragmatically through dialogue aimed at overlapping consensus.

This work is a closely-reasoned argument for a practical commitment to pacifism in light of the way in which war is currently waged.


About the Author

Andrew Fiala writes for a general audience interested in politics and war. His first book, The Philosopher's Voice: Philosophy, Politics, and Language in the 19th Century, was published in 2002 by the State University of New York Press. An Associate Professor of Philosophy and Humanistic Studies associated with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, he has written many articles for Philosophy in the Contemporary World, Metaphilosophy, Res Publica, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and The Humanist.

About the Book

As American citizens, where do we stand in regard to the actions our soldiers are taking our name?

Practical Pacifism looks at just war theory, the doctrine of double effect, John Rawls and...

As American citizens, where do we stand in regard to the actions our soldiers are taking our name?

Practical Pacifism looks at just war theory, the doctrine of double effect, John Rawls and Lao-Tse, utopianism and Machiavellianism, presenting a closely reasoned argument for a practical commitment to pacifism in light of the way in which war is currently waged.

Pondering the question from many angles, the author argues for an approach to peace that aims beyond religion toward a moral consensus that is developed pragmatically. As American citizens, where do we stand in regard to the actions our soldiers are taking our name?

The United States may have a unique responsibility and opportunity to use democracy to end war; Fiala enlists the great thinkers and the outlines of recent history to lead the debate.

Like Simon Wiesenthal’s 1976 book, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, Practical Pacifism challenges the reader to define his beliefs about justice, compassion, and human responsibility. Under what circumstances is aggression forgivable? How can we be sure aggression is warranted?

This book will be a stimulating resource for classes debating issues in the Middle East and the moral dilemmas that face the world’s sole superpower.

Index, Footnotes.


Preface

Practical pacifism is not absolute pacifism; it does not reject violence in all cases. Rather, it develops out of the idea that sometimes war may be justified, even as it questions...

Practical pacifism is not absolute pacifism; it does not reject violence in all cases. Rather, it develops out of the idea that sometimes war may be justified, even as it questions whether any given war is in fact a just one. This book attempts to articulate a certain uneasiness about the justification of war. Most of us do not know whether the wars that are fought in our names are justifiable. Most of us do not have access to intelligence information and classified documents that might help us understand the wars we fight. Moreover, history shows us that governments and the media present us with biased, incomplete, or false information about the wars we fight, the causes of these wars, and the way they are fought. War is so horrible that we should resist engaging in it until we are certain that it is necessary and justifiable; but in most cases, we simply cannot make that determination. Therefore, the thesis of practical pacifism is that we should be reluctant to consent to war, in most cases.

I came to this argument as I reflected on the events of the last several years — the attacks of September 11, the US declaration of war on terrorism, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq. The more I thought about these events, the more I realized that I lacked the sorts of information I would need to make good judgments about them. The skeptical standpoint of practical pacifism can be derived from the history of warfare as well as from current events. Citizens have often been manipulated into supporting wars that were neither necessary nor just. This Socratic insight into our pervasive ignorance about the justification of war left me feeling uneasy about the military actions that Americans and our allies have all been asked to support in the last few years.

We must be honest about our ignorance. We often cannot say with certainty whether a war is just or unjust. This acknowledgement of ignorance should make us more careful in our judgments about war. Recent events show us, however, how reckless people can be. In the prelude to the invasion of Iraq, many controversial claims were made on both the pro-war and anti-war sides. Critical thinkers need to learn to see through the unfounded claims and hyperbolic rhetoric made by those on all sides of such debates. The first step toward making a better world is to learn to ask critical questions — even of oneself — in pursuit of the truth.

But we must still decide, and act, even when we are uncertain. The main question this book asks is: What should citizens of democracies do when they realize their own lack of certainty about the wars they are asked to support? Typically, we are told that we should stifle our doubts and trust our leaders. This response effectively asks us to give up our responsibility and judgment. But this abdication of responsibility is unacceptable: when one’s country goes to war, one needs to know that the war is a just one. Especially in a democracy, where we are asked to consent to war, we must be certain that the sacrifices and suffering that will be caused are justified. Until it can be adequately proved that a specific war is justifiable, we should continue to question and resist. The notion that we might support a war assumes that war can be just — that good reasons for going to war sometimes exist, and that war can be waged justly. The long tradition of thought about war and its justifications, known as “just war” thinking, is the jumping off point for the argument of practical pacifism.

Once we understand the notion of just war, we must then seek to understand the details of the war we are asked to support. Unfortunately, we often discover our own ignorance as we pursue knowledge about actual wars. This is especially true for those of us — ordinary citizens — who are not privy to governmental secrets, proposed battle plans, and other details. A bit of selfawareness shows us that much of the information we have about proposed wars comes through the filters of the government and the media, which have their own goals. An analysis of history shows us that the information provided to citizens about war is often false or incomplete. Moreover, as we reflect on psychology we realize that during times of crisis citizens tend to become more credulous and trusting of authority....



Pages 260
Year: 2004
LC Classification: JZ5566.4.F53
Dewey code: 303.6'6—dc22
BISAC: PHI005000
BISAC: POL034000
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-290-3
Price: USD 22.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-291-0
Price: USD 28.95
Ebook
ISBN: 978-0-87586-292-7
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