Moral Tragedy Pacifism

Journal of Moral Philosophy 16 (3):259-278 (2019)
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Conditional pacifism is the view that war is morally justified if and only if it satisfies the condition of not causing serious harm or death to innocent persons. Modern war cannot satisfy this condition, and is thus always unjustified. The main response to this position is that the moral presumption against harming or killing innocents is overridden in certain cases by the moral presumption against allowing innocents to be harmed or killed. That is, as harmful as modern war is, it can be morally justified as a lesser evil when it alone can prevent great harm to innocents. This paper proposes that extreme cases in which only war can prevent great harm to innocents may be morally tragic. In some cases it may be both wrong to wage war to prevent great harm and wrong to fail to prevent that great harm.

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Nicholas Parkin
Peace Experiment


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