The irreconcilability of pacifism and Just War Theory: A response to Sterba (1992)

Reitan, Eric
June 1994
Social Theory & Practice;Summer94, Vol. 20 Issue 2, p117
Academic Journal
The article focuses on the paper "Reconciling Pacifists and Just War Theorists," by James Sterba. According to Sterba, the version of pacifism he refers to as anti-war pacifism can be reconciled with the most morally defensible version of the Just War theory, in the sense that both can be seen to place the same restrictions on the practice of war. According to anti-war pacifism, since all participation in war is illegitimate, such organized defense would be disallowed. But a view which holds that the unorganized and ineffective private violence of citizens in defense of their homes and lives is morally legitimate while the organized and more effective violence in defense of the same was not, seems at first glance to be an absurd view. Sterba says that it is legitimate to attack present aggressors because, by engaging in unjust aggression, the aggressor forfeits the right to life. But the individual who merely intends to inflict injury, but has yet to take any steps to do so, was not engaging in unjust aggression, and therefore this justification for doing violence to the potential aggressor is not available.


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