Box 21, Item 708: Partial draft of War and peace IV: Tao and deep-green


Box 21, Item 708: Partial draft of War and peace IV: Tao and deep-green


Printout (photocopy) of draft, undated. Pages also numbered 15, 17, 19, 21, 22. Later title of paper: On extirpating war: Tao and deep-green pacifism.


One of eight papers digitised from item 708. Title in collection finding aid: RS: Partial xc on Taoism.



The University of Queensland's Richard Sylvan Papers UQFL291, Box 21, Item 708


This item was identified for digitisation at the request of The University of Queensland's 2020 Fryer Library Fellow, Dr. N.A.J. Taylor.


For all enquiries about this work, please contact the Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.


[5] leaves. 12.89 MB.





nght. 'Vital force without restraint', mtentionaily excessive force, is only part of what counts

which is more generally/^ w/tm/i
i.e. transgresses, descrecrates,
profanes, injures, outrages, etc. It is thus a negatively connoted force, an evil force in some
specified intentional respect. There is a tendency for Taoist commentators, not Taoists, to
regard Taoism as condemning all uses, or even occurrences, of force, but this is not so. Rather

intentional ill-forcing is what is castigated, what is deviant. Thus Taoism does not exclude a
range of defensive practices, which make satisfactory use of natural forces, like letting the
machines of war industry stop.

Those who would abolish war and its machinery, substituting for it nonwarlike and
ideally nonviolent methods, technology, and strategies, have been confronted not merely with
much sub-rational abuse but with plenty of criticism and even some paradoxes. Here is a recent
paradox concerning war and nonviolence:
War must be abolished. One reason is simply economic. We can no longer afford it, and
the opportunity costs are enormous. Along with other extraordinarily wasteful activities, it is an
- Doing so cannot be accomplished without violence, i.e. in effect, given the types of violence

involved, without what amounts to war. According to a fuller version of this premiss, the
process of abolishing a war would only be achieved through a revolution so profound that it
could not succeed without extensive and extreme violence, amounting to (civil) war.
But then war cannot be abolished without war.
Therefore, war which must be abolished cannot be abolished.^
This "paradox" has been compared with the Liar paradox, but the parallel does not persist far.

For this paradox does not involve self-referential features, and is easily broken, as follows. Let
the "last war" be not the last standard war but the revolution abolishing war. Then, given that
the revolution is successful, war will be abolished therewith, i.e. with that last war. There need
be no regress, given again a successful outcome. All the premisses stand intact, but the
conclusion, following the 'therefore' is a nonsequitur. However, while the dissolution of the
argument is accordingly logically fine, the route is repugnant. Standard pacifism challenges the

Brian Medhn, who forcefully propounded this puzzle, set other analogous puzzles alongside it
designed to reveal deep difficulties m contemporary political, and especially alternative,
t oug t Another puzzle, concerning liberty and repression in the context of capitalism
revolved around the following inconsistent triad:
* capitalism must be removed, but liberty retained.
* capitalism cannot be removed without repression.
* repression is antithetical to liberty.
The puzzle is resolved as with the analogous puzzle of abolishing. Let the "last capitalist"
action be/bre the days of liberty be the repressive but liberating revolution overthrowing

Plainly the
to warfare, like the sanctions and so on, cannot itself be military
(using soldiers and other devices of war), on pain of some incoherence. But otherwise"

ways of opposition can be many and various: they can certainly be ucrive, as with nonviolent
demonstrations, resistance movements, and so forth, and they may also be devious (e .

ummg th. forces of war upon themselves so they are neutralised). It quickly becomes evident
hen, that some of th. dictionaries offer but loaded definitions which, by restating the negaZ

components, reduce the initial appeal and plausibility of pacifism. Consider th.
of . al on-c-operadon with any form of warfare'. Thereby excluded ar. forms of pacifism

o er active an plausible alternatives to warfare such as social defence. The Concise

often, with depreciatory implication, the advocacy of peace at any price', 'in any
circumstance . Pacifism can easily resist being forced into thes. sorts of circumstances: it has
y resources, as an extensive senes of texts on alternatives to war, such as negotiation non­
ent action and social defence, from Taoism to contemporary environmentalism attest.

of rendennZ
semantical strategy of som. dictmnan.s',
Th f h
""nT Z"
biassed definitions.
y ave stretched the term from its restricted setting of warfare, confined to state and
ve" Z
of violence, from state and interstate to, what ,s
noL oZZ^"""' "t^
^'nce. Caii the resulting considerably stretched
notion of pacifism, according to which it is morally wrong to us. violence, according to which
stretched pacifism certainly includes standard pacifism
'h' inverse is very far from being

(uniMs Znof
hf c e f

diff^mml" f
different reasons for this, which will be picked up seriatim.


several, substantially

Stretched pacifism, also misleadingly called "mra/ pacifism, has looked a very easy
al arg.t to moral philosophers. Many th. effusive philosopher who, upon sighting such a

"fana icaP- H
"inconsistent", "insensitive",
Z"' "
accommodating and
reat ng moral dilemmas, it is no great feat to resist such attacks, in the fashion of previous
stretched pacifism

wZt oT 7
Zen Zs S 7 "Z Z"

ways. So far from bemg stupid, it is viable. In future gentler times stretched pacifism

In Al this notion was contrasted with standard pacifism
might have been better.




accordingly do not hold that violence is always wrong. From such a commonsense angle,
pacifism with its condemnation of conventional wars and the violence they involve remains a
radical doctrine.
As regards wars and other violence-incurring social authorities, contemporary pacificism
is, as previous explained (e.g. Al p.3), a form of activism. Pacifism does not imply utter

pacifity, but may actively involve social defence, resistance and so on. However a certain level
of misrepresentation enters into the JWS challenge in the details of what forms of activism
pacifism may include. That misrepresentation begins in the second clause concerning what is

said to be sometimes justified. For the situational procedure where dilemmas arise will not
generally be consequential applying a principle of lesser evil. In dilemmatic situations such
principles are suspended, and such a principle is in any case unacceptable to moral pacifists. A
small amount of violence may be less bad in its consequences than verbal offence, but a
principled pacifist will choose the slightly greater evil where other obligations do not exclude it.

A more serious distortion occurs in JWS's effort to force procedures in dilemma
situations into purely consequentialist form. In fact consequential decision theory wa
deployed as a
only for how to proceed rationally in a situational setting where deontic
procedures were suspended (see MD p.38). What was said, still misleadingly retrospective
vision reveals, was this: 'what is done is a very consequentialist thing' (Al p.13), nor 'one acts
in a consequentialist fashion to do the sufficiently good thing in the circumstances' (JWS

p.152). Situationally or/zgr procedures than those resembling orthodox rational decision
making (modified from maximizing to satisizing objectives) may be adopted (MD p.38).
Further the orthodox consequentialist theory is inadequate because it leaves out, or tries to
reduce to consequences, nonconsequential elements, notably motives. It is not difficult, in
principle (in advance of attempted consequentialization of motives), to design situations where
motives, such as integrity or maintaining faith, enter to yield outcomes upsetting consequential

calculations. More elaborate decision making procedures than those of consequentialism,
sometimes at variance with consequentialism, are thus presupposed.

A further part of JWS's criticism accordingly goes by the board, the alleged appeal 'to

second best' consequentialist considerations,... already explicitly condemned' (p.154). What

was condemned was stock universal consequentialism, 'that <9t/y consequentialist
considerations carry argumentative weight' (quoted on p.152), so undercutting other deontic
principles, such as those of pacifism. It was not claimed, what is utterly different, that

consequentialist considerations can nouVigrg enter into deliberation and decision making. The
conclusion JWS arrives at is therefore substantially astray.
After criticising modern moral philosophy for its reliance upon
consequentialist modes of thought, it is surprising, and inconsistent, to find
... [reliance] upon such modes of thought to escape logical difficulties raised
by moral dilemmas facing ... pacifis[m] (p.152)

routinely in violent activity. While it can no doubt be argued, as some vegetarians may do, that
the natural order is an immoral order, and that remaining carnivores should be converted to
vegetarianism as rapidly as proves possible (in the way domestic dogs are converted to dog
biscuits), the difficulties with such proposals are immense. The task envisaged is gigantic, and

beyond human capacities - even if it were desirable. For there are millions of species to be
somehow converted to proper vegetarianism. Then there are millions of other species to be
converted to proper and well regulated contraceptive practices, else their numbers will get out of
hand (uncontrollably) with predation removed. Given humans lack of success in limiting their
own excessive numbers, such regulation appears entirely remote. Aside however from the
practical difficulties, is such a fully vegetarian order, with evolution further derailed, a desirable
improvement on the natural order? Is it morally obligatory? It is certainly not obligatory, as
alternative systems of morality in harmony with the prevailing natural order are feasible. Nor is
it desirable, for (to appeal to such alternative value systems) the natural order is more or less in

order as it is. Full vegetarianization would only reduce its value, vastly.
More generally, a defensible ethical framework should not, it would be rightly contended,
be right out of step with the natural order of other creatures, decently depicted. Decent

depiction is important, for some features of the natural order, such as competition, combat and
predation, so far from escaping attention, have been grossly exaggerated and exploited. Thus,

for instance, the ludicrous picture of nature red in truth and claw, so beloved of descendents of
orthodox Victorians and of orthodox economists. However, even under decent depiction, the
"natural order" is often not benign. That appears to be enough to induce a supervenient moral
dilemma for any stretched pacifism which is coupled to a deep ethic (e.g. which does not
separate humans out from the natural order) and which eschews the desperate vegetarian route:
The natural order is not an immoral order
The natural order contains (regular) instances of violence.
Therefore, instances of violence are not immoral -

in apparent defiance of P2 Moreover, there are too many instances of violence, too regularly
occurring, for them all to be plausibly shunted into the moral dilemma category (and predatory
carnivores face no dilemmas). Raptors that practice violence every week are not immoral

(neither are they clearly moral; the category of morality only significantly extends so far).
The main trouble lies however with P2 (which needs some finer adjustment, as was
alrady indicated in Al). While P2 is alright in context, within a particular, perfectly viable,
ethical framework, designed for the usual human round, the conventional setting for ethical

theories, it stands in need of modification outside that setting. It is time to suggest the sort of

modification envisaged. Evidently P2 was addressed to moral agents. Which agents? Not to
carnivores that supply their own livelihood, nor really to morally degenerate humans, but to


peace-sensitive agents. With that semi-technical form, yet to be characterised, a suitably
MP2. It is morally wrong, for a peace-sensitive agent, to use violence.^

To recover what amounts, in the previous discussive context, to P2, it suffices to add the
proposition that every human agent ought to be peace-sensitive. Much as that proposition has
to recommend it, it appears too ethically advanced for many modem humans; it sets too high a

moral standard to be taken as a serious guide to practice. It seems wise to settle presently for

something less demanding, such as that every advanced moral agent ought to be peace
sensitive. To put essentially the same proposition alternatively:
^tr^rc/z^ /?<2cz/z.wz (as modified) is

While it is perhaps too late to hope for

much moral progress in humans, it is pleasant to contemplate alternative futures where what is
supererogatory became obligatory, and widely practiced.
Richard Sylvan*

I began drafting this essay at the time (January 17, midday Australian time) of the
American attacks upon Iraq. The optly named Prime Minister Hawke of Australia had just
made a statement to the nation-state, announcing (the) war. In this statement there was much

talk of peace. There was even - in what was effectively a declaration of war - reiteration of the
modem quest for 'a new world order of peace'. Peace through war; so it rings out again and

again, through the centuries. 'War must be for the sake of peace' (Aristotle p.220). More than
two thousand years later, we have fought those wars to end all wars. But it is no use, Hawke
solemely pronounced, just taking aZzoMf
and thinking about peace; we must work for
peace,/zg/zt for it-through war. Impeccable logic?

President Bush, supreme commander, convinced us with similar logic, speaking too with
many tongues. Of how he 'preferred to think of peace, not war'. But now 'only force will

prevail', as 'all reasonable efforts to reach a peaceful solution are exhausted'. 'What must be

done' must be done, or will be anyway. With God on side with the US offensive (as well as
on the other side), it will go well. As it was said to have, though it achieved comparatively little

that other efforts may not have yielded more satisfactorily, and thought it may now have to


The generalization of P2, suggested in Al, to cover also the parallel situation of
environmental vandalism, can be similarly modified. The anti-vandolence principle becomes
MP2°. It is morally wrong, for a peace- and environmentally-sensitive agent, to use


Thank to David Bennett for joint contributions (from UT) and to JWS for opposition (in



Richard Sylvan, “Box 21, Item 708: Partial draft of War and peace IV: Tao and deep-green,” Antipodean Antinuclearism, accessed February 22, 2024,

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