Box 14, item 2073: On extirpating war: Tao and deep-green pacifism marked

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Box 14, item 2073: On extirpating war: Tao and deep-green pacifism marked

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Typescript with handwritten emendations and annotations. Previous title of paper: War and peace IV: Tao and deep-green.

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Title in collection finding aid: RS: On Extirpating War: Tao and Deep-Green Pacifism marked ts.

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The University of Queensland's Richard Sylvan Papers UQFL291, Box 14, item 2073

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

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Australian National University - Miscellaneous

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2073

WAR AND PEACE IV:
TAO AND DEEP-GREEN flAClF/Stf
Taoism and deep-green environmental theory, although closely aligned on very many
issues, diverge over war. For Taoism, by contrast for instance with Buddhism, is not a pacific
doctrine, but is committed to skilful defensive militarism. While it does not espouse a fortress
mentality, Taoism certainly condones limited defensive military operations for specific

purposes, a sort of guerilla warfare. By contrast, deep-green theory, while acknowledging the

role of organised social defence, stands opposed to professional militarism, and thereby to
military defence, and is committed to a principled pacifism. Conveniently a route through
Taoism, philosophically fascinating in its own right, will lead us to problems of pacifism and
towards deep-green theory.
1. Features of a Taoist critique of war and militarism.
War did not receive a favourable press in ancient Chinese philosophy. Generally

aggression and war were to be avoided. Even Confucius imposed very demanding conditions:
for example, ‘when good men have instructed the people [in morals, agriculture, military
tactics] for seven years, they may be allowed to bear arms,’ ‘If a ruler ... does not set himself
right, even his commands will not be obeyed’ (SB p.41, italics added). Mo Tzu went much
further than Confucius, roundly condemning war - on utilitarian grounds, that war yields no
net benefit at any level (SB p.227). What is more, he backed his heavy condemnation
practically (unlike some conspicuous contemporary theoretical utilitarians); ‘he did not hesitate
to walk for ten days and ten nights in an effort to dissuade a ruler from making war’ (SB

p.212). But none, it is said, went as far, in a detailed and sophisticated criticism of war, as Lao
Tzu; ‘none has condemned war more strongly than Lao Tzu’. ‘[T]he opposition of Taoism to
the use of force is well-known, and the most bitter attack on militarism if found in the Lao Tzu'
(Chan, p.154, p.17.)
But, after that splendid build-up, the text is slightly disappointing. Lao Tzu does not
assert outright that war is an abomination, or even roundly condemn it. His critique of war,
militarism, and military technology, is subtle and oblique, and, on the surface, far distanced

from pacifism. For he does not recommend an end to war - in that genuine Taoists, those who
possess Tao, will never participate in them - but expects wars to continue as unavoidable evils.
Worse, he even goes so far as to outline proper attitudes to war and conduct in war, and indeed
to suggest military techniques and strategies, some of which look decidedly devious. Among
the classical works of Taoism, we focus on the Lao Tzu because, by contrast with other works,

a remarkable component of that book is devoted to war and militarism.
The apparent deviousness of the tactics Lao Tzu allocates serves to highlight what has

been seen as ‘the most troublesome element’ in his philosophy (Chan p.17) - not so much

however because they concern military operations, but because they are taken to apply much

2
dispensation? Why should what is not tolerated more generally be exonerated there? But given
that Taoism has here the virtue of consistency (i.e. uniformity on principles) and of

universalizability, that simply leaves more explaining to be done.

• Puzzles for Taoism, and wars as unavoidable evils
There are two puzzles here in Taoism rather than one. There is the military-practices
paradox, and, varying and generalising on that, there are life-practices paradoxes. The special

paradox is generated by the following incompatible elements: on the one side, ‘the most bitter
attack on militarism’, the well-known opposition of Taoism to the use of force (p. 17) and to the
possession and use of smart military weapons and technology - implying that war is far from
all right - and on the other, advocacy of certain (devious) military tactics, outlines of (deceitful)
conduct in war, and so on - implying that war is all right after all. A straightforward
generalisation of this paradox would look at other morally-sensitive parts of life, where some
practice was strongly condemned yet engaged in (for many examples, see the dilemmas
assembled in MD). But the variation of concern to Chan and the neo-Confucians concerns the
conjunction of upright with devious practices in life, in particular in the life of the sage. For a
Taoist sage is presumed to lead an upright straightforward life, yet appears to engage in devious
and even deceitful practices incompatible with such a life-style. Call this the Taoist-lifestyle
paradox.
Evidently a good deal of explaining is required, as to how Taoism can coherently take the
positions it appears to presume, both on war and peace, and on life more generally. A desirable
preliminary would seem to be a little investigation of what position A taken, especially on war
and militarism. One key pasage runs:
Fine weapons are instruments of evil
They are hated by creatures
Therefore those who possess the Tao turn away from them....
Weapons are instruments of evil, not the instruments of a good ruler.
When he uses them unavoidably, he regards calm restraint as the best
principle
Even when he is victorious, he does not regard it as praiseworthy,
For to praise victory is to delight in the slaughter of men.
He who delights in the slaughter of men will not succeed in the empire. ...
For a victory, let us observe the occasion with funeral-ceremonies
(LT p.154).
Wars, which involve the use of weapons, instruments of evil, are accordingly themselves evil.

They are also evil because they involve the slaughter of men. But they are also sometimes
unavoidable (also p. 152). Therefore such wars are unavoidable evils. Such discourse,

obtained by almost immediate inference from the passage, is within the standard orbit of
dilemma talk. But Taoism lacks, through deliberately eschewing deontic talk, the discourse
which enables direct expression of such dilemmas, or even direct condemnation of wars or of
clever weapons. Instead the points are made by circumlocution, what the possesser of Tao

does, how the good ruler conducts himself, or by analogy, of victory in war with death.

3
Unavoidable evils are the very stuff of deontic dilemmas (though many theories,
underpinned by shonky logic, lack the resources for representing this stuff properly). Where
something is unavoidably evil, it is both bad, because evil, and also not bad, doing it is

excusable, because it is unavoidable. So, given such an argument (which has its weaknesses),
an unavoidable evil is a genuinely dilemmatic object with inconsistent features. Certain wars

have looked, since ancient times, like such dilemmatic objects.

Revealingly, Chan tries to explain that ‘most troublesome element’ in Taoism, the
military-practice paradox, through the following exercise in lateral thinking:
It can ... be argued that Lao Tzu uses warfare to illustrate his principles of
taking no action and weakness because warfare is among the most dynamic
and critical of human experiences, just as the Indian classic, the Bhagavadgita
chooses fighting as the theme on which to discuss the terrible dilemma
whether one should fulfil his duty, as in the case of a soldier, and kill, or
should fail in his duty and refrain from killing (p. 17).
‘Just as’? The Indian classic prevents a classic moral dilemma, a dilemma represented in
contemporary philosophy (following its rediscovery by Sartre), where there are incompatible
duties: the duty to kill, because of one's role as a soldier, and the duty not to kill, because of
one's human condition, and the supervenient dilemma of failing in and fulfilling one's duties.
These dilemmas for an individual (male, as it then was) are replicated in dilemmas regarding

war for group institutions: at bottom, the obligation to engage in war (for one set of compelling

reasons) as contraposed with the obligation not to engage in war (for another, perhaps
overlapping, set of reasons).
A theory of moral dilemmas (as worked out for example in MD) is crucial for an adequate
treatment of major issues in war and peace, especially (as will become evident) for a viable
strong pacifism. But Taoism, eschewing deontic discourse, lacks the apparatus to state or

develop moral dilemmas. Hence it is logically excluded from giving a full or adequate account
of what is going on conceptually. One of the philosophically fascinating feature of Taoism is
the fashion in which it manages to avoid deontic discourse, and to substitute for direct deontic

discourse or improvise circumlocutions when deontic discourse would otherwise appear
inevitable (cf. UT for examples). But there are costs. One is inability to display the mechanism
of deontic dilemmas, or to show what reasons and argument lie behind Taoist prounouncements
and conclusions (the shortage of Taoism on argument is another philosophically conspicious
feature, also observed in UT). As conceptual apparatus for analysizing moral dilemmas is

missing, most of the machinery involved has to be passed over. Only the outcomes, as Taoism
sees them, are presented, as if from a black box. Taoism blacks out the story on deontic
dilemmas that deep-green theory can tell, as the following diagram tries to show:

Diagrams . Charting the processing of deontic dilemmas that are "resolved”.

4

Deep-green chart:

dilemma
input

Arguments to
incompatible
prescriptions

->

Processing of dilemma,

directive

situational procedures

output

Corresponding Taoist chart:
Black

directive

Box

output

input

It is evident that Taoism can be extended', information can be put into the Black Box
rendering it less opaque. That extension can be made so as to conform to deep-green theory,
i.e. so that the extended Taoist chart, a neo-Daoist chart, looks like the deep-green one. That is

indeed essentially how neo-Daoism get characterised, in terms of conformity of the extension to
deep ecological theory (see UT).
We are now placed to explain how to dissolve, or at least neutralize, the paradoxes
deriving from repudiation of militarism, an awkwardly qualified repudiation in the case of

Taoism. In a significant sense there is no resolving of genuine deontic dilemmas. The
principles delineating the fix may stand, incompatible, signalling the persisting suboptimality
(or better, sublimenality) of the dilemmatic situation. Where there is a dilemma, involved
parties should try to do well enough in the sublimenal circumstances (for a much fuller account,

see MD). Thus where there is a war, itself a non-Taoist process, engaged or caught up Taoists
will not abandon Taoism. Taoist methods will be applied, Taoist strategies pursued.
So much for theoretical representation and (non-)resolution of life-practices and other

dilemmas, details of which are readily elaborated in deep-green extensions of Taoism. A prior
substantive issue is whether dilemmas always are generated: not whether wars are evil
(typically they are, an issue we shall come to), but whether wars are unavoidable. Analysis of
wars does not bear that familiar claim out decisively. Many wars could have been avoided,
through conciliation, negotiation, restraint, etc., and no worse results apparently obtained,
through sanctions, exchange, trade, etc. Through a typology of wars (coming up) that
conjecture can be given some substance. Consider, for instance, what would be walk-overs.
Then there is little point in making a military response. So war can be avoided. Certainly an
occupation, to be met in a different way, may still occur. And so on, perhaps, for various other
types of war. But, more generally, try this:Every war involves an aggressor, who makes an aggressive move. Such an aggressor
could always avoid that move, taking a different (or a do-nothing) course of action. Therefore,

5
every war can be avoided. No war is entirely unavoidable.

Setting aside determinism (which renders all actual wars along with all other events
unavoidable), it could be argued that a war sometimes simply boils up, without an aggressor,
an intensification of a conflagatory situation. There are grounds for scepticism regarding such
examples; for such intensification can only occur if provocative military moves are made, for
instance troops are stationed in provocative or risky positions.
The presumption that certain wars are unavoidable typically derives from a one-sided
perspective on war, a defender's perspective. A defender has no option, so it is routinely
averred, but to respond to a determined aggressor. Even if that should be so sometimes, when
there is no running away or going underground, it does not establish that such a war is
unavoidable; for it neglects the role of the aggressor. By a smarter formulation, relevant
features of unavoidability can be captured. Although wars may not be unavoidable, defensive
action in wars that have been initiated may be unavoidable. At least such action may be
unavoidable if unacceptably high costs (death, enslavement, etc.) are not to be avoided.
Thereupon another highly relevant feature emerges: the linkage of avoidability to costs. For
whether an action is unavoidable then depends upon what costs a party is prepared to incur
before and when insisting on action: but this appears entirely unacceptable. How can what is
“unavoidable” cease to be so when some further costs are absorbed? However with basics like
survival, a certain liberty, and so on, we do reach such bounds. An important type of
unavoidability. We also reach scenarios, unavailable to Lao Tzu but kindly brought within
range by modem technology, which may appear to justify aggressive strikes.
State Z, while not an aggressor, is carrying out practices which will impose unacceptably
high costs upon peoples of other states and implacably refuses to desist. It could, for example,
be poisoning air or water flowing to other states. But ,to make the case vivid, let us suppose
that state Z is constructing, for reasons Zeders find convincing (they are committed to a faith

which depicts all humans as incorrigible sinners and unworthy of life), an effective doomsday
machine. Would an (aggressive) preemptory strike designed to disable or destroy the machine

be unavoidable?1 In a sense, No; in another Yes. For different modalities can operate.
Physically outsiders need to do nothing, but watch Zeders go about their zealous work. But

deontically they are under heavy moral pressure, because of the costs of standing by idly: if the

human race is worth anything very substantial, then they are obliged to act, action is deontically
unavoidable. Here is a situation where a proposed reduction of deontic logic proves
illuminating. Obligation is explicated through not implying, or necessitating, the sanction, i.e.

1

Whether it would be justifiable, or just, are separate issues. But it is evident enought that
such scenarios further damage the obsolescent idea of just war. For, according to received
doctrine, a just war is defensive. (How such a war can be fought at all is another matter;
coherence requires relativization to ‘just war for party d’.)

6
excessive ethical costs such as extermination. Let us explain deontic unavoidability
analogously: an action is so unavoidable if not undertaking it would result in excessive ethical
costs. Then if it can be established that there is no other way than a military strike, an act of

war, to ensure that the Zeders desist (and certainly we can envisage scenarios like that), then
that is deontically unavoidable. It is also dilemmatic for those committed to, or inclined
towards pacifism; and it is, for them at least, but paradoxically justifiable, as the negation is
also justifiable, on pacific grounds.
Scenarios like that sketched, that appear to render certain wars deontically unavoidable
require but little or no elaboration to render them evil. Evil indeed is such a standard feature of
standard wars that at least its great presence call for little supporting evidence. But it has taken
to vast stretch of human history to reach this general point of recognition.

The manifold evils of war Lao Tzu very early recognised and emphasized:

Wherever armies are stationed, briars and thorns grow.
Great wars are always followed by famines (p.152).

And nowadays followed by great tides of refugees. This passage includes not only recognition
of the widely-observed socio-environmental consequences of war, but, more striking, very
early recognition of the severe environmental impact of military forces. That critique is not
however developed in Taoism.2 Only recently has it been pushed substantially further. And
only recently could a new, most significant twist occur, the merging of resource security, long a
military objective, with environmental security.
The appalling idea has recently been floated that the military, in need of new work and
roles with the apparent warming of West-East relations and cooling of the Cold War, should
exchange usual military idleness for meddling in environmental matters: regulation and policing
of environmental resources, ensurance of environmental security of powerful states, and
similar. This is a bit like reassigning those imprisoned for child abuse to managing

kindergartens; for consider the impressive military record of environmental vandalism. What
the military is alleged to offer is a structure appropriate and available for handling such matters.
But, to the contrary, it is precisely the sort of hierarchical, authoritarian expensive structure that
should be wound down and up as soon as the opportunity appears, as (briefly) now, rather than
being retained and shockingly reoriented (as a state-serving “Greenwar”).

2.

On the divergence of deep-green from Taoism.

Having arrived, by better or worse arguments, at the conclusion that wars, though

2

But a bridge to deep-green theory can be made through neo-Daoism, an updating of Taoism in
confirmity with deep ecology (which however is somewhat thin and threadbare on war; for
what there is so far, see Naess p. 160). On neo-Daoism, sec UT.

7
generally evil, may be sometimes unavoidable, it is evidently important to say something about
how they - those of the theoretical residue - are to be conducted. By appropriate conduct the
damage they do may be reduced; also the conduct should be appropriate to the funereal nature
of wars (to exceed Taoist resources for stating this sort of point). It is at this stage that deep­
green theory begins to diverge from Taoism.
In further explaining the Taoist and deep-green critiques of war, and diverting objections
to them, a rough and preliminary typology of wars is important. It is also of passing interest in

its own philosophical right. War, according to English Dictionaries, is a ‘contest carried on by
force of arms, typically between nations or states’. More exactly, war is a game - in the
generous technical sense of game-theory, with players, rules, goals, strategies, and so on carried on in significant part by military means, normally between states or substates. Call the
contestants, (warring) parties. They typically represent of course larger populations. The set­
up between parties resembles the arrangements of players in game theory. There are several

analogical extensions of the term war to cover games where one of the parties is an object,
construed as hostile (an enemy of the state), such as Crime, Drugs, Poverty or Nature. These
we can set aside as analogical wars. Of course wars form only a part of military activities.
Military interests and objectives have always stretched significantly further than war, to include
surveillence and security, easily extended to resource security, environmental security and life­
style security, and beyond that to political stability and other political matters. Evidently
military ambitions have far over-extended themselves in bagging such democratic concerns.
An anarchist solution to the whole problem of war, which some have seen Taoism as
reaching towards, is immediate: eliminate the source of war, states. Unfortunately it is not
quite that simple (and that's not simple). For wars can also occur between nations, cultures,
races or tribes (which are not such artifices as states, and not always so readily or desirably
abolished), between inhabited regions, and between factions within states (thus civil wars) or,
perhaps by extension, between factions within other social structures (thus, for instance, gang
wars). But undoubtedly eliminating states and aspiring states would abolish most wars and
virtually all the worst wars.
While “nonviolent wars” are excluded by definition, by virtue of ‘force of arms’, token
wars, limited wars, and so on, are not: for instance, wars fought by small armed teams
representing competing sides (cf. medieval and science fiction war games). As wars are
hemmed in by conventions and agreed rules, there is no reason in principle why they should

not be reduced to two person contests, fought under strict rules like boxing or gladiatorial

contests. But in modern times wars have never taken such sensible forms, but have been much

larger affairs, making heavy (though fortunately restricted) use of latest technology. Let us
distinguish such wars as techno-powered, wars. They have, directly or indirectly (for the

technology may be bought or bartered), a heavy research and development support structure
(indeed the bulk of contemporary science is devoted - misdirected - in one way or another to

8

this effort).

Among wars, an important distinction is that between offensive and defensive wars. An
offensive war is one which ventures off a given party's territory or recognised pad, “invading”
that of another party or parties; correlatively defensive parties, if they have not also invaded.
Force projection typifies offensive practice. Plainly, offensiveness and defensiveness are not

strictly features of a war, but of parties to a war. In a two-party war, while both parties can
easily act offensively, the possibility of both parties proceeding defensively is excluded, unless
they share territory. (Even then issues may arise as to which party, if any, was the aggressor,
which started it, was responsible for starting it, and so on.) Thus mutually defensive wars
between contemporary states are impossible (but would be possible if states shared territory,
e.g. if Eire and Britain shared the territory of Northern Ireland). Tao-accredited wars were
defensive wars, never wars aiming at domination: last-resort wars, in which no pride was taken

(LTp.152).3
The pretence that offensive wars are defensive is widespread, and reflected in the
subterfuge that departments or ministries of war are those of defence, security or whatever. (If
they really were what they purport to be, we should be well on the way to an end to war.)

Offensive practices are rendered defensive ones by shabby redefinitional strategems, such as
redefining ‘defensive’ to include defence of ideals like democracy or liberty, infringed (or
allegedly infringed) on territories abroad, or to include “defence” of a third party or place
(whence every offensive war is “defensive”). In the present war in which part of Arabia is
engulfed (February 1991), one party claims to be defending what really was (or should be) part
of its territory, namely Kuwait, another party to be defending (what Kuwait did not enjoy)
democracy. It is a doubly offensive war presented in this guise as jointly defensive.
Aggressive wars are waged for a variety of reasons, but usually for resources or access to

resources or markets, a matter often disguised by appeal to ideology (thus a war for oil is

represented as a war of liberation). But there are other reasons than narrowly economic ones,
such as religion (as with crusades), power and aggrandisement (as in building an empire), and

so on. Nor are those reasons necessarily far separated; ideologies like Marxism and market
capitalism, for example, exhibit many of the features of religion.
The economic reasons for war appear to have become much more complex with the

3

There is one line in LT that may suggest that attack was sometimes justifiable, namely ‘For
deep love helps one to win in the case of attack’ (p.219). But how can compassion be
appropriate unless this attack is within a defensive setting, a larger context of unavoidability
or such like. A passage shortly below confirms this interpretation:
I dare not take the offensive but I take the defensive:
I dare not advance an inch but I retreat a foot (p.222).
These are advances and attacks within a defensive setting.

9
advent of an integrated world economy. At the same time many of the independent reasons for
economic wars are now obsolete. For to powerful states accrue the advantages of war without
war. At least most of the former economic advantages of war can be obtained without
expensive wars, through trade, institution of economic dependence, etc. Small medieval wars
were sometimes instituted for the collection of neighbouring riches and booty, a kind of piracy
meeting conditions of war. “Small” contemporary wars can be waged for a remarkable mix of
political-economy ends: to establish a regime favourable to economic penetration and profit
repatriation, to subjugate markets and to remove competition, to boost a sagging weapons
economy by using up old stocks and also testing new equipment, to restart a depressed
economy, and so on. Such wars, along with the economic aims which motivate them, are in
effect heavily castigated by Lao Tzu:
When Tao prevails in the world, galloping horses are turned back to

fertilize (the fields ...).
When Tao does not prevail in the world, war horses thrive in the suburbs.
There is no calamity greater than lavish desires. (LT p. 181).

But it does exceed evidential warrant to claim that Tao is not only sufficient, but necessary, for
cessation of such practices.
The practice of regularly stimulating complex military-saturated economies through war is

reminiscent of older, much ridiculed practices in simpler societies. They now ridicule the
Tsembaga, who proceeded to destroy much of their surplus product by going to war every 5-15
years (cf Rapaport). But they do not similarly ridicule the most powerful nation on the Earth,
the USA, which proceeds to write off a colossal amount of surplus in war every 10-20 years
(the Gulf war liquidated some $1.7 billion per day). Taoists would. For ridicule was a
favoured method, an important rhetorical strategem, and war and its idiocy were favourite
targets.
Some classification of defensive wars is also important, for various reasons: reducing and

abolishing wars, their costs and damage, restructuring societies away from war and military

practices, and, not least, for appreciating Taoism.

A main distinction is between

• conventional defence, maintained by armies of armed soldiers, many of them professionals,
and
• social defence, where there are no such armies or but fragments of them, and defence is
carried out through social networks of a significant part of society.4
It is here that Taoism and deep-green theory part company. Under Taoism, the state will
have a standing army, but a defensive army operating by strange, surprise tactics (p.201). No

4

Details of social defence are presented in Sharp and in Martin.

10
doubt defensive wars are to remain last resort action. Nonetheless the state will operate in
secrecy, in a way incompatible with decentralised social defence; people will be kept in the dark
about smart weapons of the state; and they too will be surprised, along with presumed enemies
of the state. By contrast, under deep-green theory, there should be no hidden smart weapons
of state; information would flow more freely and not be hidden from the people (who should
retain influence in informed decision making). Under deep-green, standing armies, and more
generally military organisation, will be wound down altogether.
Taoism should have pushed its searching criticism further. For military objectives, easily
acquired by standing armies with time on their hands, are frequently incompatible with Taoism.
For example, Taoism is opposed to domination (LT p.152), whereas military operations
frequently seek or involve domination; and military structure is invariably hierarchical and
authoritarian. Taoism aims for self-regulation, wherever feasible (cf. p.201); so does deep­

green theory, which is one reasons why it aims to dispose of standing armies, as an important
preliminary to the withering away of states themselves (military forces being major props of
state control and power, and often maintained primarily for internal state security). Taoism has
no project for ending the era of wars; deep-green theory does. That project involves an
elimination of standing armies, too often poised for fighting or political interference.
A recommended route to end war consists in progressive scaling down: reduction of the

means and manpower. The initial stages are well-known, and include
• elimination of nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry, and
• force reduction. It can hardly be pretended that the Earth's states have managed to proceed
very far on even this complex of stages. The next stage consists in
• contraction to defensive capacities only, and the final stage consists in
• elimination of remaining military defensive forces, and adoption, so far as required, of social
defence practices. The complete route thus involves complete demilitarisation.

Reasons why deep-green aims to proceed the full distance are readily grasped by
considering the environmental shallowness of an otherwise cogent traditional case for the sharp
curtailment of wars and militarism. The traditional Western case against wars has been
primarily along two dimensions: social and moral. Wars are highly disruptive of the social
fabric; wars may be unjust. From these joint features, it was argued that wars should be a
matter of last resort, to be fought to ensure peace. It was argued further that only just wars
should be fought. Just wars were rare objects. But as there was little evidence of the decline
and fall of wars, much effort was expended, more practically and unsuccessfully, upon
endeavouring to improve the calibre of wars, and more theoretically, upon trying to characterize
just war satisfactorily, or rather to bend the notion in an effort to approximate the gory unjust
facts.
Progress was long hindered, furthermore, because there was always a rival positive
perspective on wars, which encouraged the exaltation of wars and military feats. It also

facilitated the transfer of the favourable image of war to other problem areas, whence the long
and apparently successful war against Nature (but the short-term successes are turning into
long-term problems), the short and unsuccessful war against Poverty, and so on. Behind all
this is the complex idea of war as rejuvenating, even cleansing, like fire; of war as heroic, and
glorious, of war as the supreme testing ground of men. These pictures of war - finally

shattered by the first World War (where even the poets began to tell of horrors and atrocities)

and subsequent technological wars - though no longer in ascendency, have by no means
vanished. The notion of war as rejuvenating a flagging economy persists, along with the
practice of keeping capitalism running smoothly by integrating substantial military components
into the industrial engine.
With the development of highly technological wars — the celebrated development of the
dirty industrial age is substantially military - the traditional negative case has grown in strength.

Wars have become much more damaging, with the potential for much more that is significantly
worse, and the possibility of a just war has correspondingly contracted, virtually to zero. The
opposition to war has likewise grown, but more than correspondingly with the rise of women
in social and political influence. Wars have almost always and everywhere been Men's affairs;
likewise conquest.
Deep-green theory accepts much of the traditional negative case, but would further

strengthen it. For example, the stricture against unjust wars, as out and out immoral, can be
strengthened, through the following syllogism:
All wars should be fully just wars.
Modem wars cannot be fully just wars.
Therefore, there should be no modern wars.

A fully just war is not merely a just war, but a war those just character can be reliably forecast
in advance. A modern war is of course a war that deploys modern technology, at least that
available this century. The evidential basis for the second premiss derives from much
information that collateral damage, damage to innocent bystanders and involved citizens is

always likely and cannot be excluded. Such wars are always liable to violate uncontroversial
requirements for a just war, even if they are purely “conventional” wars, not throwing radiation
or chemical or biological weapons around.

From a contemporary viewpoint the traditional doctrine of a just war, really of a just

defensive v/ax, is seriously out of date. The reasons for this reach wider than the new features
introduced by modem technological wars and the character of modem civilization, with its giant
cities littered with dangerous and vulnerable military targets. They have also to do with the

chauvinism of the justice proposed, which is shallow human justice, not natural or
environmental justice. There is no consideration of justice to other creatures or to the Earth (cf

Naess p.160). Two troubles are really intertwined here: conceptual difficulties with too narrow
a notion of justice, and ideological difficulties with too narrow a vision of what is an object of

12
value, of what counts.
The deep-green case against war adds to the traditional case a further dimension,
neglected until very recently: the environmental dimension. It has suddenly been seen that wars
are typically environmental atrocities. Earlier, of course, “environments” were simply

backgrounds, backdrops in paintings and plays, to the real drama.
Contemporary technological wars tend to be not merely social tragedies but environmental
ones as well. There is a doctrine of just war, but it is a human chauvinistic affair. There is no
similarly developed doctrine of an ecologically sound war, a deep ecological war. Unless any
such war were literally different from modern wars, that is from contemporary technological
wars, it would overstep permitted bounds. For such wars are characteristically ecological
disasters. Hardened military people, desensitized by a rigorous unethical training, feel even
less compunction about degrading or destroying environments or members of other species
than they do of maiming or killing civilians through “collateral” activity.
Matching the no-just-war syllogism is a no-sound-war syllogism:
All wars should be environmentally sound wars.
Modern wars cannot be environmentally sound.
Therefore, there should be no modern wars.
The argument for the second premiss has of course to be different. It looks to the information

accumulating on what wars do to natural and built environments. The Vietnam and Gulf wars

both inflicted immense damage on natural environments or what was left of them.
The environmental effects of war are not confined to direct and collateral damage. There
are indirect effects also. Thus, for instance, war also supplied the mechanism of, and the
technology for, modern environmental destruction: explosives, bulldozers from tanks, etc. As
well, training for war and engagement in war have much fostered, along with attitudes that
make for social callousness or ruthlessness, those that contribute to environmental insensitivity
and cruelty.
3. Puzzles about Taoist strategy and its critiques of technology and violence

‘It is surprising how much of the Lao Tzu is devoted to military strategy’. Which
strategies? Surprise, above all. But why such strategies? ‘Do they not contradict the Taoists’
strong opposition to the use of force’ (Chan p.222), the implied commitment to quietism?
Briefly, Taoism is not committed to quietism, and while certainly antagonistic to violence, does
not oppose certain uses of force (only really z7/-forcing, as will be explained). Even so, the
emphasis on military strategy remains puzzling.
The strategies, many of them relevant to social defence, include

• seriousness, not ‘making light of the enemy’ (p.222)
• surprise, and nonvisibility (p.201). The defensive strategy involves guerilla tactics:
marching without formation, holding weapons without seeming to have them, confronting

13
enemies without seeming to meet them (p.222). But even in times of peace, ‘smart weapons of
the state should not be displayed to the people’ (p.164). Such recommendations helped to fuel
the charge of deviousness lodged against Lao Tzu. But look at part of the reason for concealing
smart weapons: ‘The more smart weapons the people have, the more troubled the state will be’
(p.201). Smart weapons are carried in corrupt states, where the rich engage in conspicuous
consumption and the people are suppressed, not where Tao is practiced (LT p.194).
• advance from weakness, flexibility but firmness. Weakness is the principle of life and will
overcome strength (LT p.164, p.233).
• coolness and non-competition (LT p.233, p.164). Like these, most of the general strategies
are standard Taoist practices simply applied to military conduct. For these standard practices
the charge of deviousness looks feeble.
The response applies more generally to other allegedly devious political strategies. For

the strategies are but application of Taoist principles and techniques to warfare, politics and

elsewhere. Nothing excludes application of these techniques to what are accounted, in general,
unnecessary evils (which must sometimes, on other Taoist grounds, be countered). Nor, to
meet the main criticism, need any deceit or deviousness be involved; nor is it. In particular, the
legalist tactic, Tn order to grasp, it is necessary first to give’ (LT p.164), is cited as involving

‘an element of deceit’ ‘undeniably’, and ‘worse’ it is ‘morally questionable’ (Chan p.17). But
in order for me to grasp your hand in a normal handshake, it is necessary first for me to give
my hand. There is no deceit here, nothing morally questionable. All the tactics permit of

benign construals, of a Taoist kind. Consider, for instance, Tn order to contract, it is necessary
first to expand’ (LT p.164). In order to bend a copper pipe to the intended angle, it is better to
bend it first a little further than required. The transformation of water to ice (both favoured
natural items for symbolic purposes: natural processes which may look devious!) neatly
illustrates the Taoist principle (which is however hardly necessary), and shows softness and
weakness turned hardness and strength.

The Taoist critique of militarism is as much a critique of technology as of war. Sharp
weapons, ‘smart weapons’ as we might now say, come in for much critical attention, as we
have already noticed. Only in corrupt and degenerate states are they displayed or flaunted
(p.194, p.164); in deep-green regions smart weapons of state’ would not be retained
unexhibited. The people will not have them for they mean trouble (p.201); for similar reasons

deep-green regions will be free of them. So, it seems, will ideal Taoist regions: ‘Even if there
are arrows and weapons, none will display them’ (LT p.238). Much technology, military and

other, is excluded under the Taoist edict against violence (a further facet of the military-practices
paradox).5

5

Under contemporary technology and technological arrangements, such as the storage of
quantities of oil and nuclear and chemical materials in great cities, wars have assumed new and

14
The powerful critique of militarism in the Tao-te Ching is coupled with strong opposition
to violence. Some of the linkage is evident enough. Militarism as practised represents an
ultimate form of state (or party) violence. A basic theme is that violent practices will come to an
unnatural end, and accordingly to a non-Taoist end (generalising LT p.176). While force may
occur in spectacular, but satisfactory, natural forms, force is duly distinguished from violence.
To force the growth of life means ill omen.
For the mind to employ the vital force without restraint means violence
(LT p. 197).

One who follows Tao does not apply dominating force, which usually has had results bringing
requital (p.152). Dominating force, like power, is in general castigated, under doctrine of wuwei, no forced actions, no violence. To force natural growth is deviant, destroying harmony.
To stop natural growth is deviant. But there is a significant difference between force and
violence. To intentionally employ destructive force is to do violence. To so force things is
condemned. To remain in harmony with things one does not so force things or practice

violence. There is a non-interference principle at work, which also indicates types of non­

interference that are excluded.

However Taoism does not always get the distinction between force and violence quite
right. ‘Vital force without restraint’, intentionally excessive force, is only part of what counts
as violence, which is more generally force which violates, i.e. transgresses, descrecrates,

very destructive dimensions, to the point of being utterly irresponsible.
A different approach to technology, as to war, is now mandatory. These are no longer things
that can in principle be nicely confined and need not touch parties outside the fray. An
important part of ending wars, “winning the war against wars”, is removing the technology of
war, above all from irresponsible state power.
As for which technology to try to jettison and which to try to retain or improve, it is not so
difficult to indicate, provided evaluative terminology is not outlawed. What is wanted is
technology that is good in its place, what should be excluded is technology that is indifferent
or bad or potentially so. Technology to be justified has to do something worthwhile, it has
to address identifiable respectable needs. That is why merely indifferent technology is out;
there is no virtue in technology for technology's sake, as it is a mere means technique. It is
because of the crucial evaluative component in choice of technology that appropriateness,
itself evaluative, comes closer to encapsulating the criterion than other recent efforts. Size,
such as smallness, or intermediateness, are not what matter, though modest and not excessive
technologies are likely to fare better in satisfying appropriateness. In simpler societies, small
technology is of course more appropriate; for that is what is good there. From known criteria
for what is good these other features for locally appropriate technology can be read off:
reliability, esp. in maintenance, functioning well and safely under the expected range of
operating conditions (which may be difficult), ease of repair, capital cheapness and repair
inexpensiveness, environmental benignness, and meeting sound social needs.

15
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
anachronism.
• 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.6
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
second premiss.

4. Standard and moral pacifism.

6

Brian Medlin, who forcefully propounded this puzzle, set other analogous puzzles alongside it
- designed to reveal deep difficulties in contemporary political, and especially alternative,
thought. 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 before the days of liberty be the repressive but liberating revolution overthrowing
capitalism.

16
Although Taoism is strongly opposed to war, and much in favour of peace - and
accordingly by prevailing standards a substantially pacific position - it is not (nowhere in the
central texts) committed to pacifism in usual senses, for two different reasons:• It is not, by contrast with pacifism, opposed to all types of warfare, for example smart

defensive wars.
• It eschews deontology in terms of which moral pacifism is commonly stated, for instance
through the watershed thesis
P2.
It is morally wrong to use violence.

By contrast with Taoism, deep environmentalism does not avoid deontic claims, and is
committed in principle to nonviolent technologies and ways and to pacifistic principles.
Moreover, certain forms of deep environmentalism are completely committed to pacifism,

notably European forms. Is deep green?
There is heavy contemporary opposition to pacifism, as there also was to Taoism in the
warring times when Taoism was first being promulgated. Many of the central institutions of
contemporary life are intricated in coercion, violence and war. The most prominent

contemporary institutions, states, are premissed on these elements of damaging force; they
claim entitlement to use them widely, and even claim a certain territorial monopoly on their use.
As a result they are having constantly to engage in them in attempt to maintain that monopoly.
They are certainly the main perpetrators of wars, and of violence. They are indeed inured to

wars, are in constant preparation for wars, yet propound dialectial (and normally dishonest and
cynical) doctrines of peace through war (for a recent example see the appendix).

Unremarkably then, the extensive propagandistic machinery of state has invested heavily
in “justificatory” exercises in favour of controlled use, its own use, of destructive force, and
continues to inveigh against pacifism. Because a routine trick in this sophistical repetoire
consists in conflating pacifism with extreme, naive and inplausible, forms, an inevitable and
important early task commits in unscrambling senses of ‘pacifism’. Semantical skulduggery
can be thwarted in this way.
Pacifism, as explained by English dictionaries, invariably concerns wars and warfare, and
contains two components, negative and, elaborating on that, positive:- The negative component
is, in Amauld's word, anti-War-ism, opposition (in ways to be further specified) to all forms of
warfare (see OED). The positive component supplies alternative ways of settling disputes (what
it is supposed that wars with some semblance of justification involve), such as negotiation,

arbitration,... - and, adding to too narrow dictionary accounts - sanctions, substitutions (e.g.
of sporting events, operatic contests, cooperative ventures),... . In brief standard pacifism is
opposition to all warfare and resolution of potential wars by other nonmilitary means.
Plainly the opposition 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 the

ways of opposition can be many and various: they can certainly be active, as with nonviolent

17
demonstrations, resistance movements, and so forth, and they may also be devious (e.g.
turning the forces of war upon themselves so they are neutralised). It quickly becomes evident,
then, that some of the dictionaries offer but loaded definitions which, by restricting the negative
components, reduce the initial appeal and plausibility of pacifism. Consider the Concise
English definition of the negative component: ‘the doctrine of non-resistance to hostilities and
of total non-co-operation with any form of warfare’. Thereby excluded are forms of pacifism
which offer active and plausible alternatives to warfare such as social defence. The Concise
English tends to force pacifism into what the Oxford English Dictionary lists as its final item:
‘often, with depreciatory implication, the advocacy of peace at any price’, ‘in any
circumstance’. Pacifism can easily resist being forced into these sorts of circumstances: it has
many resources, as an extensive series of texts on alternatives to war, such as negotiation, non­
violent action and social defence, from Taoism to contemporary environmentalism attest.
Academic philosophers have much advanced the semantical strategy of some dictionaries,
of rendering pacifism more difficult from the very outset by narrow and biassed definitions.
They have stretched the term from its restricted setting of warfare, confined to state and
organised gang violence, to cover all forms of violence, from state and interstate to, what is
very different, personal and interpersonal violence. Call the resulting considerably stretched

notion of pacifism, according to which it is morally wrong to use violence, according to which
P2 holds, stretched pacifism.'1 While stretched pacifism certainly includes standard pacifism
(unless the notions of war and warfare are tampered with), the converse is very far from being
the case. A pacifist is in no way committed to stretched pacifism, which is a much more
problematic and difficult position than standard pacifism. There are several, substantially
different reasons for this, which will be picked up seriatim.
Stretched pacifism, also misleadingly called moral pacifism, has looked a very easy

critical target to moral philosophers. Many the effusive philosopher who, upon sighting such a
target, has charged, whooping such rhetoric as “incoherent”, “inconsistent”, “insensitive”,
“fanatical”. However, with improved logical technology now available for accommodating and
treating moral dilemmas, it is no great feat to resist such attacks, in the fashion of previous
investigations (see esp. Al, also MD). A main aim was to demonstrate that stretched pacifism
was not so stupid as it was made out to be or appeared to be to these inured to present dominant
violent ways. So far from being stupid, it is viable. In future gentler times stretched pacifism
could even be realised for whole communities of creatures (as some genuinely Christian sects
envisaged); whence it will finally be seen to be feasible not merely for sages and supermen, and
many ordinary women, but much more extensively.

7

In Al this notion was contrasted with standard pacifism as comprehensive pacifism:
overcomprehensive might have been better.

18
The method of philosophical accommodation was through moral dilemmas. The sort of

moral dilemma that stretched pacifism can induce derives as follows. On the one side stands
the theme P2, Wv, in convenient symbols, for Wrong V-ing, violencing. Now this implies to
WB, where B presents a case of of violence. On the other side, particular circumstances
develop which lead to W ~B, because ~B would produce in the circumstances considerable
wrong, for instance extensive violence, mass murder, etc. One stock example from the
literature concerns calling off the firing squad about to shoot several captives if the pacifist
shoots one of them (it is elaborated in Al p.13). Interestingly, another stock example from the
literature concerns standard pacifism (it can also be presented in terms of patriotism; for details
of both see MD p.10).
Resolution of intractable moral dilemmas is, where it is required, situational. The agent
decides in the situation, within the fix, what to do. There are many ways in which such
decision making can proceed, less rational, such as those applying chance or involving bad
faith, or more rational, such as those applying consequentialist decision theory (for details see
MD, pp.32-9). A decision theory taking account of all that should be included will not however
be purely consequential. It would also take account of relevant motivation.

This defence and rehabilitation of moral pacifism has been challenged, in particular by
Smith (hereafter JWS). JWS claims the defence offered is a ‘failure because it trivializes
pacifism’ (p. 153 twice). The rehabilitation
trivializes pacifism because it entails that pacifism doesn't substantially differ
from a form of activism which holds that while violence is always wrong
one is sometimes justified on consequentialist grounds for preferring violent
acts, if these acts are lesser evils than any other real alternatives. This is the
commonsense position which most people hold - yet - pacifism after all was
supposed to be radical moral doctrine - (p.153 rearranged).8
Part of the criticism is, then, not so much that pacifism is trivialized - JWS “activism” is

hardly trivial - as that pacifism is popularised, deflated from a radical position to the

commonsense position most people hold (p.154 also). Yet not a shred of evidence is adduced
that JWS activism is such a populist position. Available evidence, for example from peace
movements and oppositional opinion polls, suggests the very opposite: that, for instance, most
people support state-justified conventional wars with the military violence they incur, and
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

8

JWS now informs me that he has changed his position. Whether the move effects his
criticism, I don't know.

19
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 was
deployed as a model 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), not ‘one acts
in a consequentialist fashion to do the sufficiently good thing in the circumstances’ (JWS
p.152). Situationally other 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 only 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 nowhere 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)
There is no inconsistency. JWS has confused universal with particular. As well he has
wrongly contracted all situational decision making to consequentialist modes.
There is a third part to the criticism, that the defence is too easy; the ‘strategy will allow

too much violence to be (perpetrated and) justified to suit the tastes of any real pacifist’ (p. 153).

This another part of the so-called trivialization, this time however dilution rather than

20
popularization, weakening the moral stand against violence. This third contention is premissed

on a mistake: that one can ‘justify on consequentialist grounds any number of violent acts,
providing that such acts are lesser evils than other real alternatives facing social agents’ (p.153).
Moral pacifism offers no such licence; allowing such consequentialism to take over was never
part of the position. The slide to such consequentialism is made on the strength of a similarly
erroneous example. The potential victim of an aspiring rapist ‘is supposed to flee or wriggle
free if possible. But it is easy to consequentially justify the use of violence by the woman to
prevent herself from being raped’ (p.153 italics added). In the example so far described there is
no dilemma, and no such easy resort to consequentially ‘justified’ violence.
What allows too much violence is the lesser evil JWS assumes is easily consequentially
justified; for example that the woman is entitled to inflict, and escalate, violence so long as it
remains ‘a lesser evil than the violence of attempted rape’ (p. 153). Since she may thereby
inflict quite unreasonable damage (esp. if she is a Kung Fu expert), the result is inconsistent
with ‘the basic principle of self-defence’ which JWS earlier adduced according to which what is
‘appropriate, in response is only that level of force necessary to defend oneself against the

threat’ (p.150). There is evidence in JWS's work of some enthusiasm for levels of violence
which exceed his ‘basic principle’, his appeal to ‘lesser evil’ generates some instances. The
‘basic principle’, itself fraught with difficulties (cf. the contorted discussion of what weapons
are appropriate in response to what attacks, p. 150), still exceeds what stretched pacifism would
enjoin; for instance, it may not be appropriate to respond with force. But in a technical sense
stretched pacifism is compatible with the ‘basic principle’, since it only imposes the upper

bound on level of force.
As for easiness, moral pacifism is not an easy position to live by, or to justify. Removing

objections to pacifism is one thing; solidifying a positive case for it is quite another, and so far
hardly conclusive (as Al tried to explain, pp 29-31). Stretched pacifism was advanced,
hypothesized to put it more precisely, as a still viable option. It was not presented as a morally
compulsory position, or, for that matter, as one that this defender adhered to or affirmed.

To reiterate, while a cumulative case can be made for stetched pacifism as principled non­
violence, that case was not conclusive, and is hard to improve. For, further, some serious
difficulties standing in the way of stretched pacifism were assembled, the most important of
which derives from the extent of violence apparent in transactions within the natural world.
Simply consider the practices of carnivores, essential to their natural way of life. In order to
meet their life needs for sustenance, these creatures do, and are often obliged to, engage
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

21
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
P2
MP2. It is morally wrong, for a peace-sensitive agent, to use violence.9
modified

9

results:

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

22
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 modern 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:
Stretched pacifism (as modified) is supererogatory. 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*
Appendix
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 talking about peace, and thinking about peace; we must work for
peace, fight 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

followed with another invasion. Nor have we ever managed to glimpse much of what is now
supposed, when we are no longer engaged, to come ‘out of the horror of war’: a ‘new world
order ... which governs the conflict of nations’; a ‘rule of law’, not war. How the one,
enforcable law, is achieved, unless backed by the the other, is not explained (Medlin's paradox
hits back). Similarly what we now hear from many militarists, as they rush to war, is that

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

23
‘peace is a great good, war a great evil’. But, for the most part, only the rhetoric has shifted;
practice has scarcely changed at all.

REFERENCES
W.-T. Chan, A Source Book on Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1963;
referred to as ST.

W.-T. Chan (ed.), The Way of Lao Tzu (Tao-te Ching), Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1963;
referred to as LT.
B. Martin, Uprooting War, Freedom Press, London, 1984.

A. Naess, Ecology, community and lifestyle, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK,
1989.
R.A. Rapaport, Pigs for the Ancestors : ritual in the ecology of a New Guinea People, Yale
University Press, New Haven, 1967.

R. Routley, ‘War and Peace II. On the alleged inconsistency, moral insensitivity and fanaticism
of pacifism’, Discussion papers in environmental philosophy #9, Research School of
Social Science, Australian National University, 1983 (also in. Inquiry ); referred to as AL
R. Routley and V. Plumwood, ‘Moral dilemmas and the logic of deontic notions’, Discussion
papers in environmental philosophy #6, Research School of Social Science, Australian
National University, 1984 (also in Paraconsistent Logic)-, referred to as MD.
R. Routley, ‘War and Peace I. On the ethics of large-scale nuclear war and nuclear-deterrence
and the political fall-out’, Discussion papers in environmental philosophy, #5, Research
School Of Social Science, Australian National University, 1984.
G. Sharp, Social Power and Political Freedom, Porter Sargent, Boston, 1980.
J.W. Smith, The Worms at the Heart of Things , Public Relations Unit, Flinders University,
1989.

R. Sylvan, ‘War and Peace III, Australia's defence philosophy’, Social Philosophy, for Nuclear
Conference, University of Queensland, 1985.

R. Sylvan and D. Bennett, ‘Of Utopias, Tao and Deep Ecology’, Discussion papers in
environmental philosophy #19, Research School of Social Science, Australian National
University, 1990; referred to as UT.

Collection

Citation

Richard Sylvan, “Box 14, item 2073: On extirpating war: Tao and deep-green pacifism marked,” Antipodean Antinuclearism, accessed June 15, 2024, https://antipodean-antinuclearism.org/items/show/80.

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