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Are militaries justified in existing?

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Pacifism, in its most recognisable form, is an absolute, principled condemnation of war. Military abolitionism is the view that institutions devoted to war are not justified in existing. Most pacifists are also military abolitionists. This is unsurprising. After all, if you think that going to war is always wrong, then you’ll likely think that having armed forces at the ready does nothing but enable us—and perhaps even temp us—to do things that we ought never to do. One can, however, be a military abolitionist without being a pacifist. There is no incoherence in conceding that it is sometimes morally justifiable to use military force, while at the same time opposing the creation and maintenance of establishments that exist for the purpose of doing that.Consider an analogy. Most of us would agree that shooting someone in self-defence can be morally permissible under certain circumstance. Imagine a home invader is culpably threatening your life, there is nowhere to hide, no time to call the police, and so on. But this does not logically commit us to accepting that the private ownership of firearms for self-defence is legitimate. Many of us are adamant that it is not, presumably for some combination of the following reasons.First, having a gun in the home does not make an unequivocally positive contribution to the safety of the people in it. There is a trade-off involved. A gun kept for protection against murderous intruders can (and all too often will) be used by one family member against another, or for self-harm. Second, using a gun in self-defence risks stray bullets and harm to innocent bystanders, especially in built-up urban areas. Third, if one keeps a gun in the home, one may be prone to use it more often than is justified, and not only in those rare cases where it is a necessary and proportional means of defending oneself and one’s family. Give a boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.If these considerations are enough to. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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