Moral Excuse to the Pacifist's Rescue

Journal of Pacifism and Nonviolence:1-32 (2023)
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Pacifism is the view that necessarily, the nonconsensual harming of pro tanto rights-bearers is all-things-considered morally impermissible. Critics of pacifism frequently point to common moral intuitions about self-defenders and other-defenders as evidence that pacifism is false and that self- and other-defense are often morally justified. I call this the Justification View and defend its rival, the Excuse View. According to the latter, a robust view of moral excuse adequately explains the common moral intuitions invoked against pacifism and is compatible with pacifism. The paper proceeds in five steps. First, I identify ten intuitive data points that require explanation. Second, I introduce the justification/excuse distinction. Third, I demonstrate the Excuse View’s equal explanatory power with respect to the intuitive data. Fourth, I defend the Fair Use Principle: When evaluating the plausibility of rival theories J and E, the use of datum d’s full intuitive force against E and for J is epistemically permissible only if (i) d is better explained by J than E and (ii) no intuitive components of d are equally well-explained by E. Finally, I conclude that the conjunction of pacifism and the Excuse View renders the intuitive defense of the Justification View largely moot, and that this is a substantial victory for pacifism.



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Blake Hereth
University of Pennsylvania

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Moral dimensions: permissibility, meaning, blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Killing in war.Jeff McMahan - 2009 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Why abortion is immoral.Don Marquis - 1989 - Journal of Philosophy 86 (4):183-202.
Moral Luck.Bernard Williams - 1981 - Critica 17 (51):101-105.

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