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Moral Equivalent of War - Essay Example

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In the paper “Moral Equivalent of War” the author discusses the need for a moral equivalent of war, which is due to the fact that war is irrational. The ancient communities fought only for the sake of glory and to steal women and other possessions…
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Moral Equivalent of War
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Moral Equivalent of War

Download file to see previous pages... The army life involves giving up self-interest for the good of the group hence peaceful coexistence and therefore according to James, war must have its way unless a moral equivalent is found which can discipline the whole community and make them feel valued. This would involve conscription of the whole youth population to form an army against nature which is the only enemy of justice and peace. By performing such duties as; dishwashing, road building, coal and iron mining, widow washing, and tunnel making among other duties, the youth would be moulded into responsible men with desirable virtues such as which would replace military virtues hence a moral equivalent of war (Par 25-26). The need for a moral equivalent of war is due to the fact that war is irrational. The ancient communities fought only for the sake of glory and to steal women and other possessions. These military ideals are passed on from generation to generation but in modern times they are restricted for war is only fought when necessary. Instead, nations seek peaceful negotiations and only fight when a compromise cannot be reached. However, for James it is difficult to bring peace-party and war-party together because of fear of disappearance of military action which is disciplinary. Nations live in fear hence are always preparing for war so for the military ‘peace’ and ‘war’ are synonymous with the latter being just a “verification of mastery gained during the peace period” and the absence of war would lead to degeneration of life (Par 8). Militarism is also viewed as a means by which men gain and retain their hardihood and since war is discouraged, the anti-militarists argue that men require new hardihoods equivalent to those instilled by militants. These include; fearlessness, giving up self-interest, and obeying commands (par 23). James believes that new energies and hardihoods can be acquired by altering public opinion just like militarist hardihoods are energized by fear. Men would feel obliged to act for the common good of all hence feel proud of themselves and this would be the equivalent of war. The “moral equivalent of war” concept has been used in various situations by the nation to achieve its objectives especially those who practice socialism. Ownership of private property is discouraged so as to ensure equality for all members of the society. They all work together for the common good of all community members and give up self-interest. However, this concept is highly criticized by liberalists who believe men should be free to do what they ought to do without influence. Liberalists like Samuel Gregg would thus criticize William James’s idea that men should be conscripted into an army against nature so as to acquire martial virtues necessary for survival and which would act as “moral equivalent of war”. For Gregg, free choice should not be suppressed for the sake of economic equality (9). As such, the state does not need to interfere with the liberty of individuals as they can reason and choose what is best in achieving their ends. Rather, the state should provide assistance to the community to enable them to realize integral liberty. He also argues that men can gain different virtues in many ways and use them for the common good of the community (Gregg 73). William James advocates for a state controlled economy or socialism type of government. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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