CS Lewis “Why I Am Not a Pacifist” – Lecture Highlights


Conscience is not like one of the five senses it can be changed when argued with.

Is arguing whether a person should answer to civil duty to serve in war.

We must decide what is wrong and right and usually this is done by conscience or reason.

On every fact we have to reason on 99 depend on authority.
We have limited experience and we have to most of our reasoning comes from choosing to listen to authorities.

Proofs are intuitions arranged.

People claim they can’t see the validity of certain proof but what’s really happening usually is they refuse to.

Intuition can be improved and can also be corrupted.

We have to listen to authority even though that means we’ll sometimes be deceived, the alternative is to live like savages.

Just as there are people who refuse to see proof there are people who no longer have any sense of morals.

Some people wrongly think that anything which has the potential to be misused should be completely banned altogether.

Some people think that any killing of human life is wrong.

The best and brightest people have agreed that killing sometimes is appropriate.

Every moral judgment involves facts intuition and reason we are humble it should also involve authority.

If all the authorities are against you and your reasoning is weak etc. you are probably wrong.

Some people claim that war does more harm than good but how are they going to prove this? I don’t know what bad would have happened if the war didn’t happen.

Of course it is true that wars never do have to good that the politicians say they will do it.

Just because War doesn’t solve all of our problems doesn’t mean that it doesn’t solve some of them for example if you defend yourself from a tiger that’s still a good thing even though it didn’t cure your rheumatism.

History is full of useless wars as well as useful wars.

We can’t just speculate about how life might have been better without a certain war.

Here’s the danger of mistaking intuition for a mere conclusion, which conclusion needs to be argued, whereas intuition does not need to be argued.

To be good to someone means that we can’t be good to someone else because we’re busy being good to the other person therefore the law of benevolence inherently involves not doing good to others.

We are typically more obliged to help someone we’ve promised to help or someone who has some kind of relationship to us but of course this means that there are other people you are not helping at the same time. While you’re pulling someone into the boat someone else is drowning.

Sometimes to help one person you have to do violence to another person.

Our conscience tells us to help the innocent not the guilty.

In some instances death penalty may be the only sufficient method of respect.
The death sentence is not just an expression of fear it is an expression of the importance of high morals that need to be defended.

Capital punishment is not inherently right but it is not inherently wrong either.

It’s almost certain that a nation cannot be prevented from taking What It wants except by war.

I believe that death is the greatest evil is materialistic and implies that death and pain are the greatest evils when there are clearly greater evils.

Oppression is a greater evil than death and pain.

And War you have two typically innocent soldiers who kill each other both believing that their causes just and this is by no means the worst thing that’s ever happened.

The question is not whether war is a great evil the question is is war the greatest evil.

Only liberal societies tolerate pacifists. Pacifist states are handed over to their totalitarian neighbors. A pacifist state is a straight road to a world where there will be no pacifists.

Don’t try to get Universal peace, rather work on some specific cause. Practical solutions.
One solution at a time. Take on the whole trouble by 1 thing at a time, be involved in a specific cause, not a cause for general peace.
The dentist who can cure a toothache has done more for humanity than all the schemers who think they can make perfect health.

When you are society chooses to go to war if you refuse you stand against the whole society.

We are indebted to our society for our birth our education etc.

We’re also indebted to society for the laws that allow you to be a pacifist.

If you think that there’s never righteous War you have to part with all the great literature all the great philosophers. Quotes, “If you will not take the universal opinion of mankind I have no more to say”.

Pacifists tend to say everyone was right and now suddenly they’re all wrong.

Christian history is not pacifist.

Thomas Aquinas talked about how it’s lawful to defend ones territory by weapons to defend it from enemies within and from enemies without.

Jesus said pacifist things but those must be taken with qualification. If you just take single things that Jesus said and apply them alone you also have plenty of other difficult things including not pacifist things to abide by.

Yes we turn the other cheek but there are obvious exceptions.
Only the person who has literally made themselves a pauper (like Jesus said, sell all you have and give to the poor) has the right to read Jesus’ turn the other cheek statement as a mandate to literally never fight.

We can’t think “he has done it to me so I will do it to him,” but we can understand that certain situations do demand retaliation.

Obviously Jesus did not mean stand out of the way while a homicidal maniac comes to attack your friend

Obviously Jesus did not mean that when raising a child to just let that child hit its parents whenever it wants, or to just give your child whatever it wants

Jesus’ teaching is clear, we should control our anger.

How we respond to something depends on the situation because there legitimately may be another reason for retaliating than egotistic anger.
When you hit back but not in egotistic anger you can in fact be justified.

One of the only people that Jesus praised without reservation was a Roman centurion.

Paul approves of the use of a sword. Peter too.
Christ spoke to these his successors and their own language and chose them and we cannot think that they would have so completely got it wrong.

Everybody makes their own version of Jesus to try and go along with their theory and these phantoms are not the source of our salvation.

He disagrees with the idea that mechanical idea that everything now is better than it was in the past and that this would apply to morals. It is not believe we started out weak and became strong or started out bad and are becoming good but the opposite that in fact a lot of the ancients were much better than us.

You can’t dismiss the way that everyone up to now has interpreted literature to accept some new professor theory.

You can’t dig up a historical Jesus and use that to say that Christianity is wrong because many people have tried to do that with their own flavor of Jesus the liberal Jesus the Marxist Jesus all kinds of different Jesus that people promote.

Moral decisions cannot always be chalked up with mathematical calculation.

The combined historical voice of humanity and God are against pacifism.

Often pacifists are acting out of personal passion to avoid hard things for example the life of a soldier is very hard and all manner of deprivations isolations fear and dread are involved whereas the pacifist gets a carefree existence.

Conscience operates by moral intuition which is the preference of love over hate and happiness over sorrow though some people do no longer have these basic moral intuitions.

Intuition says that health and Harmony are good and some people try to say that this means certain things should be completely not used but this arbitrary rule is not really intuition itself it is us trying to figure out what to do with the intuition principle of health and harmony.

We should not think that something which has the potential to be abused should never be used at all.

We cannot base our decisions by non-axiomatic feelings. We can’t arbitrarily decide something isn’t good just because we feel like it when great evidence says it is.

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