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Critical Analysis of Dorothy Day’s Position on Pacifism

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Dorothy Day was a journalist who eventually became an advocate for pacifism which resulted in the founding of the Catholic Worker Movement. Her claim to fame was the fact that she did everything in her possible power to help out the poor. She dedicated every single second of her life to helping out the less fortunate iregardds to the economic system meanwhile she also vouched for pacifism. Day wanted complete peace worldwide; she was dedicated wholeheartedly. She wanted everyone to follow the guidelines for absolute pacifism. Absolute pacifism is the belief that “all forms of violence and war are always wrong, no exceptions” (Allman 63). This form of pacifism amongst others is different in the sense of means of violence, it is in no means necessary to act in such a manner.

Dorothy Day coincides with Allman’s definition and understanding of absolute pacifism. Allman states that this particular type of pacifism “contends violence can never be justified or excused under any circumstances, regardless of consequences” (Allman 64). Day wanted absolutely nothing to do with the singular notion of violence. Considering she was one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, they based their entirety off of the rejection of violence. The movement can perfectly represent what Allman is going on about; the Catholic Worker Movement clearly stood in “opposition to class war, imperialist war, and war preparations” (Day 1). Allman even goes on to further discuss, in detail, what absolute pacifists did: “[a]bsolute pacifists dismiss the self-defense objection as presenting a false dichotomy” (Allman 64). Dorothy Day and what she stood for would, without a doubt, match up with the definition of an absolute pacifist.

To go further into this argument, Dorothy Day’s position on pacifism would factor into a moral method; her position would place itself into the moral method of relativism, more specifically, normative relativism. According to the Allman text, normative relativism “claims that the rightness or wrongness of an action is based on personal or social standards” (Allman 38). She and her organization had standards that went along the lines of absolute pacifism, no use of violence whatsoever. They believed that their views were what was right.

Dorothy Day makes a claim that states, “The pacifist in the next war must be ready for martyrdom” (Day 2). The claim is simply saying that a person who proves to be a pacifist must prepare themselves in the next war for false suffering to gain admiration. Martyrdom is either the death or suffering of a martyr or the act of falsely claiming that they are suffering in order to receive attention. This claim she presents to us connects to the idea of persecution in the New Testament passages. Persecution is the maltreatment of a person with different beliefs than oneself.

Before Day makes her claim she goes on to say, “We rather help them by maintaining our own peace. It takes a man of heroic stature to be a pacifist and we urge our readers to consider and study pacifism and disarmament in this light” (Day 2). In her eyes, a pacifist is the strongest person anyone could ever know; their efforts should not go unnoticed. The same is said in the New Testament, “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God” (1 Peter 2:19). Praise for the people who suffer while trying to uphold peace just as God did; they are giving them props.

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Another part of the New Testament includes a passage by John, “Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:14-15). It is essentially saying that anyone who harnesses any hate whatsoever in their being is a murderer and belonged to the evil. Day’s claim can connect to this in many ways as she is against hatred and violence.

Taking the perspective of a major thinker, Dorothy Day, the Melians did the right thing in deciding to resist the Athenians. Dorothy Day had the ultimate belief in absolute pacifism and in many ways, the Melians demonstrated just that. Absolute pacifists reject any notion leaning towards a violent approach and outcome. Day stated, “… then we can only insist ceaselessly that even when the people are taking sides mentally they must keep out, they must not participate in a War to end War” (Day 2). Day advises everyone to completely deny the option of a war to end a current ongoing war. In her eyes and other fellow pacifists, a war to end a war is unnecessary and entirely counterproductive; even more so, the act of war preparations is against the absolute pacifist belief. The Melians did just that, they unknowingly followed the guidelines of an absolute pacifist.

The Melians were caught in a conundrum with the Athenians; the Athenians wanted to conquer the Melians and take over all of their lands regardless of how much force it took. The Melians decided to reject any plans of violence and war, they simply refused to join the Athenian empire and protect themselves. In the Melian dialogue, they stand their ground, “Nevertheless we trust that the gods will give us a fortune as good as yours because we are standing for what is right against what is wrong” (The Melian Dialogue 405).

The Athenians were trying to persuade the Melians to join their empire with threats, but the Melians stood their ground and opted out of it. They did exactly what was right; they did not want to subject themselves to the terrible reign of the Athenians.

Although the war was initiated by the Athenians shortly after, and the Melians were defeated, it all worked out in the end. The Melians did not initiate the war and remained neutral but was eventually dragged into the mix. Absolute pacifists would applaud Melian’s efforts.

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Critical Analysis of Dorothy Day’s Position on Pacifism. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of Dorothy Day’s Position on Pacifism.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Critical Analysis of Dorothy Day’s Position on Pacifism. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Critical Analysis of Dorothy Day’s Position on Pacifism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from:
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