Pacifism covers a spectrum of views, including the belief that international disputes can and should be peacefully resolved, calls for the abolition of the institutions of the military and war, opposition to any organization of society through governmental force (anarchist or libertarian pacifism), rejection of the use of physical violence to obtain political, economic or social goals, the obliteration of force, and opposition to violence under any circumstance, even defence of self and others. Historians of pacifism Peter Brock and Thomas Paul Socknat define pacifism "in the sense generally accepted in English-speaking areas" as "an unconditional rejection of all forms of warfare". Philosopher Jenny Teichman defines the main form of pacifism as "anti-warism", the rejection of all forms of warfare. Teichman's beliefs have been summarized by Brian Orend as "... A pacifist rejects war and believes there are no moral grounds which can justify resorting to war. War, for the pacifist, is always wrong." In a sense the philosophy is based on the idea that the ends do not justify the means.
Anti-war activist arrested in San Francisco
during the March 2003 protests against the war in Iraq
Pacifism may be based on moral principles (a deontological view) or pragmatism (a consequentialist view). Principled pacifism holds that at some point along the spectrum from war to interpersonal physical violence, such violence becomes morally wrong. Pragmatic pacifism holds that the costs of war and interpersonal violence are so substantial that better ways of resolving disputes must be found. Pacifists generally reject theories of Just War.
Some pacifists follow principles of nonviolence, believing that nonviolent action is morally superior and/or most effective. Some however, support physical violence for emergency defence of self or others. Others support destruction of property in such emergencies or for conducting symbolic acts of resistance like pouring red paint to represent blood on the outside of military recruiting offices or entering air force bases and hammering on military aircraft.
Not all nonviolent resistance (sometimes also called civil resistance) is based on a fundamental rejection of all violence in all circumstances. Many leaders and participants in such movements, while recognizing the importance of using non-violent methods in particular circumstances, have not been absolute pacifists. Sometimes, as with the civil rights movement's march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, they have called for armed protection. The interconnections between civil resistance and factors of force are numerous and complex.
An absolute pacifist is generally described by the British Broadcasting Corporation as one who believes that human life is so valuable, that a human should never be killed and war should never be conducted, even in self-defense. The principle is described as difficult to abide by consistently, due to violence not being available as a tool to aid a person who is being harmed or killed. It is further claimed that such a pacifist could logically argue that violence leads to more undesirable results than non-violence.