Conscience and Compulsion John Dewey 1914
Dewey believed that the mixed feelings regarding the war were all due to the moral upbringing of the youth during the time. He believed the war to be necessary and inevitable, but also knew that the beliefs the youth were raised with lead to the confusion of the time.
Dewey goes on to say that it isn’t strange that thousands of the youth were perplexed and morally confused with the idea of war. The youth grew up surrounded by Pro-Peace ideals. The clergymen didn’t even discuss politics as it was so closely related with “the struggle for Economic power”. They were raised by parents that had strict ideals on war and taught those theories to the children, and as he states it was a “penalty” that was due to the upbringing and unusual moral emphasis that focused on the emotions and morals rather than the Specific purposes. War was a crime because of murder, and “The belief that by NOT doing something, by keeping out of war our responsibilities would be met.”
A quote that best explains and summarizes his overall idea is as follows….
“…The denial of the efficiency of force, no matter how controlled, to modify disposition; in short the inveterate habit of separating ends from means and then identifying morals with ends thus emasculated…are the source of much of the perplexity of conscience from the idealistic youth has suffered.”
Dewey states lists some specific situations that lead to this moral hatred of war...
The bad aftertaste from the Spanish American War,
The Contentment generated by successful industrialism,
The General Humanitarianism,
The gradual substitution of calculating rationalism for the older romantic patriotism”
As per Dewey, “ all of these things and many more fell in with that general spirit of Good Will which is essential America, to create a sense of war as the Supreme Stupidity” . The youth of the time grew up with the ideals of war being a moral tragedy and looked at war with disgust. It seemed to be the murder “and murder of a peculiarly stupid sort”. This being said, of course the youth was confused on whether to join the war and be loyal to their country or if it was wrong to join the war, and go against their morals. As Dewey puts it “How could wrong so suddenly become right?” President Wilson was Illustrating war as something that was necessary in order to keep the peace. He made the war to be almost, Morally necessary. While on the other hand the youth were now being told to go against everything they were raised to believe was right. The youth were now being told that in order to have peace they need to go to war, and this idea was the most perplexing to them.