Talk:Moral equivalence

Page contents not supported in other languages.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Page one[edit]

'there can be no moral or ethical hierarchy decided between two sides in a conflict, nor in the actions or tactics of the two sides.'

This first paragraph is not very illuminating. The "explanation" needs its own explanation. Can you at least cite the source of this quote? It sounds like if I accuse my opponent of "moral equivalence" I am saying that, in this situation, he is morally equivalent to his enemy? Or am I saying that he belives in any given conflict both sides are equally bad? The latter sounds like a very untenable position.

  • They accuse those who describe acts of Palestinian terrorism, such as suicide bombing (many of which are against civilians) and the retaliatory acts the Israeli security forces as equally reprehensible of arguing for "moral equivalence."*

This is very hard to parse. I interpret it as:

Person A: The Palestinians and Israelis are equally reprehensible.

Person B: You're arguing for moral equivalence!

So if I accuse my opponent of "arguing for moral equivalence", I say he has the idea that both sides are equal (implying that this is a *mistaken* idea). In general, or in this particular situation? The latter is not a very strong claim for B (since A would readily agree that this is his idea), while the former sounds like straw man.

confused person, 24 Aug 05

I'm afraid I don't think much of Stevertigo's edits to this article. They are jargon-laden, confusing and contain the usual WP anti-American bias. I will have a go at rewriting them when I get time. Adam 07:55, 15 Feb 2004 (UTC)

This article misses what is really behind the "moral equivalence" gambit - that is the idea that one is good or evil not because of what one does but because of who one is... so if I am Good and I am a serial killer, I am still Good, if you are evil and are a humanitarian that saved millions of lives, you are still Evil... They say "So what if Israel has bombed thousands to death - they are Good, and the Palestinians are Evil, end of discussion!"... they brandish the "moral equivalence" gambit when the issue of deeds comes up - they want to avoid weighing who does what good and what evil, saying that deeds do not matter, who one is does... —Preceding unsigned comment added by Procrustes the clown (talkcontribs) 21:06, 23 March 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • I think the first sentence adds to the confusion by being a double negative statement in effect:

"usually to criticize any denial that a moral hierarchy can be assessed of two sides in a conflict, or in the actions or tactics of two sides." Wouldn't it be clearer to describe what moral equivalence is, rather than how it is used as criticism in certain cases? I am assuming it should actually be states as something like: "The argument that two sides in a conflict are equivalent"? Chaozu42 (talk) 22:45, 4 May 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The topic of this article seems to be the idea that both sides have the same moral standing in a conflict. For example one might assert the "moral equivalence" of the Israeli Army and Palestinian fighters. This has absolutely nothing to do with William James's 'The Moral Equivalent of War.' James's essay was about the psychological qualities of martial behavior, including warlike activities like organized sports, which are the moral (i.e. psychological) equivalents of war, not the ethical equivalents of war. He also had nothing to say about good or bad sides in a war; his essay was about war in general. So, I suggest the reference to James and the redirect from "Moral Equivalents of War" be removed. The term was not coined by James if it meant something entirely different to him.

Jimmy Carter's speech on the moral equivalent of war, on the other hand, follows James's meaning. So the term is still around as coined by James. This article is simply about something else with the same name. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jamiejameson (talkcontribs) 05:28, 4 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]


In the Cold War context, the term was and is most commonly used by political conservatives, as an implied accusation of logical fallacy, for liberal' criticisms of United States foreign policy and military conduct. Some liberals contend that US power in the Cold War was used only to pursue an economically-driven agenda.

What does liberal mean here? I would guess that is is an American English usage of the word not Commonwealth English usage. But whatever it is it is confusing. --Philip Baird Shearer 13:54, 12 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

 Traditional liberals don't generally agree with the conspiracy theories that the US fought the Cold War for "economic advantage".  Actually that's what communists like to argue.  There is a difference between the two, despite what some conservatives may suspect.
Conservatives cannot help suspecting it when, you know, liberals sympathized with Communists. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 01:20, 25 April 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Your comment is infantile. In any case, anyone with a modicum of sophistication knows that you can be a leftist without adhering to Communist orthodoxy; take Chomsky for example. Maybe you should be reading Wikipedia instead of commenting about it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:27, 29 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Removed reference to Cuba from the list "the crimes the US committed happened while striving to bring democracy to places like..." - which crimes? Plus Batista was elected in his first term. To call him a dictator is too sweeping, regardless of how he may be perceived by many in his later years.--Zleitzen 00:46, 21 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Big revert[edit]

There are multiple meanings of moral equivalence, and one side in the culture wars seems to have hijacked this article. I reverted to the Lee Daniel Crocker version.

From here, we can add the views of those who believe that the cry of "moral equivalence!" is just a debating tactic. --Uncle Ed 01:39, 1 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Added OR tag[edit]

This article looks like original research, has no supporting sources, and appears to be written by people who have not given the key points any serious consideration at all. --Zleitzen 02:42, 25 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree with Zleitzen on this. While the essay that makes up this article might well be plausible—perhaps even something I would personally agree with—it reads like a personal essay on the topic rather than an encyclopedia article supported by neutral and verifiable sources. I'm tempted to say that AfD is the best course for this article; but possibly it could be made into something of nominal encyclopedic weight if it eschewed all the personal essay stuff, and relied solely on cited external uses. There would be a long way to go to get to that point of avoiding OR though. LotLE×talk 04:22, 25 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

False Dilemma?[edit]

"Those sympathetic to the Soviet Union contended that US power in the Cold War was used only to pursue an economically-driven agenda."

Read in the context of the article, this is still a false dilemma. I have changed 'Soviet sympathizers' to "Many of those who criticized US foreign policy at the time,...". One did not have to sympathizers with brutal dictator Stalin (or Mao), to reach such conclusions.

Though this may be a weasel sentence ("Many of those..."), I am not sure, it is definitely better than the false dilemma, and also lie, placed in the article thus far.

A lesser point, moreover, is that if it is intended to use a term describing 'leftwingers', than 'Soviet sympathizers' should absolutely be avoided. This is so since you didn't have to be sympathetic to the Soviet Union to support a government with leftist policies (eg. Giving unused land to the poor for much need (by the poor) utilization).

Every Wiki user should be taught logical fallacies, to avoid such...— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:58, 1 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's funny what company the Marxists keep, though. 02:31, 2 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Criticizing great evils[edit]

I dispute the neutrality of the intro. Please leave the NPOV tag up there, until this is resolved RATHER THAN simply deleting the tag and claiming that "there is no dispute". The fact that I'm disputing proves that there is a dispute.

The Intro implies that (1) there is no such thing as moral equivalence but that (2) it's merely a term thrown IMPROPERLY at good, stalwart, upstanding world citizens who are criticizing great evils.

We need to clarify the positions of those who (A) apply the term morally equivalent and (B) those who protest or criticize applications of the term. --Uncle Ed 14:13, 29 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 04:18, 10 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Fascism and Democracy[edit]

The article mentions the notion of moral equivalence in the Cold War, but it appears to be much older than this. It seems that the Vatican was the most frequent user of the notion in pre-war relations with authoritarian regimes. For instance, the Vatican under Pius XI held that there was moral equivalence between General Franco's Spain and the United States, or between Mussolini's Italy and democratic Britain. However, the constitution Dignitatis Humanae later provided a moral basis for democracy. Even John Paul II had good relations with General Pinochet with regards to moral equivalence. The article should also explain the controversial relationship between moral equivalence and the New Testament teaching of render unto Caesar. ADM (talk) 07:24, 12 January 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Unfair to Jeane Kirkpatrick[edit]

The paragraph on Jeane Kirkpatrick is unfair. It is implied that her concern about moral equivalency was unfounded, but in reality many critics of The United States implied moral equivalence between The United States on one side and socialist/communist countries on the other. Kirkpatrick's Myth of Moral Equivalence is a compelling critique of those implying this criticism. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Srs19691973 (talkcontribs) 05:22, 20 March 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Conceptual clarity[edit]

No real question that this article is emotionally charged, chatty and skewed.

I even feel it barely talks about its topic at all, as it doesn't address instances of even vaguely identical measures between two sides where one of them claims its actions should be preferred because of their inherently morally superior goal. Instead, it describes single instances where ends justify the means, or vaguely connected events of which the actual human cost is compared without claiming that of two identical (or rather precisely reversed) outcomes one is inherently preferable.

It should really deal more with actual historical arguments along the "it's okay as long as we do it" line, not along the "what we're doing is not exactly the same" or "it's not all that bad given our goals" lines, both of which are ethically much simpler claims. I'm sure examples exist, but since it's such a blatantly jingoistic argument in its pure form, it would take a very secure position from which to make it.

Or maybe my view is too narrow after all.

At any rate, if anyone has any ideas, give this thing a little love, though? (talk) 20:19, 13 March 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Neutral Point of View[edit]

This article is clearly written to say that all accusations of "moral equivalence" are not valid. Obviously there may be a case where someone making the charge has actually looked objectively at the situation and determined that the moral offenses committed by one side are much more egregious than those of the other side. "The purveyors of the device usually start by believing their side is by definition morally superior by who they are, not by what they do." It does say "usually", but that doesn't change the generally dismissive nature of the sentence. The whole article reads this way.

I think the page should be tagged with NPOV, but I don't want to do a "drive-by tagging" What needs to happen so we can tag this thing?

Google found this page which is much better:

—Preceding unsigned comment added by Msgilligan (talkcontribs) 04:14, 8 May 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

External links[edit]

I removed these two external links:

Both of them seemed ineligible according to WP:EL - one of them is a personal blog that criticizes Israel and the other is a non-notable website that supports Israel.

I would also remove the link to - it is a notable website, but it is also openly politically biased. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 06:59, 12 June 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I gave it a little more thought, and removed it. It was not an article about moral equivalence, but a collection of columns. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 07:09, 12 June 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This paragraph doesn't make any sense[edit]

"These people denied the existence of an "economic-driven agenda". There was in fact, a moral difference between the Soviet Union and the United States, and that policy arising in defense of the "moral superiority" of the US could not and can not be "immoral." Hence an argument which claimed that the two parties could be viewed as "equally" culpable in a struggle for supremacy, would be advocating "moral equivalence.""

Who is these people? What source do you have for there being a a factual moral difference? This whole paragraph is poorly worded and reaks of bias. I am removing it as it lacks logic in it's writing and provides no sources. If you want to resubmit please rewrite and add sources. The Australian Red Man (talk) 11:41, 21 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Isn't this the same as, or at least related to "Whataboutism" or "Whataboutery"? Perhaps needs a link to that article. (talk) 10:51, 26 October 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]