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Outline, The Philosophy of Nonviolence

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: October 14, 1960?

Location: Atlanta, Ga.?

Genre: Speech

Topic: Nonviolence


Some three hundred students and observers from across the country gathered in Atlanta from 14 to 16 October for the first major Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) meeting since its founding at Shaw University in April. King may have used this handwritten outline as the basis for “The Philosophy of Nonviolence,” his keynote address on the opening day of the SNCC conference.1 In it he endorses nonviolence as “the relentless pursuit of truthful ends by moral means” and asserts that there are “amazing potentialities for goodness” in human nature. King concludes by warning against “ego struggles” and other “pitfalls.”

The history of mankind is replete with n innumerable conflict-situation

  1. First and foremost in the philosophy of non-violence is the affirmation that means must be as pure as the end. Means and ends are convertible terms. [They?] are inseparable 
    {The means represent the end in process and the ideal in the making}
    1. This automatically sets non-violence against war and communism. Both says that the end justifies the means.
    2. So non-violence seeks to achive moral ends through moral means. It is the relentless pursuit of of truthful ends through moral means.
  2. A second basic fact in this philosophy is the consistent refusal to inflict injury upon another. There are to aspects to this There is first the external,
    1. This means that you dont use aggressive or retaliatory violence.
    2. But there is the internal. It deals with the way you talk, the way you make a press release
    3. The highest expression of non-injury is love
    4. This love means that you center your attention on the evil system and not the evil dooer. The non-violent resister separates the evil from the evildoor and while trying to eradicate the evil tries to save the evil doer

      1. Means must be as pure as the end.
      2. There must be no dual code of ethics for individual and group conduct.
      3. Non-violence seeks to [confuse?] evil by truth, to resist physical foce by soul-force.
      *4. Non-violence is the relentless pursuit of truthful ends by moral means
      5 The non violent resister does not is not victimized with the illusion that all conflicts will be eliminated; he aims at raising them from the destructive physical plane to the constructive moral plane [where?] differences can be peacefully adjusted. Thus, he seeks to eliminate antagonisms rather than antagonists.
      6 The non-violent resister is prepared to suffer even unto death. He believes that by suffering alone he can bridge the gulf between himself and his opponent and reach his heart.
      *7 Non violent resistance means a refusal to cooperate with evil
      8 Non violence appeals not to physical might, but to moral right by making him cognizant of the evil.
      {efforts must be intensified in deep south.}

  3. Another basic point in non-violence is the courageoush willingness to accept suffering that suffering may become a source of human and social force. It thwarts the oppositions efforts, exposes his moral defense and therby breaks his morale.
  4. The belief that there is within human nature amazing potentialities for goodness.
  5. It is not only a philosophy, but a technique of action.
    1. Some pitfalls to watch
      1. [miscellaneous?] activity—without planning
      2. publicity
      3. ego struggles

                     You will be misunderstood

1. Other conference speakers included James Lawson, Lillian Smith, Ella Baker, Richard Gregg, and William Stuart Nelson (Student Voice, October 1960). King had been invited to deliver the keynote address in a 22 August letter from Marion S. Barry and Jane Stembridge, who also suggested the title.

Source: CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands.

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