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Thread: The Philosophy of Violence vs. Non-Violence

  1. #1
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    The Philosophy of Violence vs. Non-Violence

    When is violence justified?

    As terrorism and news of it dominates our informational lives more and more, people put forth the in-vogue ideas of non-violence and civil disobedience of Martin L. King and Ghandi. As everyone knows, those are two leaders who used non-violent resistance to change the status quo. But, often, many people erroniously feel that those are actions that can be graphed to any situation. It is important to note, that in India and the U.S. when civil disobedience was used, neither the Indians or the Blacks of the U.S. were being systematically destroyed. Yes, they were under hardships and at times targets of debased behaviour by individuals, but a government policy to destroy them was not in place. The urgency of life preservation was not gripping the population as a whole.

    I would suggest that before people naively put forth King and Ghandi as examples to guide us, they should ask themselves if the Partisen Resistance fighters of WW2, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, or the resistance by American Indians, may serve as a more appropriate model. I would also ask, if John, who is not under threat of violence, is justified to use violence to save Peter, who is under threat of violence and may be unable to wield violence himself in order to put forth his claim against injustice being done to him?

    Is violence the supreme monopoly of governments and their policing forces? Don`t individual humans have the right to violence as much as any disembodied org?
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    Just some thoughts on the subject...

    The question whether an individual is justified to an act of violence against another indivudual brings forth the question, whether people have the right to decide on behalf of other people. For example, if we use death penalty as a means to put away dangerous criminals from our sight, does an individual also have the same right to delete another person? For me it's a question of the right to decide about the life of another person and I don't think I have such a right. Acts of violence always bear the connotations of being either vendictively calculous or acting in the heat of the moment. People perhaps feel that if violence occurs when it's not prememditated and done for selfdence, it can be seen as a justified act. What to do, then, when a person is seriously injured and the guilty party for that act says it was done in the heat of the moment - for selfdence. How can we decide if it's true or not? We can only see the injuries, not what happened.

    As for whether a legal body has a better right to use violence than an individual person or a non-governmental organisation: if every individual has the right to conduct any violent act they see as justified, where would this world be going? Terrorist attacks are probably seen as such a case: a specific, non-governmental group has decided to take justice in their own hands. They have their own objectives and rules, the government has little chance of ordering them to stop. They can be silenced either by force or negotiation and the problem of negotiation is that both parties must be able to compromise. They cannot achieve any goals they wish without having to give up most of them. So the easy way is to pick up the guns and grenades and just hope that you have more ammo than they do.
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    There are times when violence is justified and there are times when it's not. I want to point out that Malcom X was famous for qouting "by any means necessary." This meant that violence is justified in situations of self-defense, but is it?
    One interesting thing about violence is when it's a situation of war, the reason why I bring this up is because right now the US is at war and since Bush has invaded Iraq he knew that there would be casualties and there's no denying that there's always casualities in times of war, but just because this is true does that mean that efforts shouldn't be made in order to reduce causalties?

    Violence may be justified in cases when a particular group of people are being oppressed. But I would underestimate the power of the non-violence philosophy . Perhaps in certain circumstances, there is a possibility that there is no need for violence.
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    This is a difficult one. I think that using violence to defend against an already existing violence is justifiable, but that doesn't make it 'right'.

    What I mean to say is, using violence is not right in itself, taken in isolation as a particular act. But to use violence to defend oneself or another person/people from harm is justified, and in my view the blame would lie with whoever perpetrated the original act of violence.

    To be very simplistic for a moment: someone pulls a knife out and comes at you; you hit him in the face and break his nose. Does that make it OK to break people's noses? Of course not! It's still 'not a right thing to do' in itself. But were you justified? I'd say certainly yes.

    I realise that situations like wars and terrorism, involving governments and whole peoples, are much more complex than my little example.

    I don't think it's right for an individual or a government to enter into violent attack in order to pre-empt violence; y'know, the kind of 'see what weapons we have!' approach. -_- I think most people would agree that a world without any violence at all would be an ideal! And yet we all know sadly that isn't possible... but why? Because someone always 'makes the first move'.

    Miu's point about diminished responsibility is interesting too. I'm not sure about laws in various countries, but I believe it's sometimes the case that there is a lighter sentence for a murder committed 'in the heat of the moment' or under extreme provocation (e.g. in the case of someone who has been systematically abused for years breaking down and killing the abuser, or a husband losing his temper and shooting his wife's lover). Although the life taken is not worth any less, and they are just as dead no matter how they were killed, I think there should be some provision - used with great care and thought - for these cases.

    EDIT: I've missed these discussions on Eupedia! Sorry to be away for so long!

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    The awful truth about violence (as well as honesty, kindness, tolerance, and the foxtrot) is that it requries only one violent act to disrupt the peace whereas it is pretty much necessary for all participants to practice non-violence in order for peach to prevail.

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