Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Non-Aggression Principle and Violence

“A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.” ~Desmond Tutu

I hope to make this a quick entry, as typing on a mobile device does not meet my needs for expedient communication and I've developed this argument in detail else where.

Some very critically astute observers have noted that while they have philosophical sympathy for the principle of non-initiation of aggression, they also note that it seems some-what contradictory to condemn aggression/violence/coercion/theft when it is initiated, but to defend/uphold the very same actions when they are employed to defend one's self from the initiation of aggression.

How can violence be "wrong" when it is initiated but "ok" when used in defense?

I argue the difference, is not a change in the essence of the actions, but as a result in a qualitative change in the actors.

Rothbard argues (I think correctly) that Natural Law proceeds from reason/rationality itself. That any concept of ethics is only possible between rational/reasonable persons (I also argue that sociability is also a necessary requirement, but I'll leave this thought alone for now).

Ethics is not possible between the lion and her prey; between the insect and the fish, no application of ethical theory is relevant.

Human beings experience (live within) a kind of co-existence between two modes of being, which are somewhat distinct and yet inextricable from one another; of at one time possessing rational-consciousness (mind) and in the other mode of being, as a material-organisms.

Just as we do not call it an act of violence, if a woman was to protect/defend herself from the "fury" of a raging storm; it is neither a violent act for a woman to defend herself from an aggressive feral hog, or a hostile pack of dogs.  I contend, that it is not, strictly speaking, "violence" to defend one's-self from the threats of any ravaging beast of nature; when confronted with such a threat, one acts in the justification of the the gazelle that kicks the lion; where reason is absent, then ethics is irrelevant.

It is not possible to negotiate with a storm, nor a feral hog, nor a pack of dogs; the lion and the gazelle are past any possibility for negotiations; they strive to live, to survive, as the organisms they are.

If a man determines that he will act, so as to initiate violence upon a woman, the woman who responds with "violence" in defense, is acting as one, set upon by the wild beast of nature; she might prefer to negotiate this conflict in some other manner, but as it happens, the man in his choice/determination/commitment to initiate an act of aggression, chose to preclude the possibility for rational negotiation with the woman, he has chosen to assault.

The woman who defends herself from such man who would initiate aggression, is truly, no more "violent" than she would be if she were attacked by a pack of vicious dogs and defended herself with the same means/actions.

It is the man who would initiate aggression, who has given-in/surrendered to his baser existence as mere organism, and temporarily decided to suspend his use of reason.  The choice to initiate aggression, is an act which is a denial of either or both of a person's rationality (rational-existence) or their sociability (social-existence).  In the moment that the man attacks, he, by the very act, either denies his own rationality and by so doing, he betrays himself as having the appearance of one in control of his rationality/consciousness/mind, but he is not a rational-man at all, and has revealed himself to be, in the moment of aggression, as a beast of nature; and one of the most cunning and most deadly variety, or else, if he does not deny his own rational-consciousness, he has, by his act, declared that he denies the rational-existence of his victim; and in either case, if his victim wishes to lay-claim to her right to live, she will defend herself by whatever means necessary to defend against this beast-of-nature.

Therefore, I argue, that the class of acts, which are referred to generally as "self-defense" is not truly violence at all, it is not force, in any other sense, other than in the sense in which a physicist would use the term; it is the manipulation of one's environment to protect one's physical body from physical dangers; it is a rational response to protect one's self from those forces of nature that are a danger to one's well-being.  Because we exist as both rational minds and as physical organisms; ethics is only a relevant category when two rational minds are each willing to respect their common dignity.

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