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"That Violence Is Not Practical."

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"All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." -- Ayn Rand "Atlas Shrugged" pp. 757-758

I am not sure which philosophical category this topic should be worked under, so I am posting it here to ask that question and more...

Since I was a child, interested in the martial arts and, later, as an adult, killing and the combat sciences and a teacher and practitioner of violence, I had always wanted to understand the nature and the philosophy of human violence. I think that I have achieved that understanding and would like to learn and to write more about it and to place it in its proper hierarchical order within the philosophy.

I want to open up this discussion to hear your thinking on the matter...

"The necessary consequence of man’s right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.

If some “pacifist” society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing evil, it would encourage and reward it." -- Ayn Rand

Upon reading this statement, and if one is convinced that self-defense is indeed the moral imperative Rand proves that it is, as I am, then it logically follows that violence is needed in the act of self-defense; though not in every case or incident of course, as one could defend his property, for example, simply by placing a lock on the door, but in some cases during which a thug presents a gun and demands, "your money or your life", or in the case of a community defending itself from a deadly virus or a rat infestation. In these contexts, is violence then proper and even... practical?

I say it is.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

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First of all, the sword statement is biblical. If it's in A.S., Rand used it to make a point. ;)

That said you're kind of dropping context. The "taking of the sword" to which Rand objects is the use of INITIATED force to fulfill one's wishes.

Being prepared to defend yourself, studying martial arts, sparring to develop skills, etc - these are not uses of force as it is meant in Objectivism. Using a gun to protect your home certainly IS force - but it's retaliatory, not initiated.

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Rand answers the question of force generally in the quote you provided, and you agreed with her. But the morality of force in specific scenarios will require that context to figure it out.

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Read the title of my post and also the post again. I have made reference to specific pages in the book that are pointing to this particular discussion. You can open up your copy and see the entire discussion. I am asking very specific questions and I am not dropping context.

Which category does this discussion fall under in the philosophy? Metaphysics? Epistemology? Ethics? Which? Does it touch on all of them? Where does it fall in the hierarchical order?

And in the contexts which I mentioned, is violence proper and even... practical?

The title of the post is: "That Violence Is Not Practical" (that statement is also taken from those specific pages of the book).

I say that violence is, in a proper context, is perfectly practical. That is my argument.

I think that the subject of violence is not discussed completely enough in the book and I wish to discuss it further here.

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Rand was also communicating the contradiction in "using" violence to achieve a goal. Many operate under the delusion that they can force the behaviour of others. She demonstrates in her writings on causality that this is not the case. In every instance, the person that is being "forced" to do something still has a choice available to him - to resist or die trying. This is the metaphysical power and truth behind her concept of the "sanction of the victim". We could all refuse to pay federal taxes tomorrow, but most of us do not because we don't want to face the unpleasant consequences of doing so. No one in the government truly "forces" us to do so. If you believe that you, as an initiator of force actually "cause the response in others, you would be mistaken on a casual level.

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If violence is not used to achieve a goal -- then what is it used for?

If I am using violence on someone or something -- I am obviously forcing them or it to do what I want them it to do.

You don't pay "Federal Taxes". The IRS is not a government agency and the taxes you pay to the IRS do not go to the Federal Government. Check your premises.

Yes, they do force you to pay the taxes. They are in fact the initiators of force on you.

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I'm assuming you've read Atlas Shrugged? As a demonstration in the novel of Rands ideas on causality, remember when John Galt was held captive, and his captors were trying to "force" him to save them? They realized at that moment in time that they truly have no power to influence the behavior of other things - either living or non-living. Things behave according to their nature.

Rand's unique and original position on causality is one of the most important aspects of her philosophy -- and one of the hardest to grasp. It's implications are profound and form the bedrock of her ethics.

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True in that sense. But they do in fact initiate force. They cannot force one to act against his own will, but that does not take away from the fact that they will try to do so and that people subject to that force will in fact act against their own best interest.

Also, in the case of the Income Tax, which is a fraud, people are being forced to pay it because they believe the tax is legitimate, which it is in fact not. Their behavior is in fact influenced through the act of fraud -- which is a type of force.

Force and fraud.

Now, how 'bout those questions?

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Does Objectivism hold that the use of force in self defense is moral? Yes. But Objectivism also holds that the use of force is always destructive, and should always be the last resort. Objectivism is a philosophy of creativity and life. It does not celebrate the use of force.

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Obviously, the use of force is celebrated. That violence can be used to free men is much celebrated around the world and in the works of Ayn Rand.

The use of force is always destructive, yes. That's the point in using force as opposed to, say, persuasion. And, yes, it should be handled with extreme caution and care and it is always a last resort.

That being said, shouldn't we learn more about it so that it can be handled more carefully and in a proper context so that its use can be effectively minimized and so that the results of having used it produces only the desired effect?

That being said, I will ask again... Which category does this discussion fall under in the philosophy? Metaphysics? Epistemology? Ethics? Which? Does it touch on all of them? Where does it fall in the hierarchical order and in the contexts which I mentioned, is violence proper and even... practical?

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[...]is violence proper and even... practical?

Again, context. As New Buddha pointed out, violence isn't "practical" if you're trying to break someone's fingers into agreeing with you. It's also not "proper" (ie. moral) because you have no right to use violence against someone unless they use it against you first. Violence is also not practical if you're trying to make a friend. It can be practical if you're trying to stop someone from using violence against yourself, but it isn't the only practical method.

For something to be "practical" implies a goal, and for something to be proper requires a context. The goal and its morality live in a context, so that is what you need to provide if you want to find an answer to this question.

A separate subject is the value in learning about violence against others as part of a means of protecting one's self. In general, I would think this both proper and practical.

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And which category does this discussion practical, applied and even rational violence fall under in the philosophy? Metaphysics? Epistemology? Ethics? Which? Does it touch on all of them? Where does it fall in the hierarchical order of the philosophy?

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I didn't provide a context, but here's a lame one: man tries to push you off a cliff, you move out of the way at the last second, man falls off cliff himself. You didn't have to fight back, problem of avoiding his force was averted nonetheless. Of course, this doesn't clear up whether you should have let him fall; even more context is required. Did you know him well? Are you known enemies, and a big legal battle will probably take place that you don't want? Is it absolutely clear that he was trying to kill you? And on, and on, until you know if letting him fall is/was the right thing to do.

A discussion of violence and force relates to all of those branches of philosophy you mentioned. You will always exist in reality (metaphysics), using your mind (epistemology), trying to figure out the best thing to do (ethics).

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In short, violence is not practical as a method for gaining values.  However, it can be practical as a method of defending values against those that would take them from you by force.

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OPAR, pg. 310, chapt. 8 Virtue:

"In essence, there are only two viewpoints on this issue, because there are only two basic methods by which one can deal with a dispute. The methods are reason or force; seeking to persuade others to share one's ideas voluntarily—or coercing others into doing what one wishes regardless of their ideas. Objectivism countenances only the method of persuasion."

</indent>The "pacifist" society is not one adhering to reason. A society of reason understands there are essentially two methods with which to deal with one another, and acts or sets itself up accordingly.

Martial arts, taught as a method of solving disputes, is thuggery.

The only proper deployment of the skills acquired in martial arts, is in the defense of self, or in proper context, the aide of another. As my instructor was fond of pointing out, karate means empty hand, not empty head. A martial artist struggles to understand violence, and in grasping what violence is (a recognition of the inability to be able to gain ones way by reason) only desires to use it when it is recognized that reasoning would be futile.

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In other words, violence is rarely the answer, but when it is the answer -- it is the only answer.

It is confirmed that violence applied can not only be practical, but absolutely necessary in a proper context. Violence is not a practical method for gaining or earning values, but it is in fact a proper and practical method in keeping and protecting them. We know this to be true, for we see all around us ordinary citizens, police and military, for example carrying with them some of the snap-on tools of violence, e.g., mace, guns, batons, etc. in an attempt to be ready at all times to use violence, if necessary, in protecting their values and the values of others from theft, rape, murder and robbery, etc. These tools are carried at all times because an irrefutable fact of life is that violence does in fact exist and the time when it may occur to one's person or property is not always predictable.

The context which I place violence is the context in which there is no doubt that someone is trying to take one's life and one must do something about it -- or perish. All other considerations notwithstanding. It's do violence --or die.

Next, how to apply violence? What is the best way to gain the use of violence as a tool of survival?

And what is one's most potent weapon in violence?

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Like, what is the context that gives rise to these questions, maybe, like, from whence did the need for these questions arise?

How to apply violence to what? What do you mean how to "gain the use of" violence? Most potent weapon, when, where, in what situation? Gonna need a lot more to work with here.

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What context gives rise to these questions? Violence. The fact that violence occurs everyday, all around us and that anyone who might want to prepare for the inevitable occurrence of violence might want to prepare for that moment in the safest and most efficient manner possible to ensure his survival when it does occur -- as opposed to the alternative: becoming a victim.

How to apply violence to what? To someone(s) who are trying to apply violence to you, as in the committing of a violent crime.

How to gain the use of violence? To know how to use violence in violence. As in, if someone attacks you, what is the best way to use violence against them in order to ensure your survival? Krav Maga? A pistol? A club? A karate class that you took when you were a child? Call a cop? What?

What is your most potent weapon in violence? Means just what it says. In what situation? In violence. As in, someone committing an act of violence on you and you have no choice but to use violence against on them -- or become a victim.

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So you want us to tell you when you should use Krav Maga, a pistol, hit someone on the head, stomp on their toe, punch them in the stomach, or blow them up with a hand grenade, all a priori of any idea of what situation you are in, where you are, what you are doing, and what are the consequences aside from "violence"?

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How to gain the use of violence? To know how to use violence in violence. As in, if someone attacks you, what is the best way to use violence against them in order to ensure your survival? Krav Maga? A pistol? A club? A karate class that you took when you were a child? Call a cop? What?

What is your most potent weapon in violence? Means just what it says. In what situation? In violence. As in, someone committing an act of violence on you and you have no choice but to use violence against on them -- or become a victim.

Only the minimum amount of force necessary to eradicate the threat should be used, otherwise you are just adding to the problem. So, all those different methods of violence can only be assessed as valid methods in context, and they should be judged by how effective they are in those contexts. For example, you don't use a pistol against a child who picked your pocket. But it might be proper to call the police in that circumstance.

In any case, if this discussion is shifting towards a discussion about what kinds of weapons to use in different situations, then it is no longer a discussion about Objectivism and probably shouldn't be in this part of the forum.

Tristan

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