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Is it ever OK to hit someone?

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cliveandrews
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This debate is pretty much being beaten to death, so I'll just add the 2 cents that adds a different context to the OP. I would feel morally and ethically justified in striking someone who was intentionally verbally harassing or attacking my child (she is 6). The response would be solely on the basis of the child's inability to cope and the verbal assailant's clear intent to damage it's developing mind. In other words, the prick would be attempting to permanently affect her development to her detriment.

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This debate is pretty much being beaten to death, so I'll just add the 2 cents that adds a different context to the OP. I would feel morally and ethically justified in striking someone who was intentionally verbally harassing or attacking my child (she is 6). The response would be solely on the basis of the child's inability to cope and the verbal assailant's clear intent to damage it's developing mind. In other words, the prick would be attempting to permanently affect her development to her detriment.

It is somewhat dubious to speculate what long term effect some insults will have on a child unless a parent is not capable of putting such behavior into perspective for the child in terms the child can understand. One could engage in the equally dubious speculation that you would be demonstrating to the child that hitting someone is the proper course of action when someone does something that upsets you. I think that kind of response does more to offer satisfaction to the parent than it actually helps the childs long term socialization.

Edited by RationalBiker
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How is it obvious that he is challenging person B to a fight? What are his physical actions if his words are not more explicitly communicating a threat?

Threat? What threat? If person A were threatening person B, then A would be initiating force, and as you say yourself, person B can respond in self-defense. We are talking about a challenge, not a threat: person B does have the option of walking away. A has not initiated force against him, he's just offering him a fist match, like a more rational person might offer a game of chess.

As far as the moral aspect is concerned, B's best choice is probably indeed to walk away--but what I am saying that, if for whatever reason he chooses to take the challenge, his action does not constitute an initiation of force. It is not force for the same reason Roark wasn't initiating force against Dominique when he first touched her, even though she had never given verbal consent.

Now, with regard to "how is it obvious" and "what are his physical actions," let me respond by asking a question. You write:

I've not disputed that you can respond to someone's words IF you reasonably think a physical threat is present.

Does the threatening person have to make explicit verbal threats, or can a reasonable person infer the presence of a threat from more subtle hints in the threatener's words, combined with his body language etc.? And similarly, does a willingness to be touched in an erotic way have to be explicitly verbalized, or can a reasonable person infer such a willingness from mere verbal and non-verbal hints?

I would suppose you agree with me that inferences from non-explicit signals are fine in both cases. I think that the same way there can be implied threats and implied sexual consent, there can also be implied challenges to fight.

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Threat? What threat?

The OP asked about "physical retaliation" which I take to mean something different than two guys deciding they want to fight. If two people each decide they want to box, kick each other, or whatever, yes, of course they can and that is not force. I suspect that is not what the OP is asking about though.

However, and this is a big however, if a person decides to use non-verbal clues as some indication that a person who is not actually posing a threat wants to fight, he better be sure about it if he decides to step up to the plate. The person who decides to take such a challenge is really taking a risk that they are not misinterpreting something. They also do not know if they are being set up to appear to be the aggressor. There may be quite a bit about this 'challenge' that they are unaware of.

You can use the Roark example all day long, but history is replete with men who acted on misunderstood signals and came to regret it. I'm personally not comfortable with saying I can or can't do something like that because it worked for Roark in a fictional novel.

Does the threatening person have to make explicit verbal threats, or can a reasonable person infer the presence of a threat from more subtle hints in the threatener's words, combined with his body language etc.?

From a legal or moral perspective?

The totality of a person's behavior can be used to demonstrate a reasonable belief (not knowledge) that a threat is imminent, so no, explicit verbal communication is necessary. However, this is more important from a legal perspective (IMHO) than it is from a moral perspective. If you use a person's behavior lacking a specific verbal threat, you better be sure that you cannot communicate the specifics of why you thought the behavior was threatening should you have to face a judge or jury. However, the court recognizes that the threat does not have to actually exist as long as the belief was reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances. In this case, the court recognizes that often times self-defense requires action before it is too late and one cannot KNOW the future.

And similarly, does a willingness to be touched in an erotic way have to be explicitly verbalized, or can a reasonable person infer such a willingness from mere verbal and non-verbal hints?

Again, are you asking this from a legal or moral perspective? It seems you like the Roark/Dominique example but I will reiterate; in this particular case I don't care to base what I would do or what I think would work in real life on a fictional accounting (Rand had control and direction over how the story was going to turn out). Where this issue is not similar is that from a legal perspective, sexual assault and sexual battery are considered far more invasive than a non-sexual assault or a non-sexual battery. As such, a judge is going to be less inclined to entertain an explanation of "Well she appeared to want it even though she didn't say so." Good luck with that. In this case, I don't think a reasonable belief is as likely to be accepted as defense. In this case, the court does not recognize the necessity to act on a sexual advance because you are not acting to protect yourself. In short, the situations really are not that similar.

I would suppose you agree with me that inferences from non-explicit signals are fine in both cases

I'm not so sure I do based on the reasoning I provided above.

...there can also be implied challenges to fight.

Well, if someone wants to act on that, be my guest. :) I'll pass. Again, I think a court may take issue if the defendant admits that he did not reasonably believe he was threatened. There existed no necessity to defend oneself.

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The OP asked about "physical retaliation" which I take to mean something different than two guys deciding they want to fight. If two people each decide they want to box, kick each other, or whatever, yes, of course they can and that is not force.

Agreed. (Although eficazpensador is going to be really p*ssed at you for saying such "crap." "Hitting is physical force. End of discussion!" :) )

I suspect that is not what the OP is asking about though.

Yes, the OP sounds more like a situation where A is not trying to provoke a fight, but ends up doing it nonetheless. My opinion is that even in that case, it could--again, depending on the specifics of the context--be legally acceptable to touch the person, and perhaps even morally so. But seeing that you aren't even sure about my much less "extreme" positions, such as the legal acceptability of inferring a non-verbalized threat, I probably don't have much of a chance to convince you of that right now.

Instead, I'll just try to argue a bit more for the most basic case of implied consent, which I consider to be the implied consent to be touched erotically. I'm not sure about you, but as far as my experience is concerned, I am not aware of any case at all where a woman gave explicit verbal permission for a man to touch her. In fact, if a woman makes her desire too explicit, there is a chance that the man will consider her promiscuous and be turned off by that--and if a man asks a woman for explicit permission to touch her, the chances are the woman will think he's an idiot and say no in disgust. The consent for this sort of thing is nearly always given implicitly; the Roark vs. Dominique example is my "favorite" because it demonstrates the principle in the most clear-cut way, but I could use almost any romantic relationship, in fiction or in real life, as an example.

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But seeing that you aren't even sure about my much less "extreme" positions, such as the legal acceptability of inferring a non-verbalized threat

We must be having a miscommunication somewhere. Not only have I accepted the legal recognition of the non-verbal THREAT, I went on to explain why it is often legally recognized. Where I thought you were on thin ice involved the legal tenability of this non-verbal challenge where the threat is absent.

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I am not sure what people mean when they say "pre-emptive" force.

You can look up the definition anywhere.

I first heard it applied to the retaliation against Saddam, and I suspect that it was meant to insinuate that the U.S. was initiating force in that conflict, which of course is total bunk.

I think your suspicions are wrong. Preemptive force typically means to attack an enemy in the face of an imminent attack. The classic case is Israel in the 6 Day War.

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We must be having a miscommunication somewhere.

Ah, my mistake, sorry about that. I now see that when you wrote "I'm not so sure I do based on the reasoning I provided above," you were only referring to the romantic-relationship scenario.

Anyway, my best response to that is still what I wrote in my last post:

I'm not sure about you, but as far as my experience is concerned, I am not aware of any case at all where a woman gave explicit verbal permission for a man to touch her. In fact, if a woman makes her desire too explicit, there is a chance that the man will consider her promiscuous and be turned off by that--and if a man asks a woman for explicit permission to touch her, the chances are the woman will think he's an idiot and say no in disgust. The consent for this sort of thing is nearly always given implicitly; the Roark vs. Dominique example is my "favorite" because it demonstrates the principle in the most clear-cut way, but I could use almost any romantic relationship, in fiction or in real life, as an example.

It may seem like this has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I'm trying to establish the general principle that non-explicit/non-verbal signs can always be used to communicate consent, and therefore there is nothing unusual about the law recognizing consent given in this way.

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It may seem like this has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I'm trying to establish the general principle that non-explicit/non-verbal signs can always be used to communicate consent, and therefore there is nothing unusual about the law recognizing consent given in this way.

I'm not sure about the legal status of Google Books, but in doing a web search on consent defenses in rape cases I came across a whole book devoted to what constitutes consent in criminal cases, particularly addressing the defense of consent in rape cases. It may well be in some cases that the law recognizes non-verbal communication when considering the issue of consent. Being that it appears to be a very complex subject, as many legal subjects tend to be, I'm not ready to speculate on how common or uncommon non-verbal communication successfully establishes a consent defense in rape cases.

Edited by RationalBiker
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I have to laugh at this because as a police officer I have been the subject of such abuse. LOL!!!! Many people really don't like being arrested and they are often very verbally abusive on the ride downtown.

So if that is the objective measure of me being qualified to make such judgement, I'm qualified to make such judgement.

I will ask you to please re-read my post. Afterwards if you think wahtever abuse is hurled at you during a ride downtown is the same as what I described, then we have nothing further to talk about. Otherwise I expect an apology.

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I disagree. Your emotional state is not an excuse for violence. If it were well then following through on your threat to kill some ass that continues to call you names after you warned him not to is ok too. I mean after all he deserved it... he was warned.

I agree with D'kian on this one. If one is intentionally causing you discomfort by verbally "abusing" you, and you have asked him to stop, and you have warned him that if he does not stop physical force will be commissioned, then hitting that person would be justified if he still continues. I do not think your example of killing the person is relevant, because a punch (or many) can in almost all cases be used to persuade someone to discontinue their aggressive behavior; killing is not necessary to stop the action that is displeasing you. I believe, that after fair warning, physical force to the tune of a punch or two can be used to stop a persistent verbal threat to your happiness.

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"verbal threat to your happiness."

Wow. *Checks name of forum... scratches head...

I'm very confused at the moment.

Demonstrated aggressiveness is key here. Force and threats of force both justify defensive measures. Verbal abuse can be threatening.

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Demonstrated aggressiveness is key here. Force and threats of force both justify defensive measures. Verbal abuse can be threatening.

Only if it contains a threat of force, though right? Not just something that intentionally causes "discomfort" or "threat to your happiness"? Like if I get on a bus and the guy next to me intentionally and aggressively dish out verbal abuse from his seat (assuming he's not in my personal space) am I allowed to punch him because it causes me discomfort and is making me unhappy?

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Force begets force.

Verbal / Psychological (what the hell is THAT supposed to mean?) 'attacks' are not force.

People don't have the skin to put up with 'psychological abuse' anymore. To anyone who gives it any weight, grow a damned backbone. And if the attacker ever physically (force) attacks you, DESTROY him. (Or call the police if you're a wimp.)

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Only if it contains a threat of force, though right? Not just something that intentionally causes "discomfort" or "threat to your happiness"?

Right. "Communicates a threat" is a good phrase. Communication does not have to be literal and verbal, and non-verbal communication does not always mean as an out-of-context absolute that you have to be punched first before punching back.

Like if I get on a bus and the guy next to me intentionally and aggressively dish out verbal abuse from his seat (assuming he's not in my personal space) am I allowed to punch him because it causes me discomfort and is making me unhappy?

No. But are his hands clenched into fists? Is he leaning toward you? Does he follow you off the bus and down the sidewalk?

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Physical violence isn't the only form of force. Force compels you to act against your better judgement, against your will, etc. Paralyzes your mind.

I say if someone verbally abuses you, retaliate verbally. You don't have to be silent one second and swinging your fist the next. Argue back with them, intimidate them. Show them you're willing to stand up for yourself. If they become threatening, if it seems like they're going to initiate physical force soon, knock 'em down.

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I'm not sure about the legal status of Google Books, but in doing a web search on consent defenses in rape cases I came across a whole book devoted to what constitutes consent in criminal cases, particularly addressing the defense of consent in rape cases. It may well be in some cases that the law recognizes non-verbal communication when considering the issue of consent. Being that it appears to be a very complex subject, as many legal subjects tend to be, I'm not ready to speculate on how common or uncommon non-verbal communication successfully establishes a consent defense in rape cases.

(...chuckle...) Do I detect an attempt to refute me with faint agreement? :) What you describe above is the present state of the law in the U.S., which might be of interest to e.g. someone of your profession, but is not the subject under discussion here. What we want to know is what the law ought to say, and even more pertinently, what a rational ethics has to say on the matter. (Besides, the number of erotic contacts that end up as rape cases is only a tiny fraction of the number of times that a man concludes, on whatever basis, that a woman consents to be touched by him--precisely because the conclusion is correct most of the time and the woman wants to be touched!)

So, to give the discussion a bit more focus, let me put you the question this way:

Can any form of verbal or other hints, short of an explicit verbal statement of permission, ever justify a man in touching a woman for the first time?

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So, to give the discussion a bit more focus, let me put you the question this way:

Wait a second... you said;

"...and therefore there is nothing unusual about the law recognizing consent given in this way."

That was the focus of my response. That is not indicative of what the law ought to be, or what is morally correct, it is indicative of what the law is now, a fact of reality one must deal with in determining what one should do in a given situation. I was focused on responding to what you said.

My suggestion would be that if we wanted to focus on something, it would be what the OP of this thread asked, striking someone for their offensive words. Focusing on what constitutes consent for sexual advances should be a separate topic (though I'm guessing you disagree).

Edited by RationalBiker
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Physical violence isn't the only form of force. Force compels you to act against your better judgement, against your will, etc. Paralyzes your mind.

I say if someone verbally abuses you, retaliate verbally. You don't have to be silent one second and swinging your fist the next. Argue back with them, intimidate them. Show them you're willing to stand up for yourself. If they become threatening, if it seems like they're going to initiate physical force soon, knock 'em down.

Well, doesn't force have to be realized in some actual form to be force? Which would mean physical force. That's the only way to violate a person's rights. That is tricky to fit fraud into that, but that's beyond the scope of this thread. Either way, words are just words, they don't *do* anything. Whatever someone *says* cannot force you to do something. Only things like threats can be considered force, since there is an explicit physical action intended. "Verbal retaliation" would be the only ethical way to "fight back", since that is how rational people interact. Provided you don't say anything like "Say that again and I'll hit you", since that is a threat that would be an initiation of force if acted upon.

Edited by Eiuol
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My suggestion would be that if we wanted to focus on something, it would be what the OP of this thread asked, striking someone for their offensive words.

But I have already told you my opinion on that--and you have disagreed with it. We could leave it at that, or we could go on and discuss the principles involved, which is what my posts have been meant to do. First I am trying to get you to agree on the basic idea that consent can be given implicitly, and afterwards I hope to convince you that sometimes you can implicitly consent even to things that you do not want (such as being slapped).

Of course, if you prefer to agree to disagree, that's fine too, this is certainly not the most important issue facing mankind today. :)

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