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Is revenge bad?

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Okay, so there is another thread going on about a rape victim who has been denied justice.

First off, I am not talking about vigilantes. People like "The Punisher" or whatever from fiction are usually no better than serial killers in terms of mental stability and often in morality. I fully understand that the retaliation of force needs to be a limited right. This is not a legal question, this is a question that I want considered from the perspective of an individual.

I am talking about personal revenge against a specific target by the victim. The victim is certain of who the perpetraitor was, but for whatever reason the justice system had failed them. If this is the case, wouldn't anyone with pride, with a sense of self preservation even, want to put an end to anything that could so casually hurt them? If someone hurt me, and no one did anything about it, why shouldn't I go and cripple them?

Typical arguments agains this goes as follows

1) Escalation - Escalation doesn't occur if this is done correctly. If this argument was followed to its logical extent, we would all be pascifist. This turn the other cheek crap is Christian non-sense in my opinion.

2) Obsession - This is the trope in most revenge stories, that people who are seeking revenge become angry and can not live happy, normal lives. I would posit that this is true, and this is why someone should get revenge as quickly as safely possible so that they do not go mad like Hamlet did. The alternative given by them usuallly invovles "letting go". I only see this kind of dissociation as a good idea when revenge is unobtainable or will get you killed. The source of this argument is remenescent of the Buddhist view of all desire. They would argue wanting anything badly is just as bad as wanting revenge.

So most of society says "Sit there and be a victim, you aren't allowed to do anything about it, even if we are incompetent and can't protect you or punish those who hurt you". That doesn't seem right to me.

However my mind is not made up yet, so I want to hear other's opinons on the matter to see if I had missed some important point.

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On the face of it, asking the question, "Is revenge bad?" is like asking, "Is justice bad?"

But, of course, there is loads of context to consider, including the justice system -- as you have.

My answer is: I consider the justice system to be a base "tool." If it fails, and if I weigh the pros and cons to be in favor of my decision, I will then move to use myself as the next "tool" to carry out justice. I can't imagine any regular instances where I would make this kind of decision, or even imagine many "irregular" instances. I would much prefer to have the backing of the justice system. So, this basically comes down to instances that wouldn't normally involve the justice system at all -- things like revealing the true reputation in a very public way of a colleague who has lied and made you suffer as a result, or something like the recent billboard a hurt woman plastered across a downtown when she discovered her cheating husband. I wouldn't hesitate to do something like that, if I judged it to be just.

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I define revenge as acting on one's emotions (as opposed to justice, which is rational) when faced with injustice or perceived injustice. With that in mind, yes, revenge is bad, one should never allow emotions to dictate another man's punishment. Whether it's societal justice, or a person acting as a so called "vigilante" because society failed them, the same rational methods of determining the appropriate punishment should be used.

Emotions, however strong and however justified, should be actively suppressed. This is especially important because injustice tends to stir up very strong emotions that will distort even a rational person's decision making.

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Is there a meaningful difference between revenge and retaliation? Just by connotation I would say retaliation can be delegated, but revenge is something more personal.

Either way, in an extreme case like what you're talking about it would be moral to take revenge, with the full knowledge that unless you uncovered new evidence in the process

it would also be moral for the police to arrest and prosecute you afterwards. Waiting for the worst of the anger to pass, assisting with the investigation and exhausting other

options are still higher on the list of actions to take after being victimized.

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I agree with Nicky's post, to a point. Revenge does seem to imply an act driven by emotion instead of cognition. Justice, on the other hand, is a reason-based approach to giving someone what he deserves. To the extent that one attempts to mete out justice based on emotion in place of reason, one is definitely and wrongly acting on the principle of revenge. However, I can't say for certain that reveling in some sort of revenge-based emotional response to a proper act of justice is necessarily bad, but I shy away from it. I suspect that it has negative psycho-epistemic implications. So I'd add the caveat that, for people with healthful psycho-epistemics, emotions should not be actively suppressed. It probably goes without saying that people with healthful psycho-epistemics typically do not engage in acts of whimsy (except as entertainment).

One can see the implications of this point when considering the other thread. I suspect that the OP of that thread learned about the rapes through private conversations. Such conversations almost always involve a lack of proof. While the OP obviously trusts the woman (I have no reason to question the OP's judgment), criminal justice must be based on proof. What the OP was trying to figure out was the appropriateness of social justice (not to be confused with the Marxist package deal) which can include ostracism and private or public expressions of contempt. It’s important to understand that public expressions of contempt can amount to torts (defamation) if the info isn't verifiable, so be careful. An individual does not always know the difference between acts of social or legal justice before the acts are performed. That's why I endorse acting solely on the principle of justice and not on revenge.

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Revenge is good. It's your duty to punish those who unjustly hurt you. It's a sacred moral obligation. You're self-hating, self-destroying, and evil if you don't seek, and successfully obtain, revenge against the bad guys. And, yes, you should enjoy it while you make your victims suffer.

But make sure it's just -- not excessive, mean, or cruel.

Edited by Wotan
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If you have been wronged, and the justice system fails, you are entitled to seek justice individually provided you act on solid grounds of reason. If the perpetrator is willing to give back what can be reasonably asked of him, in order to put things right, then a just outcome will have been achieved. However, if the perpetrator is unreasonable, and does not comply, then reasonable use of force is justified.

In the case of a rape victim, they have been violated, humiliated and hurt for the gratification of the rapist. The rapist deserves to be violated, humiliated and hurt for the gratification of the victim, as this is debt they owe. However, no objectivist worthy of the name would collect on that debt, because it would mean they would get self gratification from the suffering of another, and it is exactly this principle that Objectivism is against.

The danger is in the motive, and where there is a risk of the perpetrator carrying out another crime, the victim has every right to protect themselves. All individuals have a right to liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. These are core principles which we as Objectivists should never abandon. Perpetrators of crimes deserve to be limited though. Perpetrators should still enjoy liberty, property and the right to pursue happiness, but not where this endangers the liberty, property and pursuit of happiness by others.

I'm not sure how an act of revenge can be consistent with this sort of outcome.

I personally would consider it a greater achievement if the victim reformed the justice system, so the failure is not repeated.

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I define revenge as acting on one's emotions (as opposed to justice, which is rational) when faced with injustice or perceived injustice. With that in mind, yes, revenge is bad, one should never allow emotions to dictate another man's punishment. Whether it's societal justice, or a person acting as a so called "vigilante" because society failed them, the same rational methods of determining the appropriate punishment should be used.

Emotions, however strong and however justified, should be actively suppressed. This is especially important because injustice tends to stir up very strong emotions that will distort even a rational person's decision making.

What is the point of living life if you must continually suppress your emotional reactions? Don't suppress emotions, suppress bad behavior.

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What is the point of living life if you must continually suppress your emotional reactions? Don't suppress emotions, suppress bad behavior.

Not continually, just temporarily. And only in this case, when your emotions are running wild and you are trying to make sure that you are not acting on them, or even on intuition, instead of a carefully crafted, deliberate line of reasoning.

I believe that in this case, when an extraordinary injustice was committed against an ordinary rational person (not a cop, soldier, judge or other professional trained to deal with these events), that person cannot possibly be emotionally prepared for the situation. How could he be, he never had to deal with anything like this before?

The only way for him to make sure he will react appropriately (as opposed to displaying "bad behavior", which is everything except doing exactly what I described above), in this unusual situation, is by suppressing his emotions while making a decision.

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Well, sure, revenge by definition, is emotionally driven. As such, it can spin out

of control and do oneself more damage than to the guilty party.

If one has been wronged in a way that normal channels of legality cannot

satisfy, there is only so much that can be done rationally - exposing them, demanding a public

apology, challenging them to a duel (just joking) etc.,etc.

There comes a point at which concern with one's pride and justice can become overtaken

by excessive concern with the person who has wronged one, I think.

As such, we may become obsessed second-handers, therefore altruistic. (I grant, that sounds odd -

but I believe the broadest sense of altruism contains this.)

After all that is rational has been done, best to drop it.

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