This was something I posted on hatrack, but its appropriate here.
"Those who say violence never solves anything have . . . elevated peace above goodness. Therefore, in these people's views, it is better for evil to prevail than to use violence to end that evil – since the very use of violence renders the user of it evil."
This statement was taken off of a thread regarding whether or not the statement “Violence never solves anything” is true or not. Regardless of that, I think there are problems with the above quote.
I submit that violence is the MEASURE of evil. The more willing you are to use violence, and the more you rely on violence as a problem solving method, the more evil you are.
Violence causes pain, misery, suffering, death, in a variety of different ways, especially if the violence is escalated above a boxing match. If you rely on violence to solve your problems, if you think violence is an effective means to solving problems, then you necessarily think pain, misery, suffering, and death, are effective problem solving measures, and the willingness to use those shows that one is, in fact, evil. The degree of evilness depends on how many other options are explored, to what extent, and when one chooses violence to solve one’s problems.
I'm one who considers violence to be "for defense only."
It's defining "defense" that gets me.
For the most part, I define defense as "you are currently attacking me, therefore, I am responding." In some cases, however, a preemptive strike may be necessary. I can't really think of any personal scenario that would require this, but in the case of a nation, I can.
In a personal situation, I believe that I have the responsibility to defend myself and my family and any "preemption" would be done through personal vigilance, police, and restraining orders, if necessary. If I felt there was imminent danger, I would use the resources of police protection, at least trying to keep them close by, if nothing else.
In the case of nations, similar things should take place first, i.e. having a military, diplomacy, treaties, etc. However, in the case of a nation, the stakes are higher and affect more people, so while I would certainly hope it would be a last resort, I can see the need to preemptively remove the imminent threat with violence.
Whenever Ender used violence (it was with reluctance of course, otherwise he wouldn't hold our favor...) he did it with finality. He didn't just smack someone in the balls--he kicked them in the face when they were down, until they drowned in their own blood and vomit. Otherwise, they'd just get back up again and Ender would be then one drowning.
I'm anticipating the response will be, "Okay, now you've killed the guy, but you've also gone and pissed off all his relatives, too."
I would say that if you leave relatives around to come after you to avenge his death, then you still haven't committed violence with finality.
"So you suggest killing the guy's entire family?"
Either that or wergild.
Case in point (as long as it's a hot topic): The Israelis vs. the Palestinians. Each side is killing the other one by one, leaving the rest of them to come back and avenge deaths. This doesn't solve anything; either kill them all or don't kill anyone. The problem won't be solved until one side is out for good (where violence will have been used with finality), or the referee (the UN? Or the US?) comes and binds both of their metaphorical wrists behind their backs.
So, violence only accomplishes something when used with finality. Otherwise its endless and pointless.
Objectively, yes. We can look at genocide and say it's evil. But if it solves a problem for another society, they would feel justified in doing so. And since nobody from the murdered society would be left around, there wouldn't be anybody to say that it's evil.
I'm not advocating wiping out the Israelis or Palestinians. I just mean that the victor rewrites history as seen fit, making the question pointless.
So, Ev, you're trying to define evil AS violence?
Sorry, no dice.
Let's take a look to literature. In "1984," by far the scariest book ever written, it was postulated that a language ("Newspeak") could be devised which would only allow orthodox thinking... That an entire population could have their minds shackled, essentially FOREVER, through the manipulation of language.
Let's further postulate that this is in fact possible.
Who would have done a greater evil? The man who invents and teaches Newspeak? Or the bully who punches his fellow third-graders in the nose?
The first is clearly more evil (to me, anyway) but involves no violence. The second involves violence, but is at worst a minor kind of problem.
Evil is not violence. It's related, but not equal to.
This is why I said violence is the measure of evil. Would Newspeak ever have been adopted without the violence that persuaded everyone Newspeak was a good idea (in the novel)? I don't think so. Violence, in of itself, has some intrinsic evilness to it. Pain, death, misery, suffering, ruin are not exactly what I'd characterize as goodness. However, there are ends which are more evil (as you say, thought control) but the willingness to use violence gives a measure, or indicator, of how evil something is.
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A chemical reaction can be violent, but is it evil? Erosion is not violent, but the results can be devestating. War is violent, but sometimes wars are fought to stop evil men who use violence (note that the sentence uses the two words seperately). Pedophiles are not necessarily violent, but they are evil. Violence is not evil, and evil is not violence.
Posts: 3834 | Registered: Apr 2002
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Baldar- A) I just finished explaining the relationship, and its not an equivalence, and yet you try to make it out as if I DID say it was an equivalence. B) You're a friggin moron if you think it was worth the bytes to put that chemical reaction comment in.
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Oh, I am a moron? I am not the one that started out stating such an untenable position. Then having to back up and try to escape the corner I am in. No I didn't do that. If I am a moron, how would I classify someone that is less intelligent than I am? Is it imbecile or village idiot? I give up, you pick.
Violence is not a good measure of evil either. Pedophiles do no violence, yet most of us agree their evil is terrible. A violent accident may happen with little or no evil intent. Violence is not the measure of evil. Giving birth is an extremely violent reaction (try pushing a watermelon out your butt, again, it is not evil. I would like you to explain the intrinsic evil in giving birth.
I am reminded of the Christian parable in which Christ raised the idea that some men, working on the temple, were crushed by falling rock (a violent end to be sure). He asked, where these men evil that they should be punished in such a way?
You of course would have said yes, because you would have measured the evil based on the violence. Of course like so many others you would also be wrong.
As we morons tend to say regarding the obvious. "Duh-uh"
Baldar- You don't even understand the position I hold, so how can you say its untenable?
"Oh, I am a moron? I am not the one that started out stating such an untenable position. Then having to back up and try to escape the corner I am in. No I didn't do that."
I didn't back up, I am sticking exactly to the position I held. The fact you can't understand it speaks poorly of your intellectual capacity, not mine.
" Pedophiles do no violence, yet most of us agree their evil is terrible"
You must have an extrememly different view of violence then me. Bad example, try again.
"Violence is not the measure of evil. Giving birth is an extremely violent reaction (try pushing a watermelon out your butt, again, it is not evil. I would like you to explain the intrinsic evil in giving birth."
Again, bad example, Baldar, and you're a moron for thinking its worth the time to type it.
" am reminded of the Christian parable in which Christ raised the idea that some men, working on the temple, were crushed by falling rock (a violent end to be sure). He asked, where these men evil that they should be punished in such a way?"
Another BAD example, and also you claim I'd answer it in a manner I wouldn't.
Baldar, when he said violence, he meant violence from one guy to another with malicious intent. And he didn't mean that all evil must be violent. Chemical reactions don't really have anything to do with it...
To me, it's all a matter of perspective. The mouse that gets terrorized by a cat would likely consider its predator evil. To the cat, though, what's wrong with an afternoon snack?
All these examples I have put forth are bad, and yet you have not put forth a clarifying example or really any example at all. Perhaps you don't know what you are talking about. Can you give us an example of your narrow criteria. I am trying very hard here not to be insulting Ev. I hope you appreciate the fact that I don't unload on you (its really very easy).
Before this goes any further down this fruitless road - I suggest that both of you go to your respective corners and take five. No offense, but we really don't need a flame war, and that's where this is going.
As Jonathan pointed out, there are two different definitions of violence being used here: rapid movement or expenditure of energy, and intentional harm. The confusion between the two of those is the big problem here.
I would suggest that we pick one of these definitions as being the definition of "violence" and save ourselves a lot of energy, or at least clarify which of these definitions we are using.
Until we can agree on some mutually acceptable terms, I believe that further discussion here is pointless. If we can't communicate with each other, this will become a flame war very quickly.
i think that the basic question everyone is skirting here is "Do the Ends justify the Means" when violence is one side of the equation.
violence with a purpose - depending on the purpose - maybe. lets look at the brother killed analogy.
if a persons brother were killed for money - not justified. for revenge - not justified. in defense - justified. TAKEING REVENGE AGAINST THE KILLER therefor is not justified. right?
i don't know. i know how >I< define evil, and have often been yelled at here because of it (it seems so simplistic and then you try to use it in the real world...) any INTENTIONAL HURT to another is evil. calling my sister a bitch to hurt her feelings is evil. telling her she is being a bitch and please lay off is not. and two hurt never make a heal - punishing someone for hurting you doesn't get rid of the hurt, only compounds it.
on the other hand, there is always the "pre-emptive" violence that seems necessary. and that places me in an ethical quandry - which is more evil? stoping anothers evil before it happens with evil, or allowing the evil so your own is justified?
no substitute "violence" for evil in that last paragraph and try again.
so long as there is violence, even those on the moral high ground must be willing to use violence to defend that ground. at least that is what i think
(and no - i can't always live by my own standards either - we are only human <G> )
Dom- Thats almost exactly what I'm trying to say... sortof.
We can judge evilness by the willingness to use violence, and by the degree to which one resorts to violence as a method of problem solving.
Using your police example, an officer who tries to talk through a hostage situation is less likely to have evil intent then an officer who goes in guns blazing.
As I said in my original post, "The more willing you are to use violence, and the more you rely on violence as a problem solving method, the more evil you are."
Does using violence necessarily make one an evil person? No. Although I don't think violence is ever non-evil, there are situations where it is less evil then the alternatives, and there are situations where violence is necessary. But the willingness to resort to violence gives a measure of how evil a person is. If violence is the first or second attempted solution to a situation, then its likely the person is fairly evil. If violence is the ninth or tenth attempted solution, its likely the person doesn't have much evil in him.
I don't think it's fair to single out violence as the measure of evil. There are plenty of non-violent ways to cause misery, pain, and all the rest. The evil is in disregarding the fact that all that pain is a bad thing when you're making your choices. Say there are two men faced with poverty. One of them sets up a confidence scheme and swindles his neighbors out of their nest eggs. The other embarks on a career as a prize-fighter, or a soldier. I think the con man is more evil, but the soldier is more violent. Basically, "What Kentuckian said."
Posts: 14 | Registered: Dec 2001
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Eddie I don't consider you evil. Just young, stupid and impolite. Like so many of your age, you have not had the lessons of proper etiquette "taught" to you by betters (a shortness you mother should be ashamed of), hence, I will take the place of your father and teach you how to better manner yourself. Boxing to me is an ignorant sport, something created so those in power can enjoy the ignorant masses beating each other to death. Me, I have learned long ago to fight, and to treat fighting as equally dangerous as shooting, where someone can potentially be hurt, so you rarely fight, but when you do fight, you do so with seriousness and not the youthful exhuberance of ignorance. This in turn brings me to violence. Fighting is violence, like so many things, it causes pain, but that pain generally is for a reason. It is the intent of that reason by which we should be judged, not the action itself. Intent is what brings out the ideals of evil or good, not the action itself. Intent relies on forethought and therefore cannot be tied to violence except as a result.
Posts: 3834 | Registered: Apr 2002
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violence is power. that is really actually very accurate. power is energy per unit time. Violence is a lot of energy in a short time, therefore high power. Power is neither good nor evil, but can be used for either. Money is the same thing - money is power. <steps on to soapbox> This gets me to the one or two most misquoted things in the bible
1) "money is the root of all evil" - sorry - its the LOVE of money
2)"am I my brother's keeper?" - remember who said it and in what context (cain, when trying to cover up that he had in fact killed his brother)
3) "judge not, lest ye be not judged" ARRRGH. it forgets "for by whatsoever measure ye mete, it shall be meted again unto you". I take that to mean 'go ahead but you will be held to the same standard. I'm cool with that, If I were convicted of a capital crime like that westerfield scum then I too would deserve to fry.
9.8, 9.85, 9.9 10.0 and 9.1 from the ukrainian judge
(OK three most misquoted things - you have three last chances.. confess the the crime of heresy, reject the work.... OK too much flying circus)
(edited to correct - sort of - the number of things and some typos)
[This message has been edited by maniacal_engineer (edited October 08, 2002).]
At the Naval Academy, I switched from fencing to boxing. It felt really good putting my gloved left jab into the face of (my later friend, good Stratego player) M. M. And I suspect no sport pumps as much adrenalin into you AS YOU ARE GETTING PUMMELLED, and must try to fight back. (Have there been comparison studies of adrenalin level in different sports? I don't know.)
I intended to hurt, but also didn't mind getting hurt. But it was sport -- not really on the evil scale.
Ev is right about violence being a "measure" of the evil. But only partial. And I don't believe evil is "intrinsic" to the violence; Baldar is certainly right that there is much more. Intent is also a partial measure.
But actual results are also a partial measure. In fact the biggest measure.
Violence which intends harm, but actually doesn't do harm, isn't really evil. (But is it real violence without "harm"? Maybe not)
Violence which doesn't intend harm, but does do harm, might be evil, but might not.
Violence which intends harm and does harm, that is evil -- or maybe justice?
It's clear to me that self defensive violence is not evil, but it's not at all clear that the differentiation can be made obvious in all cases.
But I support the US push for "unconditional surrender"; not exactly genocide.
My point is that someone had to kill them. And that they were there to kill people, who were, for the most part, fighting for ideals that are often considered noble. Granted, German leadership was NOT noble. But the German people backed Hitler, and the soldiers who died weren't fighting because they thought killing Jews was a good idea, or that the German people deserved to rule the world. They were fighting to protect their nation, their homes. Yes, the logic is somewhat screwy, but will you accuse the 10 million german men who fought in world war two of all following the ideals of hitler? I think thats not only a bit of a stretch, but a stretch of titanic proportions.
The point is that violence, especially between nations, involves killing. And most of the people who die in those engagements are not evil people, rather, they are trying to do whats right. And if we are willing to say that sometimes violence must be used to stop evil, then we have to back off, and look at the results of that violence, because if killing other people who are trying to do what is best is right, then we have to look in a mirror, and say, how was it different for the average german infantryman to kill our soldiers?
The point isn't that sometimes evil needs to be stopped. This is an incontestable point... some evil requires other evil be done to stop it, but that doesn't make killing less evil. There is very very little that is more evil, in my eyes, then the conscious taking of another human life. World War Two, perhaps in history the war against the greatest evil, involved the conscious taking of MILLIONS of lives. It was a conflict in which over 200,000 Americans lost their lives... and we got off EASY. Millions of young german and japanese men, not to mention all their supporters, lost their lives at the hands of the million men who saw combat for the United States of America.
This violence was necessary, and I will not argue that. I will, however, argue that the means used, were also evil, for they involved the ending of 40 million distinct, unique, and irreplaceable lives.
If the violence is "necessary", is the best choice among many poor choices, it's not "evil". I'm no expert on "Just War" theory, or its opponents, but insofar as evil is a mix of means & ends & intents, aiming for the greatest good in a given situation can't quite be evil.
But Ghandi was willing to die for many things, kill for none. To me, if one must kill another to live, such a killing is not quite evil. Certainly regrettable, and probably there were evil precedent actions -- and by implication the one you must kill is doing evil.
"No poor, dumb bastard ever won a war, by dying for his country. He won the war by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for HIS country." (? GCS as Patton) It's not the soldiers doing the dying and killing that are evil here, on either side. It's the Nazis that are attempting to impose their wills, aggressively, on those who resist and disagree.
If the definition of evil seems to indicate that necessary self-defense is evil, than the definition is faulty. (Or that form of self-defense isn't really necessary.)
What is really the definition of evil anyway? And not just what it says in the dictionary, but what is the idea of evil...a feeling? A state of mind? An action? An emotion? A force of nature? Can a person be evil or does he embody the essence of evil? Can a belief or movement, or even a religion be evil? Can anything be evil, or is it all just according to perspective? (And if so, whose perspective--yours? God's?)
Posts: 237 | Registered: Sep 2002
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quote:I submit that violence is the MEASURE of evil
If “violence is the MEASURE of evil” then I submit that:
The various failures to stop Hitler early on were evil acts: · By the Jews who ignored his threats until it was too late · By the Germans who voted for him or accepted him as their leader · By the Europeans who appeased him · By the Americans who stayed out of the war far too long The result of (or “punishment for”) that evil was the violence we know as WWII.
Many of us consider all the “pain, misery, suffering, death” that happened during WWII to be evil and yet we also recognize that they were necessary once the war was in full swing. The only way to reconcile the two from a moral standpoint is to recognize that the lack of action before the war started when it would have required much less violence to avert the situation was extremely evil.
With regard to the Israel-Palestinian conflict - the number of deaths (per capita) resulting from that conflict over the last two decades is much lower than the number of crime deaths in the Washington DC metropolitan area over the same period.
If “violence is the MEASURE of evil” then I submit that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are much less evil than Americans living inside the beltway.
If we look at Moslem warfare methods we find that they have perfected the “art” of “retail” violence (torture, revenge killings, demonstration executions, gassing of a whole village, WTC attack) so well that they seldom need to resort to wholesale violence in the form of genocide or wars that kill millions of people on both sides. It is the Europeans that have perfected that art of wholesale murder we know as “modern warfare” and “concentration camps” and who developed the crazy moral codes that allow us to justify them.
If “violence is the MEASURE of evil” then I submit that Moslem society (with the Iran/Iraq war as a significant exception) is much less evil than Europe.
But getting back to that exception. The Iran/Iraq war … The millions killed in that war are a clear deviation from traditional Moslem warfare in which a few hundred people are killed publicly in such horrible ways that the millions refuse to continue fighting and surrender. This makes Saddam and the Ayatollah regime that were involved in that war just as evil as the Europeans who taught them not only the technology of Weapons of Mass Destruction but also the morality of Mass production of murder.