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Violence - a discussion

  1. Jun 24, 2004 #1
    I was wanting to open a discussion on the nature of violence.

    What is it?

    To me violence is a statement of self nihilism:

    Nihilism is defined in the old webster as :

    "Negative doctrines or the rejection of all religions and moral principles, often involving a general sense of dispair coupled with the belief that life is devoid of meaning"

    (BTW I am aware that in Philosophy this word Nihilism has other meanings)

    In my opinion violence is allways against self. To harm another is a sort of excercise in self disgust using another as a medium to express this.

    Violence is a form of self hatred......

    care to discuss?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 25, 2004 #2
    I disagree. I would define violence as "inflicting damage or harm upon a sentient being". Sometimes, the word is also used in situations not involving sentient beings ("a violent wave").

    I don't think that violence necessarily stems from self-loathing. It can be because of hatred for others. It can be for self-gain. It can be for a cause (for example, fighting back the Nazis during WW2).

    I rarely, if ever go with such simplistic, single-cause analyses as you proposed.
  4. Jun 25, 2004 #3
    This is an interesting topic; I may have more to discuss on it later. However, I will say it really should not be compared with nihilism because, even in that definition, nihilism is a rejection of any justification, really a true nihilist would not be violent would not have the belief that "life is devoid of meaning." A true nihilist would simply be catatonic. Nevertheless, I understand what you are getting at but violence is an action category and is neither good nor bad. Obviously it is only through context that we can analyze the moral value of a particular violent action. I wonder why you make such strong generalizations about violence?
  5. Jun 25, 2004 #4
    The reasoning behind the strength of my generalisation is that I have observed in my self and in others a state of affairs that when deciding to be violent I and others are prepared to throw away their lives to do so.

    When a person strikes out he has decided in his mind that the only action he wishes to make is one that could mean the end of his existence.

    I remember as a kid fighting at school, when compelled to act violently the future didn't matter, the rules didn't matter, my victim didn't matter in fact the only thing that mattered was to inflict harm regardless of the consequences. Fortunately I grew out of this phase.

    So when I say that the act is of self nihilism this is what I mean.

    The self loathing is associated with why the want to in the first place.

    Not to see that the lack of care for the victim is really a lack of caring for oneself.

    Any way these are just thoughts to add to the discussion in a general way and I look forward to others comments
  6. Jun 25, 2004 #5


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    This is a good insight, and it might serve to distinguish the violence of a normally nonviolent person from the violence of a sociopath who does not - is incapable of - feel the symmetry of violence; that if you decide to be violence you must in desperation cast away your own protection from violence.
  7. Jun 25, 2004 #6

    I think of violence as an extreme form of conflict.

    Years ago, I tried to figure out what caused conflict? After some time, I came to the conclusion that "All conflict was a direct result of ignorance and/or greed. This is probably an over simplification, but, I have a habbit of doing that.

    Just my thought.............stay active.
  8. Jun 25, 2004 #7
    This I find a valuable perspective.

    This too, is in the right direction.

    Extreme Envy of someone elses happiness or comfort may come into the picture as well.
    "I want your happiness"
    "so I will take your happiness"
    "and make you as miserable as me"
  9. Jun 25, 2004 #8
    There are too many sweeping generalizations in this thread. Will there be no response to my example of the USA deciding to enter the European front of WW2?
  10. Jun 26, 2004 #9
    Would you care to expand on your comments?
    BTW I happen to think they are quite valid.

    When going to war are we not committing oursleves to a do or die effort?

    As Self Adjoint stated are we not castng our own right to protection from violence when going to war.

    Violence could also be defined as laziness. "Not being prepared to put the hard work into a peaceful solution" So violence can be percieved as a short cut to what you want.
  11. Jun 26, 2004 #10
    Violence is aggression, an attitude first and foremost. Everytime we judge ourselves and others it is an act of violence. An internal fight that causes medical problems and inevitably effects the world around us as well. It is nature's survival mechanism which the human body and brain can make radical and permanent adaptations to. The more aggressive the world around us, the more aggressive we tend to become not only mentally, but physically as well.

    There is a price to be paid for all this aggression. Just as the human body falls apart in an orderly fashion when starved, sacraficing the least vital organs first, it does so as well when bombarded with aggression. The hippocampus shrinks deminishing memory capacity and emotional control and the brain is already wired to remember aggressive events more than others. In other words, we become even more wired to respond more violently and with greater frequency. Our fight-or-flight mechanism has been reset to a hair-trigger mechanism.

    Am I moving towards something, away from something, or is that something moving towards or away from me? Whichever it might be, how I feel and think about the event is what really matter to me in the moment. Isaac Asimov once said, "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent" and we are all incompetent from time to time. After all, we're just human.
  12. Jun 26, 2004 #11
    Just to add to your post:
    Maybe we can refer to our fight or flight mechanism to our Fight or Fight mechanism, our ability flee becoming less as we adapt to a violent existence.

    I think what you have said is almost verging on dispair, a sort of helplessness in the face of building tensions.

    Is violence an act of relieving built up tension do you think?
  13. Jun 26, 2004 #12
    As I already stated, violence is internal first. You can see it's external manefestation as being a result of released internal tension, but there are other ways of viewing the process as well. For example, it can be seen as a way of asserting control internally and externally, as obsessive compulsive behavior, or in any number of alternative ways.

    Your remark that what I have said verges on despair is an interesting case in point. We are the belief makers, demonstrably we make it all meaningful or meaningless. We label things as good and bad, joyful or despairing. This is actually the ultimate distinction between violence and assertiveness. Is it a violent act if kill a chicken for dinner? It all depends upon how I perceive the act in the moment, and the next moment I might see things quite differently.

    Another example, within the next fifty years psychologists speculate that some eighty percent of all mental illnesses will have cures. Such a statement can bring hope to some and despair to others who worry they may not live to see such a day, or that the cures will not be widely available, or whatever. The simple truth is, there ain't nobody home but us chickens and, as Lao Tzu said, "Belief is colorful hope or fear, the beginning of folly."

    When we let go of such hopes and fears in favor of what is self-evident in the moment, we can then appreciate that nature abhors waste. Violence is neither good nor bad, but it most often requires unnecessary expenditures of resources. Again, it is a fallback position not dissimilar from the way the body starves. In the case of starvation, it has been cut in half worldwide for the first time in history over the last fifteen years or so.

    The same can also happen for violence, and there is evidence it is occuring today. For example, some twelve countries have made it illegal to strike a child. In the most famous case, that of Sweden, this was accomplished by public mandate. No politicians organized a campain against child abuse, the public itself decided the issue. Such unprecidented acts demonstrate a growing awareness that violence and it's resulting destructiveness are not only avoidable, but increasingly undesirable.
  14. Jun 26, 2004 #13

    I guess violence, like all intense actions, have two components in understanding. There is the personal or poetic, such as, for example, my father once telling me his love for football was the 'poetic violence' of the game, or your understanding, which you say his self loathing.

    We see violence in nature, between animals. Violence appears to be physical chaos that is overpowering inside of the enviroment and onto the subject.

    Morehei Usheiba, the legendary founder of Aikido in the 20th century, who developed the first martial art based on NON violence, may have an interesting perspective on the matter which may assist you.

    Morehei's entire princaple for combat and budo (he was the undefeated martial art champion of Japan during WW2) was based on the realisation that the second someone attacks a human being, they have disengaged themselves from balance and harmony , and thus expose where they are weak in their movement. To attack someone, Morehei said, was the equivolent of 'attacking the universe' to solve the problem, which is quite irrational, since one cannot attack the universe nor defeat it. So every single technique in Aikido is designed to send the attacker back into a place of harmony without causing them in more harm in return. Thus, through many years of training, one learn how to turn the violent and chaotic motion of attack back into circular movement in harmony with universe and not disharmony....

    So, violence is physical chaos, and, to sum it up, when it is employed in problem solving, irrational.

    From another perspective of a similar nature, causing harm to another human being results when the human being is having a conflict of idea and wishes to harm the human being to defeat the idea that is in conflict. SInce human beings are not their ideas, this is irrational, since even if an opponent is killed, the offending idea still spreads..Thus, the desire for violence to solve a problem results when human being confuses ideas for people. (war on terrorism, anyone?)

    Hope this helps

  15. Jun 26, 2004 #14
    Moonrat, thanks for that and your reference to Aikido was most enlightening.

    Actually from a less informed position I have often watched as most persons have martial arts in action on TV or at the movies. Whilst I understand that this is just pop fiction in most cases, it tends to repeat the same "moral" every time and that being when a persons approach to the art becomes violent he looses every time.

    In fact the goading of the opponent is to attempt to enrage the target thus forcing an error due to his anger and irrationality.

    It usually means that the when the need for violence overwhelms his ability to articulate his art properly, he tends to over extend and looses control and balance thus exposing himself to defeat.

    His ability to control his movements and intention is lost, thus a rational oponent can clearly see what needs to be done to defeat that person.

    Moonrat, You obviously have more insight into this than I and I would enjoy your POV.

    "sport with violence is no longer sport"
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2004
  16. Jun 26, 2004 #15

    Les Sleeth

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    A good thread topic Scott. You might not appreciate my mundane respone however, but I have an opinion.

    First, I think we have to distinquish between types of violence (and I am excepting mental illness, including sociopaths). If one is, or is on the verge of, being attacked, then I would classify defending oneself violently to survive is a special case (for most people) and justified. Of course, even then it can't be that one purposely puts oneself in the position of being attacked. I mean unwanted, undeserved, unexpected violence on one's person. Also, when people are being so oppressed by those in power they can't live, fighting back has in the past served to help people escape that oppression.

    Then there is that violence intended to hurt others, which I think is the most prevalent type of violence. I have a theory about it which I will sum up as: the act of using violence on others to give one a psychological boost, or to maintain a psychological image one relies on to maintain a certain self image.

    There are several varieties of that. I remember watching a special on serial murders, and one of the case studies was about a tiny, skinny, near-retarded man who'd been socially mistreated all his life. He was in prison for the interview, and when asked why he shot so many people he said that when he pulled the trigger, and saw someone die at his hands, it gave him a thrill to feel so powerful. Of course the "high" was temporary, and so he had to do it again to get off.

    A less dramatic but still tragic example is the person who "dumps" his/her pain on others. Wife beaters do that, and so do child abusers. Police fed up with criminals will unleash. Possibly the most destructive type of this is what happens when a psychologically needy person gets power, like Napoleon or Stalin. They might fight for some just cause before they get the power, but after getting it can't help use it to exalt their sagging self image. Street gangs have this aspect . . . kick ass and boost one's ego.

    The last kind of violence seems to be that stemming from excessive selfishness, often in either depraved or desparate circumstances. Drug addicts, for example, might want someone's money, and their desire makes them unable to feel another's pain. They want what they want. I know of examples where someone was so hungry, they mugged people to get food. They figured the pain of mugging wasn't as bad as what they were enduring.
  17. Jun 26, 2004 #16
    So Les,
    you would agree if I stated that the most prevalent and obvious forms of violence would be associated with "Low Self-esteem" issues?

    The need to use violence as a way to acheive the illusion of self esteem. Illusion, because it is not sustainable and can be argued as ultimately counterproductive and unsuccessful.

    Illusion because to acheive true self esteem worth takes time and effort, not to mention a ton of soul searching.
    That a violent person is trying to achieve something with out doing the walk or the talk......

    Earlier Dissident Dan mentioned Germany and WWII.

    Germany embarked on a course of domination for the nations gain by using violent means. They took control of Europe by force and acheived an illusion of national "self esteem" ( the Third Reich ) and as with most violent acts the ability to sustain their gain was non existent.

    As Les has suggested oppression of persons with the use of violence invites a violent reaction in the form of rebelion or uprising. World domination in the form of benelovence is much more productive don't you think?

    I am confident that if the Japanese invaded (WWII) and sort to control Australia we as a people would eventually eradicate their control by violent means.

    ( Instead Japan and Germany are now dominating by economic means which is by far more acceptable due to the offer and acceptance market processes)

    The old method of world domination by violent force I think is a thing of the past. ( allthough maybe I should not speak so soon)

    Economic violence, information violence etc a more sublime form of violence is more the way these days. But this is an intricate detail to the topic.

    So can we add to the list of definitions:

    The Illusion of self esteem as suggested by Les?
    Do other posters agree?
  18. Jun 27, 2004 #17
    Scott, yes, I now see your point a little clearer, all violence, no matter what the cause or justification, is a need or desire to dominate a situation to one's will throught threat, fear, or muscular/physical intimidation, control.

    Our basics, which are survival, social, and sexual, all want to 'win' inside of their positions respectivly.

    I see your point, but 'self esteem' sometimes can be a bit confusing of a word for such a complex and passionate issue, no?

    I dont think a violent person identifies himself as having self esteem issues, he identifies with just having a problem, needing a solution, and finding out how to get it. Self esteem plays a role, for certain, but there are also objective criteria
  19. Jun 27, 2004 #18
    Moonrat I agree,

    This thread is more about OUR points and not just about MY points though.

    Moonrat would you care to expand on the objective causality or criteria for us.
    I am sure I and all the readers of this thread would be interested in all points of interest raised. Violence being such a complex issue and so ingrained into our psych.
  20. Jun 27, 2004 #19
    Quite valid IMO

    Do you think it is a good way to acheive control?

    Personally I find it a very costly ( energy) and inefficient way to control a situation. The amount of effort required to bend a situation to your will and maintain this state with the use of violence or the threat of such is huge compared to other methods.
  21. Jun 27, 2004 #20

    Les Sleeth

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    I have to agree with Moonrat a bit and say that because of the current use in psychology of the phrase "low self-esteem," it seems somewhat inadequate for generalizing the motivations behind violence. But I think you are on the right track. If I were to remain true to things I've said in the past, and if the goal is to come up with a single reason for inappropriate violence, I might explain it as follows:

    First I'd preface the explanation by talking about the practicality and morality of violence. I think natural reality works a certain way, and when we are in harmony with it, then things go smoothly; and when we are out of touch, things go rough. One of the rules of reality appears to be, and this is how I establish my personal morality, that you can do what you please as long as you cause no unnecessary harm. Violence (again, excepting self defense) is something that neither goes smoothly nor avoids unnecessary harm, so it is both impractical and immoral.

    Yet people are violent anyway in spite of the harm it causes themselves, others, and the environment we all must share. Why? There is a philosophical analogy used sometimes based on the idea that darkness doesn't really exist, but rather it is merely the absense of light. When the light of consciousness is bright and healthy, it tends to have beneficial effects on itself, others, and the environment. When it becomes darkened -- whether from childhood mistreatment or drugs or indulging in depravity or (________ fill in the blank) -- then that absense of light allows dark acts.

    If one were to define the bright, healthy consciousness as full self-experience, then rather than attributing violence to low self-esteem, I might rephrase it as due to lowered or depressed self-experience. That's why the cure for human problems is showing them how to more fully experience their consciousness potentials.
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