Is it possible to morally justify violence? - Ethics

Is it possible to morally justify violence?

The second difficulty, which we will consider, concerns the issue of the possibility of moral justification of violence. We talked a lot about evil, its essence and manifestations. How do we respond when we meet with him? What methods of struggle to elect? Obviously, the moral consciousness requires us to act so that we do not become like evil and do not cross the border, beyond which our resistance will cease to be carried out in the name of good. So far, in ethics, two ways of fighting have been put forward and theoretically justified: through violence and through non-violence. The first is much more ancient. In fact, throughout the history of mankind it was believed that a person, defending himself, has the right to use violence. In this regard, war was justified as protection against the enemy and punishment of criminals as protection of society from their destructive activity. In other words, even from the point of view of morals, the need to respond in certain cases with a blow to the blow was not questioned. Admittedly, we also believe that if we are attacked, we have the right to defend ourselves in all possible ways, including armed struggle. But does not morality require us to refuse to harm another person, even if it caused it to us?

In the history of ethics there were other teachings that considered violence an unacceptable form of human communication and defended nonviolence as the only correct relationship between people. In other words, morality and violence seem to be absolutely contradictory phenomena, and the moral boundary ends where violence begins. For the first time in European culture this thought appeared in the New Testament, where Christ in the Sermon on the Mount calls: ... Do not resist evil. But whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him and the other " (Matt., 5.39). Despite the fact that since then these ideas existed in culture as one of the sides of the religious ascetic tradition, thought out and theoretically grounded doctrine of philosophical ethics, they became only at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries. The leading thinkers of this tradition are the great United States writer and philosopher Tolstoy, the Indian preacher and public figure Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) and the American politician and philosopher Martin Luther King (1929- 1968).

But before we look at their arguments, we must answer the question: what is violence ? The answer here is far from obvious. In the literature there are two main points of view. The first, absolutist, divides the classical definition of Tolstoy: violence is any compulsion of the individual to do what he does not want to do. Accordingly, all kinds of organized violence and imperious coercion - the state, the army and the entire law enforcement system, she considers evil. The second position, denoted as moderate, or pragmatic, is inclined to regard as violence only its obvious forms, such as crime, aggression, war, etc. Within its framework, authoritative coercion is deemed justified, in particular the authority of parents over the child and the power of the state over citizens. They, undoubtedly, also are violence, but, firstly, the person's consent could be hypothetically obtained, and secondly, the state itself presents much more opportunities to refuse violence in comparison with pre-state forms of life. The first approach was held by the classics of Gandhi's theory of nonviolence and especially by Tolstoy, the second was closer to Kingu. In his talk about the theory of nonviolence, we will focus primarily on Tolstoy's views as the most revealing ones.

Why, from Tolstoy's point of view, violence is morally unacceptable? In addition to violating the most important commandments of morality: "Do not harm", the golden rule, the categorical imperative, it is contrary to human freedom. The one who has become the object of violence can not build life as he wishes in accordance with his moral position. Through violence, people are forced to do someone's, and his will. But why then prove the obvious? No one, in the name of morality, will say that violence is good. We know that in life we ​​must allow as little cruelty as possible. But the fact is that the ethics of nonviolence calls us to refuse violence in general, including not to respond aggressively to the attack. It's no accident that Tolstoy called his doctrine non-resistance to evil by force, the word nonviolence he did not use. This position does not seem so obvious, moreover, he did not have so many supporters. Let's try to understand his arguments, why the response violence is evil?

1. The response by blow to blow also generates reciprocal aggression and as a result the logic of confrontation becomes like blood vengeance, implying an endless chain of violence. To stop it, someone must first refuse to avenge, so is not it better to do it right away?

2. The answer through violence closes the possibility of dialogue; until we joined the confrontation, we have not yet lost the chance of a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

3. Responding by force to an attack, we are no better than the person who attacked us. We morally sanction the act of the aggressor and show ourselves no longer as an innocent victim, but as an aggressor.

4. Finally, Tolstoy's favorite argument sounded as follows. When we try to prevent an attack by force, we never know for sure whether the offender will commit the crime or not. Suppose he brought a knife over the victim, but would he strike a fatal blow? And here we are, shot him, just commit a crime. Indeed, a preventive blow is morally questionable by the fact that the measure of its adequacy to a possible evil is never known.

Those who argued with Tolstoy asked the following questions and received deeply thought out answers on them.

1. Do not you find brutal criminals in life who must be stopped by force? Perhaps, but why should I build my life in anticipation of meeting such a criminal? Perhaps, I will live a life and never with anyone similar will not converge, but if I suspect it in every counter, it turns out, I can attack him at any moment.

2. If it's an attack on me, then I'm ready to refuse an answer, but if the danger threatens my dear people? But after all, all wars began like this; ostensibly the enemy threatens our families, children and shrines, let's attack him and answer adequately. How often such logic became the cause of predatory wars!

3. And the last, seemingly most compelling objection. So: do we not fight crime and not defend the Motherland from the enemy? Tolstoy's answer is very radical, but it is worthwhile to understand. From his point of view, the criminal is an unhappy, sick person who is forced to do evil, because the society we built is unbearable for life. It turns out that we are all his accomplices and, therefore, it is permissible to use violence against ourselves. As for the defense of the Motherland, our great compatriot believes: no special "rhodium" a person can not be. His fatherland is the planet Earth, and all the people inhabiting it are his brothers and sisters. Imaginary national borders were invented by evil vicious people for their own benefit, and this fiction is not worth the horrors of war.

But what happens: Tolstoy calls on us to give up the fight against evil and look cowardly at his triumph? In no case. Proponents of nonviolence urge an active fight against evil, but only ... by refusing the pasilia, i.e. non-violent methods. As an illustration of this position, two statements by M. Gandhi are often quoted: If by non-violence we mean cowardice, it's better to fight and "in our struggle, perhaps the rivers of blood will leak, but these will be the rivers of our blood." The methods of nonviolent struggle are well known to all: strike, boycott, non-cooperation, etc. First, they are effective enough, because they can paralyze the work of entire industries, secondly, the enemy is not physically harmed in them and therefore it can be considered morally acceptable.

But that this struggle was also morally justified, it is required to observe several conditions, perfectly formulated by King.

1. Nonviolence is not a passive compromise with evil, but an active opposition. It is the path of strong people and calls for using all methods of struggle, except violence.

2. The wrestlers do not just refuse to use violence, but also humiliate the enemy. This is a very important principle, requiring this kind of resistance to the purity of motives. Otherwise, it can be assumed that non-violent methods of struggle can be used for evil, selfish purposes.

3. The attack is directed against the forces of evil more than against those people who had to do this evil.

4. The wrestlers are ready to courageously accept the blows of the enemy without answering them.

5. They also refuse not only to shoot at the enemy, but also to hate him. The center of nonviolence is the principle of love, so it is not enough to give up violence, we must also give up hatred.

6. The last requirement: it is necessary to believe that the whole world is on the side of non-violence and someday this glance will triumph.

The main moral-philosophical basis of nonviolence lies in the fact that they consider their struggle with evil not to be a confrontation, but an ethic of love. The logic of violence always comes from a simple position: there are we and they, ours and our enemies; the world is divided into two sides. But the point of view of nonviolence claims that there is no such division: people live in the same space, and we are also responsible for what is happening evil, and the villains threatening us are potentially capable of good. We should not divide the world into good and evil and, moreover, consider ourselves good. We should first of all eradicate the evil in ourselves by renouncing violence and hatred. Ultimately, advocates of nonviolence do not argue that their way of fighting is more effective. But he is more moral.

The ethics of nonviolence played a significant role in the general movement of humanism. It is impossible not to sympathize with her pathos of renouncing violence as an unacceptable form of communication. A world without violence would be ideal, and in it people could realize all their highest potentialities. Nevertheless, this theory found not a few critics. Basically, they did not agree with the moral depreciation of the heroic struggle against evil. In this connection, we are interested to consider the views of the United States philosopher Ivan Aleksandrovich Ilyin (1883-1954), who wrote a special book with a refutation of Tolstoyism "On the Resistance to Evil I Stand" (1925). In it, he sharpens the question: "Does a man who strives for moral perfection dare to resist evil by force and sword?" .

From the point of view of Ilyin, in the world there are different degrees of evil. Denunciation of the colleague's work and the genocide of entire nations are different phenomena. Accordingly, the force to stop them must be different. Ilyin believes that any manifestation of force can not be considered violence. Already in itself, the word violence has a clearly negative coloration, making this phenomenon akin to a crime. However, we must distinguish the evil power and the one who wants to stop the evil. This difference lies in the field of motives. The error of the theory of nonviolence lies in the fact that it evaluates all the varieties of a decisive action designed to stop aggression only from the impact on the attacker himself. It would be more correct to make a judgment on the basis of motive, for morality is not so much an external manifestation of an action, but as much as its internal, spiritual content.

From this point of view, violence is a criminal act, mercenary and cruel, degrading the one to whom it caused damage. It is quite another matter to protect people from such violence. Ilyin prefers to call this action "suppression." Of course, the retaliatory strike is all too early an act of aggression, and therefore violates the most important moral commandment "do no harm." But nevertheless it is impossible to put in one row a cruel, criminal act and the response of a brave person who saved other people from such an act. Illustrating this idea, Ilyin very sharply notes that only for the hypocrite or liar are equal in value George the Victorious and the dragon he killed, which symbolizes evil. The defense of one's own country, people, relatives is absolutely free from self-interest and therefore can not be considered immoral. The motive driving a selfless fighter against evil is completely different - self-sacrifice, the desire to save your fellow human beings. In this regard, Berdyaev very accurately noted that the faces of the soldiers do not bear the seal of the murderer, for they kill only for predatory war, and they die for a just war.

The position of the philosopher is not exhausted only by the emotional negation of Tolstoy's teachings. He critically analyzes the arguments of non-protesters, which we indicated earlier. To assert that the response by force to aggression generates an endless chain of violence is too much exaggeration. It is the decisive answer that often forces a criminal to abandon his plans. Moreover, it is impossible to consider the suppression of evil as revenge, which is carried out out of evil motives. It is also unfair to say that the confrontation closes the way to dialogue. Even war - this is one of the types of communication, where the parties somehow communicate with each other. The special rejection of Ilyin provokes Tolstoy's opinion that by retaliatory blow we morally sanction the act of the aggressor himself. He replies that, on the contrary, it is the disagreement with the crime, the discretion of his inhuman essence that forces the defender to oppose him and fight to the death, until the aggressor abandons his plans. If we accept Tolstoy's point of view, we can agree that a man who has thrown weapons out of the hands of a criminal moral sanction his intention to use this weapon. Finally, one can not seriously accept the argument that we do not know for certain whether an aggressor will commit an attack or not, but we, seeing a threat in it, will certainly commit a violent act. To this Ilyin answers: in such a situation, to care for one's moral purity, and not to think about saving the life of the victim, is immoral. In life there are paradoxical situations, when the violation of some moral requirements will raise a person to a greater moral height than a strict observance of them.

Nevertheless, according to Ilyin, force (weapons) in the fight against evil should be used only if the following conditions exist. First, we must have a real, not an imaginary evil; not a parody, not a disease, but a real will directed at deliberately harming people. Secondly, evil must be correctly perceived, that is, a person must decide to resist, not to conspire or to avoid a clash with evil. Third, a true love of good is needed, a pure moral motive that does not want the slightest victory of a destructive beginning. Fourth, we need a strong-willed impulse in the human soul, a belief that we must intervene and change the course of events. Finally, fifthly, physical exertion can be resorted to when there is obviously no other way out. If there is a desire, you can compare these principles with the six non-violent positions of the fight put forward by King.

Ilyin does not belittle the importance of nonviolent struggle and in this regard pays tribute to the philosophical genius of Tolstoy. But he believes that "demanding that" everyone always "resist evil by force or that" no one ever "resisted by the power of evil, it is meaningless". In some circumstances, by way of non-violence one can defend one's own and others' rights, in others such resistance will end with the death of those whose rights we decided to defend. There are situations where resisting evil through violence is not just justified, but morally necessary. Justifying this position, Ilyin asserts; To make a person's life genuine can only be the sacred things in his soul, which he calls "The Spiritual Kremlin." This is faith, Homeland, family, home, loved ones, loved ones people. Anyone who believes that they can all be sacrificed for the sake of the abstract principle of nonviolence can be anyone, but not a moral person.

Of course, as in the polemics around the lie, this dispute can be waged endlessly. Both great United States philosophers defended the absolute value of morality, so it is hardly possible to find a compromise between them. For Tolstoy, morality was reduced to the fulfillment of the commandment "do no harm", for Ilyin - to protect the absolute holy places. In this case, faced two images of ethics: normative and value.

On the one hand, Ilyin justified self-sacrifice, a heroic struggle, but on the other - Tolstoy showed us what devastating consequences the violence brings, even if it seems morally acceptable to us. In our opinion, it is fair to draw the same conclusion as in the previous paragraph. The undoubted existence of the heroic, sacrificial use of force in the name of saving people does not justify violence as such. After all, even Ilyin believed that you can resort to force only in a desperate situation and only as a last possible means.

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