Is Violence Toward Oneself or Others Ever Justified?

Topics: Violence, Black people, Morality Pages: 4 (1333 words) Published: November 30, 2005
Violence, or intentional harm towards another sentient being, is and always has been an unfortunate byproduct of human existence. It is so blindly accepted that oftentimes those who openly oppose or resist violent means (pacifists, non violent protesters, etc.) are ridiculed, belittled and even deemed traitors to their friends, families or countries. The nonviolent are taken advantage of because they hold themselves to a different standard of morality, one less instinctual and more intellectual than that of their counterparts. Violent acts are a result of the gap between moral reasoning and impulsive reactions – in other words, a means used by individuals seeking immediate gratification rather than a long-term solution. There is only one situation in which violence is justifiable: when one is defending his or her own life. Otherwise, intended harm towards others or one's self is immoral and inexcusable.

In Moral Literacy: Or how to do the right thing, Colin McGinn argues that any harm dealt to a sentient being without provocation is immoral. Thus, it is morally acceptable to retaliate against violence so long as one refrains from "stepping it up a notch" or inflicting more in return than was initially dispensed. Violent acts in the form of self-defense are wholly acceptable as they allow the weak or passive peoples of the world to survive. The author also contends that suicide is a morally defendable action because each person has or should have the freedom to do to their bodies as they see fit.

While McGinn allows for violence in the instance that one is provoked, I cannot endorse this argument. His ideal of "fair retaliation", or keeping all insults and comebacks on the same level, is unreasonable. Such fair or thought out reactions rarely occur because people would rather avenge wounded prides than respond rationally. When provoked, most people instinctively fight back with extra tenacity. This is not done to level the playing field in an honorable way...
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