REASON, MORALITY & VIOLENCE
philosophy • 07.10.06
It's astonishing the huge amount of resource that human beings have spent in trying to destroy each other. The carnage and suffering caused are vast. The emotional toll is incalculable due to the activities of such violent creatures. Yet they don't think of themselves as violent at heart. They are essentially peace-loving they say. They are moral. Sanctioned violence is engaged reluctantly as a act of principle on reasoned grounds. It is done based on elevated notions of moral imperatives and justice.
This is palpable nonsense. It may occasionally be the case but in general I doubt it. I think these acts are animal behaviour like all the other creatures that are steeped in the raw brutality of nature with its lack of reason and any sense of morality. For me this is the hub. Are humans just as much a part of nature as anything else? Does their capacity for reason and the possibility of genuine morality exist in any significant way?
If reason and morality are genuine then the wanton destruction caused by wars and conflict, whether that be at the level of tribes and nations or simply person to person, are examples of madness, of something gone terribly wrong, something damaged and wasted like a faulty machine that doesn't perform its proper function. In some respects this perspective could have positive import. What is broken can potentially be fixed. There is a possibility of emancipation. If on the other hand with violence humans are just acting in accordance with their nature, something they can't much change, then the prognosis is not so good. War, violence and conflict would then be part of the natural order, peace hanging by a thread, civilisation only a hair's breadth away from collapse.
An either/or analysis is never that enlightening. The truth, whatever it might be, is complex. Humans do have capacity for reason and do employ something called morality however that might be defined. Can that limited capacity suffice to reign in the beast with its messy primal character in order to, at some point, allow for a united civilisation? This would mean uniting against the often hostile elemental forces of nature and not, as has so often historically been the case, against each other thus making the already tough job of survival tougher still. That is a big question.
it's astonishing the huge amount of resource that
human beings have spent trying to destroy each other