1. Education

Discuss in my forum

Philosophical Quotes on Violence

By

What is violence? And, accordingly, how should non-violence be understood? While I have written a number of articles on these and related topics, it is useful to look at how philosophers have synthesized their views on violence. Here is a selection of quotes, sorted out into topics.

Voices on Violence
Frantz Fanon: "Violence is man re-creating himself."

George Orwell: "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

Thomas Hobbes: "In the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death. And the cause of this is not always that a man hopes for a more intensive delight than he has already attained to, or that he cannot be content with a moderate power, but because he cannot assure the power and means to live well, which he hath present, without the acquisition of more."

Niccolò Machiavelli: "Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge."

Niccolò Machiavelli: "I say that every prince must desire to be considered merciful and not cruel. He must, however, take care not to misuse this mercifulness. […] A prince, therefore, must not mind incurring the charge of cruelty for the purpose of keeping his subjects united and confident; for, with a very few examples, he will be more merciful than those who, from excess of tenderness, allow disorders to arise, from whence spring murders and rapine; for these as a rule injure the whole community, while the executions carried out by the prince injure only one individual […] From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved more than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be wanting."

Against Violence
Martin Luther Kind Jr.: "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Albert Einstein: "Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business."

Fenner Brockway: "I had long put on one side the purist pacifist view that one should have nothing to do with a social revolution if any violence were involved... Nevertheless, the conviction remained in my mind that any revolution would fail to establish freedom and fraternity in proportion to its use of violence, that the use of violence inevitably brought in its train domination, repression, cruelty."

Isaac Asimov: "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.