May 11

I spent a long time thinking about what to write for our first true On Violence post. Whether to write something clever on a topic obliquely related to my overall search, or write about the core of my beliefs about violence.

We’ll start at the beginning, with definitions. Search a textbook on philosophy or an anthology of philosophical writings and look for references to Violence. You will see concepts like force or the metaphysics of action, but rarely Violence. In most regards, Western Philosophy has all but ignored Violence since Plato. Violence exists as a variable in philosophical equations, but never as the equation itself.

Since Western Philosophy has not provided a definition of Violence, I proceed to the next logical step: Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. Webster’s Dictionary provides this gem:

vi-o-lence n. 1. swift and intense force: the violence of a storm. 2. rough or injurious physical force, action,    or treatment: to die by violence. 3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence. 4. a violent act or proceeding.

Even armed with these definitions, I still barely know what violence is or, more importantly, what it means to our society. As I read, re-read and ponder this definition, I see that I am probably trying to write about something between definitions two and three, with definition four simply a restatement. The second definition provides the key word that gets to the heart of violence, “injurious.” Violence causes pain, suffering or injury.

Definition three provides a key detail, but one that makes you slap your head in frustration as another philosophical can of worms is opened. Using “power” in an “unjust” fashion defines all sorts of violence in society, from the most obviously unjust to the grey areas. The unjust examples are clear: a man beating a child; a group of Southerners in the fifties lynching an African-American; the holocaust. But when does Violence become just? The U.S. invading Iraq or Al Qaeda bombing the World Trade Center both have proponents claiming the justice of their actions, depending on their definitions of justice and their differing points of view.

I will define Violence as both the second and third definitions. Violence at its rawest is the second definition; some action/treatment/behavior that causes pain/suffering/injury. This is violence as action. The third definition strikes at the philosophical definition we need though—the reason Violence strikes an emotional chord in humanity. It gives violence larger meaning; as a concept, it has philosophical weight. Because it is unjust, and unfair, violence is detestable.

May 08

Welcome to the end of the first week of our new website, On Violence. We don’t know how you found us, but we thank you for making it. We have a lot of ideas, a few answers, and even more questions. To end our first week we wanted to explain why a blog primarily about military and foreign affairs has a weekly article on art. The answer is simple: Violence is pervasive.

Violence seeps into almost every nook and cranny of every society, and has since the dawn of time. But Violence is also wrong. Even Violence that responds to Violence can still be morally, ethically wrong; it frequently backfires, is rarely selfless, it begets more Violence and those who live by the sword... so on and so on.

Every society explains itself through its art, through its tales and stories; stories that explain the world, stories that teach the young and old, stories that change minds. They always have, they always will. And since the beginning, these stories -- and art -- have dealt with Violence.

Violence. It is one of the great themes. Understanding Violence in art is another way of understanding the violence in the past and the violence of today. Perhaps, even, a way to change the face of it for the days of tomorrow.

May 06

Violence 

Violence.
Man abhors it.

Violence.
Society condones it

Violence.
Humanity perpetuates it.
  
Violence.
As if by not looking, somehow it will go away.

Violence.
An odd looking word if you stare at it for too long, as we have been creating this website.

Violence.
By violence, we mean killing and injury. War and crime. Injustice and injury. We will define it later but for now we mean all violence, in all of its horrific forms.

Violence, our subject.

...and an anecdote

My freshman year at UCLA, to fulfill a GRE requirement, I took the General Education Cluster: Life and the Cosmos. One guest lecturer, a physicist cum philosopher, questioned our class about causality, asking whether or not causation existed in our everyday lives. It boggled my mind that someone could even ask that question. Eric related an anecdote to me about a fellow student in one of his discussion sections in college. The student announced to the class that he had proven philosophically that he didn’t exist. Eric remarked how much easier non-existence would make paying rent.

We bring these examples up for one reason. While On Violence will discuss the metaphysics of Violence, we will not discuss the metaphysics of reality and of existence. We feel no need, at this time, to contribute to the debate over metaphysics but feel compelled to analyze violence, and its impact on our world.

The above anecdotes feature characters (truly, there isn’t a better word for them) who would discount the entire basis for this site. We will ignore metaphysics, and even deeper ethical questions -- at least in the beginning. We choose to ignore them and we presuppose reality’s existence. We feel silly for even having to add this caveat to the first post on our website.

Violence exists, and so does this site.