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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

23 - How do we end violence?


Empirically, as we have seen in chapter after chapter, the objective fact is that people are sometimes morally motivated to harm or kill. Sometimes people feel that to be good, to be just, to be honorable, to do their duty, they have to hurt someone. Morality consists of regulating social relationships (Rai and Fiske, 2011, 2012), and the inductively assembled evidence shows that sometimes moral motives impel people to regulate critical relationships violently. This reveals how profoundly important social relationships are: people will sometimes kill or die to make their relationships right. People’s relationships sometimes are more important to them than their bodies or their very lives, and sometimes to make their relationships right, people sacrifice the bodies or the lives of their spouses, children, friends, neighbors, or others.

Thus, the essential message of virtuous violence theory is that we cannot attribute most violence to the “breakdown” of morals, or to individualistic rational actors amorally maximizing their personal asocial utility functions. The obverse message is that we cannot equate morality with just gentleness, compassion, caring, or harm-avoidance: there are moralities that impel to violence. Meritorious performance of one’s moral duty may consist of kindness or killing.

From these facts there are three conclusions that we cannot draw. These facts do not imply that a person cannot help but constitute relationships violently.