Monday, March 14, 2011

Under What Circumstances: #1

Is it acceptable to punch someone violently?

I'm not asking if it would be legal, I'm asking if there's a circumstance that would make it moral, or even obligatory, civil law aside. Note that the qualifier of violently is added to ensure we are not speaking of merely jovial and fraternal punches, which are a trivial case to my mind.

Let's play "construct the example" here. I'm not trying to argue for a non-Catholic ethic, and "punching people is intrinsically immoral" is an option, but I'm going to want a defense of that.


Kev Johnston said...

Is defending a woman's honor transferred self-defense?

M.A. Schmitz said...

Oooo...and we'll get to see the acceptability of St. Nicholas' actions towards Arius!

Nathan Strong said...

There is no qualifier on your question, so I will explore it from a few different perspectives.

The default answer is, "no." That is, it is generally not acceptable to go around violently punching people just because you feel like doing so.

However, I will be first to point out the most obvious case when violence is a moral action: when someone else is using similar violence against you. "Don't hit first, but hit second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth."

A violent punch--and violence in general--is often an act of establishing dominance (in the social science sense). It is conceivable that circumstances could arise that made establishing dominance a literal life-or-death battle, and so such violence could be justified in that situation. Modern civilization has eliminated many (not all) circumstances where this would apply, however.

Finally, a violent punch could be considered morally justified if, in doing so, you do a greater good. Say, someone is going to get shot after school so you purposefully get into a fight with them so they go to detention and get picked up by their parents. Or tackling someone who is being targeted by a sniper instead of taking the time to explain the danger to them. It's a stretch (I have difficulty coming up with scenarios that don't involve time travel or Jack Bauer), but not implausible.

Dan Lower / KKairos said...

I think since Mike and Kev brought up heretic-slapping and defense of honor they should attempt to answer those.

My most obvious exception is self-defense of a third person.

L-Po said...

Answer: No.
Defense: Because.
Further defense: Because I'm your mother, that's why.

called 2 shepherd said...

Lol, Love your mom SO much =)

My 2-cents:
Not in principle for much the reason Nathan brought up- violence is usually a product of pride or striving for dominance over another human being, in which case humility should rule.

As to self-defense, it shouldn't be along the lines of only being sure of not initiating the violence since we are to turn the other cheek, so it's more like hitting third. Self defense should only go to the point in which one wishes to preserve their well being, NOT to maintain equality but to preserve health or life if you don't feel called lay either/or down in humility.

Defense of a third person moves into compassion and has a whole other mindset from intentional violence, but can also be wrong if done for rescuer's pride.

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