In the non-initiation of force rule, what constitutes force from gentle actions? If I tap you on the shoulder to get your attention, is that force?
And is direct physical force the only force referred to? Does psychological, political, fincancial or otherwise manipulation constitute a force not to initiate?
And is retaliation allowed? And what level of force is allowed? Do you make them your enemy and not blink to initiate force on future encounters? Or does the aggressor receive forgiveness eventually? When?
When you take someone else's life, or his control of his life, into your own hands, that is physical force. I'm not sure I'd call this a definition of physical force, but I might. If you stop a person from living his life -- when you take control of his life -- that is physical force.
Physical force is understood by ostensive definition (and perhaps painfully). If you've ever been punched, or physically harmed (against your will -- we aren't talking about being cut for the sake of surgery) by another person, you know an example of physical force. If you've been defrauded, or had your property stolen, you know another example. If you've ever had a gun (which you had every reason to believe was loaded) pointed at you, you know another example. If you've ever been locked in a closet against your will, or tied up against your will, you know another example.
As for indirect force, fraud, i.e. misrepresentation in trade, is a form of it. As well, lots of forms of physical force do not require physical contact, but instead involve the credible threat of physical harm.
"Does psychological, political, fincancial or otherwise manipulation constitute a force not to initiate?"
Psychological manipulation (a term which requires some extensive clarification) is not a form of physical force. Mere lying (which is more direct than psychological manipulation) is not physical force. Lying about terms offered in trade is.
"Financial manipulation" is force only if it means fraud.
"Manipulation" as such is a vague term. Some forms of it might constitute fraud (and therefore force), but most are probably not force.
Regarding retaliation: it is a form of self-defense. The principle I hold is that each individual has a right not to have his life threatened. Each person has a right to use the minimum amount of force, in self-defense, which will certainly eliminate a threat to his life, in the context of the actual threat.
So, if you are a small woman with a gun, and you are attacked by a big man who is unarmed, you have a right to shoot the man, perhaps lethally, to mitigate the threat -- because for you to fight him bare-fisted would not certainly protect you.
When you are protecting your life, the last thing you should be thinking about is whether you should eventually forgive your aggressor. Whether you forgive him is his problem.
The issue of the proper response to physical force does not involve fear of making enemies. If you fear making an enemy by means of your retaliation, that means you seriously contemplate appeasing your aggressor. To appease your aggressor is to accept an injustice, and the result of doing that is to embolden your aggressor, causing yourself more future problems, not fewer.
A passive response to aggression does not melt an evil will.
answered Dec 30 '11 at 16:51
John Paquette ♦
In addition to John's excellent answer, consider this angle. To understand the non-initiation-of-force principle, one must keep in mind the context from which it arose. Rand first recognized that rationality is Man's primary virtue and that exercising one's rational faculty is Man's only means of living. Rand recognized as a moral principle that it is good for people to be free to use their rational faculty to further their lives and that it is bad for people to be prevented from doing so.
She then looked out at the world and identified ways that people might be prevented from using their rational faculty to further their lives. From these diverse facts she formed, via induction, the generalization that is the non-initiation-of-force principle. She noted that all the instances of people being prevented from using their rational faculty to further their lives had something in common: the direct or indirect initiation of physical force against that person. She noted that force paralyzes Man's rational faculty:
Ayn Rand, Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, p. 133.
Thus the meaning of "force" as used in the non-initiation-of-force principle is not necessarily the same as the meaning of "force" as used in physics. "Force" as used in the principle may include instances of indirect force like fraud (i.e., not force in the physics sense), and may exclude some instances of applying force in the physics sense like a hand-shake. The core meaning of the concept is clear---hitting, shooting, stabbing, etc. As one moves toward the borderline of the concept, keeping the context in mind can help determine which side of the border the case falls on. The essential question to be asked is "would this action negate Man's ability to use his rational faculty?" Asking this question can help clear up some of the border-line cases that exist.
For example, consider an embrace between lovers---force is applied by each to the other. Is that a rights violation? What is the difference between an embrace and battery/sexual assault? To answer this, consider the question noted above---would the action negate the mind? In the case of lovers, clearly not, but in the case of a rapist it clearly would. You can consider other examples, and as you do you will see another pattern appearing: application of physical force in the physics sense of the word is not an initiation of force in the rights-violating sense of the word if the object of the force has consented to the force.
This sub-principle of consent can also help clear up your question about a tap on the shoulder. In our society there is a default assumption that such contact is consented to unless one explicitly makes known otherwise. This "implicit consent" operates around us all the time. When you get on the subway you will get jostled around by dozens of people, but none of those people have battered you because you have implicitly consented to such incidental contact by riding the subway where such contact is unavoidable. One is always free to revoke this implicit consent explicitly (although in the case of the subway, one might have to avoid riding it to do so). Such narrow applications of the principle are worked out by the specialized field of the law.
As for psychological, political, financial, or other manipulations, one can similarly examine them by asking whether they negate Man's ability to use his rational faculty. On a first look, they share some of the characteristics of the core meaning of force. In each of these cases one presents a person with a choice between something they do not want to have happen and compliance. However, there is an important difference: the thing threatened is of a different kind than that threatened by physical force. With physical force the threat literally negates the mind because the victim's alternatives are death or compliance. Because death is obviously unacceptable, one really has no choice but to comply (i.e., suspend one's rational judgment). The alternatives presented with psychological, political, financial, or other manipulations do not rise to the same level---they may be undesirable, but they are not irresistible.
No, a tap is not "force."
Force is: harm to your body or property, or the threat of such harm.
Property is included because you require property to live -- so a threat to your property is effectively a threat against your life.
Psychological "manipulation" should be considered force if it prevents you from functioning in a complete and healthy way. As such, it would become a form of bodily harm.
Political and financial "manipulation" usually comes down to fraud, which is basically deception for the purpose of profit -- which is ultimately a form of damage or threat to your property, and so would be considered force.
Retaliation is allowed in the heat of the moment, at a level high enough to make the offending party stop hurting you. If someone punches you and runs away, it's not allowable to hunt them down and kill them. If someone is standing next to you threatening you with a weapon, then a lethal response is entirely appropriate.
Retaliation outside of the heat of the moment is one of the things that we should delegate to government. That's effectively what government does when they protect our individual rights.
If someone were to hurt me, I might be able to trust them at some future stage (or at least not cringe in their presence), but it would be highly dependent on the circumstances, the nature of my relationship with the person (if any), and many other factors. My attitude is that someone who lies or initiates force against others generally does so due to having a faulty philosophical foundation, so unless that foundation changes, I have no reason to believe their future behavior will be materially different than their past behavior, and I would treat them accordingly.
answered Jan 07 '12 at 10:29