I got the idea to host this topic here because I'm heavily thinking of starting a Youtube channel tackling the issue of self-defense from a legal perspective, and so I figured here would be a good place to discuss it from a philosophical perspective.
So, the base question of this topic is this: When, if ever, is an individual justified in committing violence (and to what extent) in the name of self-defense?
There are a couple of obvious baseline positions one could adopt, so I'll outline them here. Obviously, these positions I'm outlining are merely archetypal examples; very few people would fit neatly and exactly into the position I'll be describing, and there is a lot of nuance and internal variance in reality. That said, some baseline positions are:
Pacifism - An absolute pacifist would hold that an individual is never justified in using violence, even in self-defense. To a pacifist of this extreme variety, the only legitimate forms of resistance are passive forms of resistance. You may not harm someone to protect another. However, you may stand in between an attacker and victim, forcing the attacker to literally go through you first. Less extreme forms of pacifism would limit the prohibition to the use of lethal force, claiming that an individual is never justified in using lethal force against anyone else, even in self-defense, but is justified in responding to aggression with non-lethal forms of violent resistance. Philosophically, pacifistic positions tend to derive ethically from deontological takes on ethics, or from very rigid forms of virtue ethics (or even utilitarianism).
Martialism - This next position I'm outlining doesn't, to my knowledge, have a very widely-accepted name, so I'm going with the name I've heard for it that I like the most. Unlike the pacifist, the martialist views the application of force, even lethal force, to be legitimate as a means to defend oneself, to defend others, or to protect one's rights or prevent injustices. The martialist would view the pacifist's position as naive (or at least the extreme pacifist's position), and insist that the existence of any form of right and wrong necessitates judgement, and judgement implies enforcement. The martialist would not, however, insist that the use of violence to advance one's interests absent an external aggressor is in any way legitimate. Philosophically, martialist positions would be derived from utilitarian, natural law, or virtue takes on ethics.
Pre-Emptivism - This position is also one that doesn't, as far as I'm aware, have a widely accepted name. A pre-emptivist would claim that the use of force is legitimate not only in response to, but also pre-emptively of a threat to one's person or that of another. A form of this (whether those espousing it will acknowledge it or not) is the present-day trend of "punching Nazis." Why wait for the Nazis to do something violent? Just punch them before they can! (Of course, those who promote this kind of thing will usually try to make some kind of argument that the "Nazis" in question were actually the instigators because the speech acts of the "Nazis" count as violence or something like that.) This kind of thing is also fairly prominent on the international stage, although that gets away from individual self-defense and more into Just War Theory and debates there surrounding. This kind of position could be philosophically derived from a position of utilitarianism, natural law, or nihilism.
So yeah, those are three "baseline" positions on this issue, but of course there is a lot of variance and nuance among and between these positions, as well as entirely distinct positions that I will make no attempt to exhaustively account for.
So then, let's have at it, shall we? Where do you all fall on this issue, and why?
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