spar31cSo, Alayna and I were arguing about fighting last night, and I don’t mean that we were arguing about arguing. We were arguing about professional fighting (such as the UFC) and whether or not it is legitimate/wise/acceptable/etc. Now, I am a martial artist and have been for a number of years, and as such I have a lot of respect for the martial arts and those who practice them. In many ways the martial arts are a form of expression and communication more than anything else. There is a bond formed with regular sparring partners (or Randori partners) that isn’t exactly like any other friendship that I’ve had. Honestly, for anyone who is a serious martial artist (and by this I mean the equivalent of black belt or higher), you probably have a fairly good idea what I mean. However, I’ve found that this is very difficult to explain, and I’m guessing that most people don’t really understand what I mean. I am not advocating for rampant violence, nor am I trying to glorify violence. Anyone who’s been in a couple of actual fights will tell you that they’re dirty, messy, painful, and generally not a good thing. However, any serious martial artist will also tell you that there is a huge difference between fighting off a group of muggers who are trying to rob or kill you and fighting another serious martial artist in a controlled setting. One is about survival and the other is about an expression of style and skill.

So, in Western philosophy there is a strong tradition of Just War theory. In brief Just War Theory argues that for a war to be just it must 1) be for a just cause, 2) be lawfully declared by a legitimate authority, 3) be of good intentions (i.e. defending the innocent), 4) be a last resort after other solutions have been tried, 5) have a reasonable possibility of achieving victory, 6) use proportional means, 7) be cognizant and cautious with civilian life, and 8) be carried out according to the rules of war.

In Eastern Philosophy theories of just war are… well, rare is probably putting it kindly. In fact, Mengzi – a foundational Confucian thinker – argues that there is no such thing as a just war while Sunzi – a foundational military theorist – argues that the best victory is the one achieved without fighting, the second best victory is to take capture the opponent’s lands, facilities, and populace intact, but an acceptable victory is to wipe out your opponent to a man… he kind of makes Machiavelli look like a pushover.

However, Eastern Martial Philosophy, especially some of the Japanese writers such as Yagyu Munenori, Miyamoto Musashi, or Takuan, have fairly strongly developed arguments concerning the positive influence of martial training and, in some cases, even combat. The argument here tends to run along the lines of seeing violence as a form of discipline, self-expression, and communication that is intended to create understanding and lead to peace, rather than being intended to simply destroy the opponent. Similarly, the martial art Aikido is well known for its emphasis on peaceful means of resolving conflict, and even in its martial aspect for pursuing a path that seeks to create submission without destruction. A mantra that my own instructor drilled into me was this: Don’t fight if you don’t have to. Don’t injure if you can hurt. Don’t maim if you can injure. Don’t kill if you can maim. If you must kill, kill quickly. The mindset that this seeks to create is that of resolving the conflict with as little damage as possible. The purpose is not to cause pain, but to reach an understanding. However, if pain must be caused in order for an understanding to be reached, it should be the minimum pain possible, with the greatest chance of full recovery possible.

So, here is your challenge today: write me a story of 1000 words that presents and defends your answer to the following question – Is violence necessarily evil, or can it be a positive force?

One thought on “Philosophy Story Challenge of the Week

  1. Great topic to write. I will try to write as I am very busy editing my novella ( on a pre order deadline on amazon). But I will take out time and write on this topic…

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