September 28, 2018


Morality and Violence

Plan for today

  1. Recap
  2. Violence has moral motivations
  • what does this mean?
  • kinds of moral motivations
  • purpose of violence



Patterns of Violence

  1. Defined violence
  2. Patterns of violence
  3. Targeting and Technique

Moral Violence

Much violence is "moral"

Defining "moral"

morally motivated:

person doing the violence (perpetrator) subjectively evaluates their violence is right (that it ought to be done)


evaluation of actions, motives, and intention as a realization of an ideal model of how people should relate

  • (evaluation can be done from many perspectives, not just perpetrator)

Virtuous Violence

Relational Models Theory: psychological theory, from the perspective of perpetrators:

people often judge that to constitute or regulate crucial relationships they are morally required to hurt or kill another person

Relational Models Theory

Four varieties of moral relationships; focus on two

1. Communal Sharing/unity:

relationship with people in the same group as undifferentiated and equivalent

  • shared responsibility and fate
  • threat to one is a threat to all; crime of one is a crime by all
  • connection to essentialism, social identity

Relational Models Theory

2. Authority Ranking/hierarchy

rank individuals in a hierarchical relationship

  • subordinates are to respect/obey/defer to superiors
  • asymmetrical relationships are natural, good, legitimate, necessary
  • connection to social identity theory, status, ranked systems

Relational Models Theory

3. Equality matching

attend to differences in order to balance relationships

  • seek out equality between people, groups, etc.
  • reciprocity (eye for an eye; you paid last time)

4. Market pricing

rates and ratios to compare non-identical goods/actions

  • Proportionality… punishment in prison proportional to crime, not eye for an eye

Relational Models Theory

Violence is used to regulate at least one or more of these moral relationships with the victim and others

Relational Models Theory

Violence can…

  • create moral relationships
  • enhance or transform relationships
  • protect relationships
  • redress/rectify relationships

Why use violence?

  • Violence gets people's attention
  • Shows that the stakes are high
    • stronger/more important relationships
    • entire relationship is at stake, not simply its practice

Key insights: Cultural Context

Why do we often see violence as immoral?

Who evaluates actions as moral?

Key insights: Audiences

Why does violence have many possible audiences?

Aimed at modulating many relationships

An Exercise

Apply to Charlottesville Riot

  1. Who are different perpetrators?
  2. For perpetrators: which moral relationships are they regulating
  3. and with whom are these relationships (who are the audiences)?