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DOI 10.12887/27-2014-2-106-11

Wilfried VER EECKE – Law, Morality, and Society: Reflections on Violence (trans. D. Chabrajska)

The author holds that the fundamental psychological structure of a human being explains why humans are capable of violent acts, and subsequently points to ways in which the scale of such acts may be at least limited. Against this backdrop the author distinguishes acts of rebellion which need to be unconditionally condemned and those that might be only deplored, just as moralists in the past used to deplore just wars without being able to condemn them.

The author perceives the roots of violence in the Oedipus complex and explains that overcoming this complex involves learning the law of life, which in order to be tolerable, must have next to its negative side, a positive one: it must guarantee that the basic human need, recognition, is better attained through it. The parents teach and have to teach the law of life to their children, but they have to provide at the same time a viable model to accept this law, so that the child can accept the harsh law of life without losing her trust and love of life. While revolutions and rebellions are an attempt to keep the law of life by attacking the law of society, almost all revolutions are based on utopian ideals which promote the return to the repressed, releasing resistance, hate and despair against any law, also the law of life, and which thus make everybody pay a terrible price: the ultimate way to restore the law of life is then dictatorship. As it has been pointed out by Hegel, it is difficult to defend this kind of revolution on moral grounds. Still, insofar as the rebellion or resistance is peaceful or innocent, and guarantees reform, it is extremely healthy for society and may be called moral. A philosopher can only try to understand the painful necessity of violence to force needed change, without being able to approve or condemn this violence.

Summarized by Dorota Chabrajska

Keywords: violence, society, law of life, Oedipus complex, autonomy, reform, rebellion, revolution, Hegel, utopias, just wars

Department of Philosophy, Georgetown University, 3700 O St NW, Washington, D.C., 20057, USA
E-mail: vereeckw@georgetown.edu
Phone: +1 202 6877613

  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 20.00
  3. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  4. DOI Prefix 10.12887