The Initiation of Physical Force as Evil

An excerpt from chapter 8 on Virtue from Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff.

Having covered the major virtues, I want to complete the present discussion by turning to a widespread vice: the initiation of physical force against other men. This vice represents the antithesis and destruction of the virtue of rationality—and therefore of every other virtue and every (nonautomatic) value as well.

To refrain from force is not necessarily a mark of good character. One can be thoroughly evil, yet recoil from wielding a fist or club oneself (e.g., the coward who tries to destroy others by psychological or ideological, not physical, means). But to initiate force is to commit a major evil. In the long run, this evil is an inevitable result of irrationality.

Physical force is coercion exercised by physical agency, such as, among many other examples, by punching a man in the face, incarcerating him, shooting him, or seizing his property. “Initiation” means starting the use of force against an innocent individual(s), one who has not himself started its use against others.

Since men do not automatically come to the same conclusions, no code of ethics can escape the present issue. The moralist has to tell men how to act when they disagree (assuming they do not simply go their separate ways). In essence, there are only two viewpoints on this issue, because there are only two basic methods by which one can deal with a dispute. The methods are …

Read the rest in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

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