Sunday, December 28, 2014

the moral side of violence?

physorg |   Fiske and Rai say that — aside from a small number of psychopaths — people rarely commit violent acts with evil intentions.

To the extent that their heinous behavior can be understood, murders, wife beaters, gang bangers and other violent criminals are acting out of a breakdown of morals, right? Not so fast, say social scientists from UCLA and Northwestern University.

In a new book, Alan Page Fiske and Tage Shakti Rai ascribe most acts of to a truly surprising impulse: the desire to do the right thing.

"When someone does something to hurt themselves or other people, or to kill somebody, they usually do so because they think they have to," explained Fiske, a UCLA professor of anthropology and lead author of "Virtuous Violence," which is being published Jan. 15 by Cambridge University Press. "They think they should do it, that it's the right thing to do, that they ought to do it and that it's morally necessary."

Co-author Rai said killings and physical attacks are often committed in retribution for wrongs—real or perceived—or as an effort to teach lessons and instill obedience or, amazingly, an attempt to rectify a relationship that in the 's mind has gone awry and cannot be corrected in any other way.

"We're not talking just about the way perpetrators excuse or justify their behavior afterwards," said Rai, Fiske's former graduate student at UCLA and now a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. "We're talking about what motivates them to do it in the first place.
"When we say that violence is morally motivated, we mean that it is so in the mind of the perpetrator. We don't mean that we think that violence is good."