The Morality of Revenge

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Ethics
  3. » The Morality of Revenge

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

hue-man
 
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 08:25 pm
When, if ever, is revenge morally justified? Please explain why or why not in your response?
 
salima
 
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 09:43 pm
@hue-man,
i dont believe revenge is ever morally justified under any circumstances. it serves no purpose other than to gratify personal feelings that are negative. it generates more violence thereby propagating what it might purport to prevent.

i believe it was suggested in judaic and islamic scriptures to be meted out in equal measure, an eye for an eye, as an alternative to the way revenge was being carried out historically. even then in the qur'an it points out that restraint would be better. when one family would exterminate another for the crime of an individual, the tribe of the murdered family would take revenge on an entire tribe, and there was no end to it, no hope of resolving the issue. it was cited as a means of introducing a system of ethics that would evolve over time , in my opinion.
 
richrf
 
Reply Fri 14 Aug, 2009 10:24 pm
@salima,
Hi Hue-man

Heck, almost everyone knows has chanced revenge sometime in their life. . Sometimes lots of times in their life. It is an emotion that is part of us, and I don't try to suppress it or even hide it. Now, I don't go overboard, but I don't deny what is a natural aspect of human nature. I am aware and accept my dark side. My girlfriend is reading the Count of Monte Cristo right now. She use to be the champion of that revenge stuff. Very subtle mind you - and sometimes not to subtle.

This is the problem. Once you have your taste of revenge, what normally happens is that the other person seeks revenge. And it spirals - sometimes out of control. It is tough to stop the cycle once it starts. So, sooner or later, people learn (most of the time), that revenge ain't where you want to go. Too many headaches. Just walk away from it. But normally you only come to this after trying it out a bit.

Rich
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 09:55 am
@hue-man,
I heard once, a fantastic saying that was - at the time - attributed to native American culture. It said, "Before setting out to get revenge, before departing, dig two graves"
 
deepthot
 
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 02:38 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;83358 wrote:
When, if ever, is revenge morally justified? Please explain why or why not in your response?



Welcome back, hue-man!

Did you happen to read http://www.philosophyforum.com/philosophy-forums/branches-philosophy/ethics/4735-essence-justice.html
where I defined the term "revenge" as "the transposed value of justice".
I explained that transposed value means confused - or incoherent - value. Revenge is worth only a tiny fraction of value. (This conclusion follows from the rational assignment of the basic dimensions of value to this category, to the concept 'justice'. Each dimension has its own measure.)

The kind of justice that is highly worthy - i.e., give us back a lot of value in our lives - is the kind that results in rehabilitation, reconciliation, and redemption. {We may speak of them as "the 3 Rs."}

At that site I defined "justice." Revenge is only one type of justice, a very chep, stupid, and narrow species of justice. Why would anyone who had any intelligence settle for that when s/he could have one of the "three Rs" instead?
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 05:00 pm
@deepthot,
Let's say that someone rapes and murders little children. The rapist goes to jail and a fellow prisoner murders him for his crimes. There are no retaliation killings for the murder of this killer, and the families of the children are happy that the rapist is dead. What's morally wrong with this scenario?
 
richrf
 
Reply Sat 15 Aug, 2009 05:31 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;83495 wrote:
Let's say that someone rapes and murders little children. The rapist goes to jail and a fellow prisoner murders him for his crimes. There are no retaliation killings for the murder of this killer, and the families of the children are happy that the rapist is dead. What's morally wrong with this scenario?


Very often it is discovered that the wrong man is convicted of crimes. In teh U.S. there is a bias against the poor and against minorities. In this case, an innocent many may have been brutally killed. Maybe time for someone else to take revenge for the revenge?

Rich
 
hue-man
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 10:59 am
@richrf,
richrf;83500 wrote:
Very often it is discovered that the wrong man is convicted of crimes. In teh U.S. there is a bias against the poor and against minorities. In this case, an innocent many may have been brutally killed. Maybe time for someone else to take revenge for the revenge?

Rich


OK, let's say that there is evidence that leaves no shadow of a doubt that the man accused is the child rapist/murder. What's wrong with that scenario?
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 11:27 am
@hue-man,
hue-man;83781 wrote:
OK, let's say that there is evidence that leaves no shadow of a doubt that the man accused is the child rapist/murder. What's wrong with that scenario?


Most people on death row are convicted based upon the above scenario. The problem is that humans see what they want to see, and they can convince each other of that. There is simply no way to divorce actions from the subjective judgments that created these actions. There is always doubt. I don't know how many people have been legally murdered/executed based upon the judgment of people who were sure beyond a shadow of the doubt.

Rich
 
captpicard12
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 12:42 pm
@hue-man,
In my opinion it depends on the broader definition of morals. Are morals those key values that define what the human civilization considers good, something that must be strived for and cultivated? Or are morals those traits born within humans, which each of us has if they only choose to use them? Although I personally think that humankind is inherently good, I think a lust for revenge still exists inside of each of us, built in. And within my definition of morals as striving to take the inherent good in each of us and build it up to a set of personal goals, I think that giving into revenge is going a step back in your morality. I think it is immoral, but there is much basis for others to not agree with me.
 
salima
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 05:18 pm
@hue-man,
revenge is usually defined as retaliation for a hurt done to one's self or family. the prisoner in this scenario i assume is not related to any of the victims, so why would he even be interested in revenge? i know these things happen, but revenge is not the motive-it is more likely the prisoner is placing himself above society as a judge, which is funny assuming he has been judged. his motives must be immoral, there is no reason for him to intervene in the situation other than a sense of arrogance and self righteousness that really displays no interest in the actual situation.

murder is still an act of violence, and some societies have set rules for capital punishment which they do not believe to be immoral. the prisoner in question here is breaking all the rules.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 07:06 pm
@salima,
salima;83877 wrote:
revenge is usually defined as retaliation for a hurt done to one's self or family. the prisoner in this scenario i assume is not related to any of the victims, so why would he even be interested in revenge? i know these things happen, but revenge is not the motive-it is more likely the prisoner is placing himself above society as a judge, which is funny assuming he has been judged. his motives must be immoral, there is no reason for him to intervene in the situation other than a sense of arrogance and self righteousness that really displays no interest in the actual situation.

murder is still an act of violence, and some societies have set rules for capital punishment which they do not believe to be immoral. the prisoner in question here is breaking all the rules.


I see here an attempt to avoid the problem. Revenge is simply a retaliation for a previous injustice. We can question the other prisoner's motives all that we want, but it is revenge nonetheless. He is retaliating against the child rapist/murderer for raping and murdering children.

So that we can face this problem head on, I'm going to add a personal factor to the prisoners act of revenge. The prisoner was beaten and raped as a child, or the prisoner is related to one of the victims. Once again, what is wrong with this scenario?

---------- Post added 08-17-2009 at 09:08 PM ----------

richrf;83790 wrote:
Most people on death row are convicted based upon the above scenario. The problem is that humans see what they want to see, and they can convince each other of that. There is simply no way to divorce actions from the subjective judgments that created these actions. There is always doubt. I don't know how many people have been legally murdered/executed based upon the judgment of people who were sure beyond a shadow of the doubt.

Rich


OK fine . . . the guy videotaped himself raping and murdering the children. Now what?
 
salima
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 07:19 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;83891 wrote:
I see here an attempt to avoid the problem. Revenge is simply a retaliation for a previous injustice. We can question the other prisoner's motives all that we want, but it is revenge nonetheless. He is retaliating against the child rapist/murderer for raping and murdering children.

So that we can face this problem head on, I'm going to add a personal factor to the prisoners act of revenge. The prisoner was beaten and raped as a child, or the prisoner is related to one of the victims. Once again, what is wrong with this scenario?

---------- Post added 08-17-2009 at 09:08 PM ----------



OK fine . . . the guy videotaped himself raping and murdering the children. Now what?


Laughing

this reminds me of my go-round with xris on torture!

no, i am not trying to avoid the issue or the question. i absolutely and unequivocally do not believe that revenge or retaliation is ethical under any circumstances whatsoever. it is understandable and even forgivable but not ethical, not justifiable, not rational. (oops-now you may say i am trying to weasel out of this somehow) delete that last sentence if you want.

revenge/retaliation is self gratification stimulated by negative emotions. it contains an element of arrogance. it is an ego based action. this is the best i can come up with.

i wish i could better explain why i believe it is unethical. i am trying to avoid the issues of law and order for the sake of clarity because ethics comes first-ideally humanity writes their laws to satisfy ethics.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Tue 18 Aug, 2009 08:24 am
@salima,
salima;83895 wrote:
Laughing

this reminds me of my go-round with xris on torture!

no, i am not trying to avoid the issue or the question. i absolutely and unequivocally do not believe that revenge or retaliation is ethical under any circumstances whatsoever. it is understandable and even forgivable but not ethical, not justifiable, not rational. (oops-now you may say i am trying to weasel out of this somehow) delete that last sentence if you want.

revenge/retaliation is self gratification stimulated by negative emotions. it contains an element of arrogance. it is an ego based action. this is the best i can come up with.

i wish i could better explain why i believe it is unethical. i am trying to avoid the issues of law and order for the sake of clarity because ethics comes first-ideally humanity writes their laws to satisfy ethics.


I think that revenge is wrong most of the time, but I don't think that it is wrong all of the time. The example I gave you had no bad consequences whatsoever, as nobody cared to seek revenge for the child rapist/murderer. Also, what if it were a situation where the father of one of the victims sought the killer and killed him in an act of revenge, thereby saving countless people from harm? What's wrong with that scenario?

You seem to be implying that an action that is based on the gratification of the ego is always immoral, but I disagree. Is it immoral if someone chooses to save themselves over another person?
 
Caroline
 
Reply Tue 18 Aug, 2009 08:31 am
@hue-man,
hue-man;84003 wrote:
I what if it were a situation where the father of one of the victims sought the killer and killed him in an act of revenge, thereby saving countless people from harm? What's wrong with that scenario?

They don't always kill the right person, that is why vigilantism is illegal, the wrong person can and does get killed.

---------- Post added 08-18-2009 at 09:35 AM ----------

It is my belief that the best thing for a child killer is to rot in prison for the rest of his life because killing him is freeing him from years of suffering and punishment in prison. I would leave him to rot to the point he is begging to be killed and then I'd turn around and say "no" and sling back in the dungeon, hehhehheh.
 
salima
 
Reply Tue 18 Aug, 2009 09:14 am
@hue-man,
hue-man;84003 wrote:
I think that revenge is wrong most of the time, but I don't think that it is wrong all of the time. The example I gave you had no bad consequences whatsoever, as nobody cared to seek revenge for the child rapist/murderer. Also, what if it were a situation where the father of one of the victims sought the killer and killed him in an act of revenge, thereby saving countless people from harm? What's wrong with that scenario?

You seem to be implying that an action that is based on the gratification of the ego is always immoral, but I disagree. Is it immoral if someone chooses to save themselves over another person?


i would say ego gratification is immoral, yes-all the time. not necessarily causing harm to other people, but to the self. it is not immoral if someone chooses to save himself over someone else-there would have to be a good reason to choose to give up one's life for another, otherwise it would be contrary to nature which includes the pursuit of life and avoidance of death. choosing to save oneself over another is not ego gratification, it is will to live.

the way i think of it, good results can come from immoral deeds, but in the long run the species suffers from the effects of one of its members being immoral and immeasurably moreso if society imbibes this as a value and applauds him. the ends dont justify the means for me.

and thanks for the questions, i needed more clarification on these things myself.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Tue 18 Aug, 2009 09:49 am
@salima,
salima;84013 wrote:
i would say ego gratification is immoral, yes-all the time. not necessarily causing harm to other people, but to the self. it is not immoral if someone chooses to save himself over someone else-there would have to be a good reason to choose to give up one's life for another, otherwise it would be contrary to nature which includes the pursuit of life and avoidance of death. choosing to save oneself over another is not ego gratification, it is will to live.

the way i think of it, good results can come from immoral deeds, but in the long run the species suffers from the effects of one of its members being immoral and immeasurably moreso if society imbibes this as a value and applauds him. the ends dont justify the means for me.

and thanks for the questions, i needed more clarification on these things myself.


Nature has no place in moral judgment. One can argue that the denial of rape, murder, and misogyny is contrary to nature. There is a quote, though I'm not sure of it's origin, that nature is what we were put on this planet to rise above. Many of our moral concepts are contrary to our natural inclinations, because some of our natural inclinations have the tendency to result in bad long term outcomes.

The ego is anything concerning the self. Is it not pleasing (or gratifying) to preserve your own life? I'm not arguing for egoism, the ethical theory which says that one should value only that which serves one's self-interest; selfishness. I'm simply speaking of the role that self-interest plays in moral decision making. It is plainly false to deny the role of self-interest in moral decision making. It's not always bad to consider how an action makes you feel, and just because it serves to gratify your self-interest does not always make it wrong.

---------- Post added 08-18-2009 at 11:58 AM ----------

Caroline;84005 wrote:
They don't always kill the right person, that is why vigilantism is illegal, the wrong person can and does get killed.


I'm not arguing for the legalization of vigilantism, nor am I arguing that it is always the right thing to do. But for the sake of discussion, let's say that the father actually witnessed the man committing the crime. Let's say that it was on tape. In that situation there is no question that he is the culprit. What makes it wrong for the father to track him down and kill him?
 
Caroline
 
Reply Tue 18 Aug, 2009 10:04 am
@hue-man,
hue-man;84019 wrote:
.
I'm not arguing for the legalization of vigilantism, nor am I arguing that it is always the right thing to do. But for the sake of discussion, let's say that I actually witnessed the man committing the crime. Let's say that it was on tape. In that situation there is no question that he is the culprit. What makes it wrong for the father to track him down and kill him?

I know that you're not arguing for the legalisation of vigilantism, I wanted to highlight a point, (sorry).
It is a good question, do you think there is anything wrong with it or not and why?
The only argument I can offer is that it is wrong because it is hypocritical but on the other hand I totally understand why the father would want to kill the criminal and I'd probably stand back but would the father feel any better or is it just instant gratification because alot of victims families do not feel justice has been served when the criminal is executed because his suffering is over.
 
salima
 
Reply Tue 18 Aug, 2009 12:12 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;84019 wrote:
Nature has no place in moral judgment. One can argue that the denial of rape, murder, and misogyny is contrary to nature. There is a quote, though I'm not sure of it's origin, that nature is what we were put on this planet to rise above. Many of our moral concepts are contrary to our natural inclinations, because some of our natural inclinations have the tendency to result in bad long term outcomes.

The ego is anything concerning the self. Is it not pleasing (or gratifying) to preserve your own life? I'm not arguing for egoism, the ethical theory which says that one should value only that which serves one's self-interest; selfishness. I'm simply speaking of the role that self-interest plays in moral decision making. It is plainly false to deny the role of self-interest in moral decision making. It's not always bad to consider how an action makes you feel, and just because it serves to gratify your self-interest does not always make it wrong.


so there are two points of contention:
first, what is natural to people. (and animals in general for the most part). and second, what is the ego.

i say murder and rape are not natural, but people have come to use the excuse that it is natural in order to justify it. animals do not kill for revenge, do they? they kill for food or territory, to mate, or to protect their young. this serves their self and their species. i would say animals have no ego, which is why they are incapable of being immoral. i have heard that animals actually rape, but only certain ones which i believe would have no alternatives, or some other reasonable cause to resort to that, some circumstances that are exceptional that would not apply to either other animals or humans.

i believe animals and human beings have a self-the ego is not the self, it is a tool like the intellect. the ego does not serve the self, the ego has become the master of the self, that is part of the malfunction of human beings.

i believe people are going against their true nature when they behave in a manner that is unethical. the reason they do that is because they are not aware of their true nature-they believe their ego is the self and try to please it at all costs.

murder and rape do not serve or exalt the self in any way at all.

misogyny is another issue i think, it is not a crime...what exactly do you think it is? i think it means when a person believes men are more valuable, capable or useful than women. i would call that an opinion, not a matter of ethical behavior. i hope we can leave this out of the discussion though...only will complicate things.
 
Shadow Dragon
 
Reply Tue 18 Aug, 2009 03:12 pm
@hue-man,
The only difference between revenge and justice is that justice is usually done by a third party that isn't emotionally involved in the original offense. Justice usually has a higher rate of punishing the right person, so for that alone, I think it's better than people simply seeking revenge.

And I really liked what Caroline said (though I accidently thanked the wrong post by her), that these people should rot in a cell. Though I mainly agree with this because we don't know for certain what comes in the afterlife, so it's impossible to say whether they'll get some type of justice there or not. Though oddly enough this would be a type of revenge, since you're making someone suffer so that the masses feel better.

However, there are places around the world where the justice system is either inept and/or corrupt, so in those cases revenge may be neccesary. After all, if someone is murdering or raping others and the law of the area simply doesn't care for whatever reason, then the family/friends of the harmed person has a responsibility to get rid of this criminal. To simply turn the other cheek and let him keep doing it would be almost as bad as what he is doing.
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Ethics
  3. » The Morality of Revenge
Copyright © 2014 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.05 seconds on 10/31/2014 at 09:37:47