Violence: Reflections About a Word


The starting point for my reflections about the word “violence” comes perhaps unexpected. In his book Kindly Inquisitors, the journalist and philosopher Jonathan Rauch outlines a radical defense of free inquiry against all forms of censorship, whether traditionally authoritarian or rooted in the modern notion of “political correctness.” This defense of free inquiry leads him to oppose all possible restrictions on verbal expression. In a chapter entitled “The Humanitarian Threat” he reviews measures, proposed and devised, against “assaultive speech,” quoting a professor who had stated “To me, racial epithets are not speech. They are bullets.” Rauch’s reaction is eloquent and uncompromising: “you do not have to be Kant to see what comes after ‘offensive words are bullets’: if you hurt me with words, I reply with bullets, and the exchange is even.”


Physical Integrity Homicide Rate Verbal Abuse State Violence Psychological Violence 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

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