We have made some general observations about good and evil, but we still lack an adequate means of formulating our answer to the problem of resistance to evil in its social aspect, especially when we come to the problem of resistance through the use of force.
Again, we insist that distinctions are essential. We must make it clear what we are talking about, and this is more difficult than most people assume, who do not seem to notice how often, on the most important subjects, two people argue with one another without ever realizing that they are talking about two different things. Many questions only seem to be unanswerable because they are improperly posed or, on the other hand, because the vocabulary used to pose the question is confused or insufficient.
The question of resistance to evil is a perfect example of this problem, especially when it comes to the use of the term ‘violence’. The proponents of non-resistance and pacifism tend to group all forms of resistance by force under the heading ‘violence’. As will become clear, this is inaccurate, and it confuses the issue so much that it becomes hopelessly insoluble (and we cannot help but think that in some cases this is intentional).
The next step in our discussion, then, is to identify terminological confusions as they appear within existing formulations, and then to introduce the necessary distinctions that have thus far been ignored, and finally to propose an adequate vocabulary which will enable us to speak coherently about this subject.
First, as to the term ‘violence’, which is laden with sentimental and moral implications. Even to speak it out loud is to experience some level of revulsion. This is because violence, even without precise definition, is rightly understood as an expression of evil. How unfortunate for us, then, if every single act of resistance to evil is an act of violence! Happily, this is not the case, but to demonstrate the point, we will need to introduce a series of more precise terms and distinguish between them.
These terms are: inducement, compulsion, and coercion.
None of the above are synonymous with violence, and on the contrary, each of them signifies a form of resistance that stands apart from violence and abuse.
We can start at the most general level with concept of inducement.
Imagine that an acquaintance of mine is making an argument and I believe that he is wrong, and so I make my own argument against his. If he accepts my argument and changes his mind, then I have induced him to discard his old opinion and to adopt mine in its place. If we grant, theoretically, that I was in the right and that I was not leading my friend astray, then we can say that I have induced him, and that through my influence I caused him to abandon an error, which is to say, an evil, in favor of the truth, which is to say, the good. To put it plainly, when confronted with evil in the form of error and in the person of my friend, I responded by exercising mental inducement and in this way resisted evil and promoted the good.
Not only was this truly resistance to evil, but we could even say that I exercised a kind of force on my friend. Here we can see immediately that the whole question is more nuanced than is often supposed. Most of the arguments for or against ‘non-resistance’ seem to run right to extremes and forget that this resistance to evil plays itself out again and again at various levels in our daily lives and that we all do it instinctively all the time and could hardly do otherwise.
The example above may seem trivial, but again, even trivial opinions have their reality and their moral outcomes, and besides, what if the opinion had to do with abortion, capital punishment, marriage law, or some other far-from-trivial social issue? And is there not currently serious debate in universities about what can or cannot be mentioned or argued, and in that context, does it not appear that even mental inducement is being construed as a kind of violence?
To make matters more complicated, it is possible to induce oneself as well as others. For example, if I wish to form in myself a habit of exercise but I find that I am too lazy to stick to a routine, then I might present arguments to myself trying to reinforce the goal that I am pursuing. I might rehearse slogans, etc., and a common way of speaking about this is to say that I am trying to ‘motivate’ myself. This is self-inducement, and this technique is constantly used by everyone as a way of resisting internal evil.
If we frame the issue of force as one of degrees beginning with the most general and least invasive and escalating to the most extreme, then inducement is the first stage in this progression. It is the first degree of social or interpersonal force exercised by one against another, or against oneself. What is essential here is that we understand that inducement is nonetheless an example of resistant force, even if it is a very non-invasive form of it.
To elaborate somewhat, we can say that when I attempt to induce someone, I bring to bear the force of my will (through verbal formulations) in such a way that they feel it and unless they are sociopaths or narcissists, cannot avoid feeling it. If I prevail, then what I am given in return is their consent, and, presumably, they desist from whatever evil was in question. My attempt at inducement was successful.
In a general way, all forms of education are examples of inducement, and this holds true even if the inducement is voluntary, undergone with intention, or by request and as a matter of contract, such as when a student enrolls at a college. Here the student implicitly requests to have the evil of personal ignorance (which is responsible for so many errors) removed via inducement through the process of teaching and guided study. Although we do not use this terminology with regard to university education, it is obvious that this is what it is, and anyone who does not grasp this will miss the point of academics altogether. We can understand when someone objects to being induced to error in the university, but what seems to be in question today is the idea that students would be induced to anything at all, and that is a different issue altogether.
Returning to the nature of inducement, it can be accomplished with or without the consent of the person who is being induced. All arguments or conversations that end with one party being ‘convinced’ and altering their course of action are examples of inducement and rarely is conscious consent given at the outset. Consent regarding this type of general social inducement is, in a way, implicit in membership in any community.
All inducement is an imposition of a will on a being. This will might be mine or someone else’s, and so it is either self-inducement or the inducement of others. It could be objected that to induce oneself does not involve an imposition, but this is due to an oversimplistic anthropology that denies the manifold nature of the inner life, and that fact that our internal voices are always coming into conflict, vying for control, each claiming to represent the true self, each more or less bearing false witness to the same.
The will is not identical with the rational faculty, nor is it identical with the body and its carnal appetites. Due to this separating between the will and the rational faculty, I can impose my will on my reason to direct my thoughts and, as a result, my actions, and in fact I must do this ceaselessly. The example of self-inducement to bodily exercise would involve physical self-inducement, while the internal effort to maintain one’s patience with a difficult child is a form of mental self-inducement wherein we try to maintain control over the negative and dangerous emotional states.
Having clarified what is meant by inducement, we can see that here at this first stage we are dealing with a definite example of the use of force, with or without the prior consent of the subject, and that this is an example of forceful resistance to evil that no one in their right mind would categorize as violence since it is a natural and necessary component of the human condition.