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Violence is any act of aggression and/or abuse that causes or intends to cause injury to persons, animals, or property. It may include random violence, (such as unpremeditated or small-scale violence) and coordinated violence (such as actions carried out by sanctioned or unsanctioned violent groups -- including war, revolution, or terrorism).


Arranged alphabetically by author.
  • Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
  • I had long put on one side the purist pacifist view that one should have nothing to do with a social revolution if any violence were involved... Nevertheless, the conviction remained in my mind that any revolution would fail to establish freedom and fraternity in proportion to its use of violence, that the use of violence inevitably brought in its train domination, repression, cruelty.
  • No matter what someone else has done, it still matters how we treat people. It matters to our humanity that we treat offenders according to standards that we recognize as just. Justice is not revenge — it's deciding for a solution that is oriented towards peace, peace being the harder but more human way of reacting to injury. That is the very basis of the idea of rights.
  • "I wish your revolt well, my friend," said Bakhtin, "but beware that you don't end up merely repeating the same old story. The state abhors only one thing in the end, and that's the sound of laughter. Violence it can understand."
  • Anyone loving violence [God’s] soul certainly hates.
  • For he will rescue the poor who cry for help,
    Also the lowly one and whoever has no helper.
    He will have pity on the lowly and the poor,
    And the lives of the poor he will save.
    From oppression and from violence he will rescue them,
    And their blood will be precious in his eyes.
  • Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business.
    • Albert Einstein, "Mein Weltbild" (1931) [English: My World-view] translated as the title essay "The World As I See It" in The World As I See It (1949) [1], New York: Philosophical Library, ISBN 0806527900.
  • "Victory won by violence is tantamount to defeat, for it is momentary."
  • Hitler...Mussolini...and Stalin are able to show the immediate effectiveness of violence. But it will be as transitory as that of Chenghis' slaughters. But the effects of Buddha's nonviolence persist and are likely to grow with age.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, March 1937, quoted in Pyarelal, Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase. Volume 2; Navajivan Publishing House, 1956 (p. 802).
  • Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst.
  • The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • … violence is the whole essence of authoritarianism, just as the repudiation of violence is the whole essence of anarchism.
    • Errico Malatesta, "Anarchism, Authoritarian Socialism and Communism" in What Is Anarchism?: An Introduction by Donald Rooum, ed. (London: Freedom Press, 1992, 1995) p. 59.
  • Why should murder be so over-represented in our popular fiction, and crimes of a sexual nature so under-represented? Surely it cannot be because rape is worse than murder, and is thus deserving of a special unmentionable status. Surely, the last people to suggest that rape was worse than murder were the sensitively reared classes of the Victorian era … And yet, while it is perfectly acceptable (not to say almost mandatory) to depict violent and lethal incidents in lurid and gloating high-definition detail, this is somehow regarded as healthy and perfectly normal, and it is the considered depiction of sexual crimes that will inevitably attract uproars of the current variety.
  • The only sound way to appraise the state of the world is to count. How many violent acts has the world seen compared with the number of opportunities? And is that number going up or down? [...] To be sure, adding up corpses and comparing the tallies across different times and places can seem callous, as if it minimized the tragedy of the victims in less violent decades and regions. But a quantitative mindset is in fact the morally enlightened one. It treats every human life as having equal value, rather than privileging the people who are closest to us or most photogenic. And it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of violence and thereby implement the measures that are most likely to reduce it.
    • Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack, "The World Is Not Falling Apart", Slate, December 22, 2014
  • (Two-Face aims a gun at Rupert Thorne)
Grace: Harvey, what are you doing?!
Two-Face: Taking control of my life.
Batman: Let the law handle it.
Two-Face: The law?! Here's the only law! (holds up his coin) The law of averages... The great equalizer! (flips it)
  • (Professor Brad Fletcher has been torturing Wallace)
Professor Brad Fletcher: In pain, eh? You must know that torture is important, Wallace, because it lifts the morale of the torturer. Were you not taught that at the university? You were trapped by your higher education. It leaves its own smell on you, I know it too well.
Wallace: I know you do and I can't imagine how a man of your background could.
Fletcher: On the contrary, what is surprising is that a man like me could remain all those years watching life as a spectator before he discovered the force that was in him, but... Do you have any idea what can be accomplished here if you're a man of intelligence. Where men who are morons have succeeded in usurping the power.
Wallace: Yes, he'd certainly be in a position to improve things but not a weak man like Brad Fletcher. You change your spots. You're civilized among civilized people and violent among the violent. You're quite ready to adapt to any new background like a parasite.
Fletcher: Pity you didn't pay attention at school, Wallace. The philosophy of violence, recall it? One violent soul is just an outlaw, a hundred are a gang but they're an army at a hundred thousand, that is the point. Beyond the confines that limit the outlaw and individual criminal, violence by masses of men is called history. I must say that I'm glad I've been able to speak with an equal who understands me. Those others are only able to understand the simplest things, such as the fact that a spy must suffer proper punishment. (Fletcher is handed a gun, then points it at Wallace's face) Reasons of state, Wallace. You studied history so you know what I mean. Not out of hate... but with compassion. (Wallace is shot point-blank)
  • Watching violence in movies or in TV programs stimulates the spectators to imitate what they see much more than if seen live or on TV news. In movies, violence is filmed with perfect illumination, spectacular scenery, and in slow motion, making it even romantic. However, in the news, the public has a much better perception of how horrible violence can be, and it is used with objectives that do not exist in the movies.
    • Steven Spielberg, in an interview by the Brazilian magazine Veja (1993), cited in Awake! magazine, 1993, 3/8, article: Watching the World.
  • Revolt, it will be said, implies violence; but this is an outmoded, an incompetent conception of revolt. The most effective form of revolt in this violent world we live in is non-violence.
  • Violence, contrary to popular belief, is not part of the anarchist philosophy. It has repeatedly been pointed out by anarchist thinkers that the revolution can neither be won, nor the anarchist society established and maintained, by armed violence. Recourse to violence then is an indication of weakness, not of strength, and the revolution with the greatest possibilities of a successful outcome will undoubtedly be the one in which there is no violence, or in which violence is reduced to a minimum, for such a revolution would indicate the near unanimity of the population in the objectives of the revolution. … Violence as a means breeds violence; the cult of personalities as a means breeds dictators--big and small--and servile masses; government--even with the collaboration of socialists and anarchists--breeds more government. Surely then, freedom as a means breeds more freedom, possibly even the Free Society! To Those who say this condemns one to political sterility and the Ivory Tower our reply is that 'realism' and their 'circumstantialism' invariably lead to disaster. We believe there is something more real, more positive and more revolutionary to resisting war than in participation in it; that it is more civilised and more revolutionary to defend the right of a fascist to live than to support the Tribunals which have the legal power to shoot him; that it is more realistic to talk to the people from the gutter than from government benches; that in the long run it is more rewarding to influence minds by discussion than to mould them by coercion.
    • Vernon Richards, "Anarchism and violence" in What Is Anarchism?: An Introduction by Donald Rooum, ed. (London: Freedom Press, 1992, 1995) pp. 50-51.
  • Violence stinks no matter which side of it you're on. But now and then there's nothing left to do but hit the other person over the head with a frying pan.
  • People in favour of the use of force all think that it is just a means of attaining justice and peace. But peace and justice are free from violence...That is the final objective of history. If you abandon non-violence, you have no sense of history. You pass history by, you put history on ice, you are a traitor to history.
  • I wouldn't use physical violence even if I could, because one of my romantic ideas is that physical violence is beneath the dignity of a man, and that whatever you get by physical aggression costs more than it is worth.
  • Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.
  • All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do.
    • Leo Tolstoy, The Law of Love and the Law of Violence (1908).
  • If a rapist comes to your door, then your own fears and anger and aggression have brought him there. You have broadcast your feelings, and he has picked them up . . . There is a reason -- there are no accidents.
    • Susan M. Watkins in Conversations With Seth, Book 2: 25th Anniversary Edition, Volume 2, p. 5.
  • Superman: Only the weak succumb to brutality.
  • Kingdom Come #3 written by Mark Waid and Alex Ross

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)[edit]

  • Violence is as American as cherry pie.
    • H. Rap Brown, press conference at the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee headquarters, Washington, D.C., July 27, 1967, as reported by The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., July 27, 1967, p. 1.
  • The use of violence as an instrument of persuasion is therefore inviting and seems to the discontented to be the only effective protest.
  • Violence has no constitutional sanction; and every government from the beginning has moved against it. But where grievances pile high and most of the elected spokesmen represent the Establishment, violence may be the only effective response.
  • I'd hate to be in those [slum] conditions and I'll tell you if I were in those conditions, you'd have more trouble than you have already because I've got enough spark left in me to lead a mighty good revolt.
    • Hubert Humphrey, speech to the National Association of Counties in New Orleans, Louisiana, July 18, 1966, as reported by The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, July 19, 1966, p. 18.
  • The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • I feel that we will continue to have a non-violent movement, and we will continue to find the vast majority of Negroes committed to non-violence, at least as the best tactical approach and from a pragmatic point of view as the best strategy in dealing with the problem of racial injustice. Realism impels me to admit, however, that when there is justice and the pursuit of justice, violence appears, and where there is injustice and frustration, the potentialities for violence are greater, and I would like to strongly stress the point that the more we can achieve victories through non-violence, the more it will be possible to keep the non-violent discipline at the center of the movement. But the more we find individuals facing conditions of frustration, conditions of disappointment and seething despair as a result of the slow pace of things and the failure to change conditions, the more it will be possible for the apostles of violence to interfere.
  • Alex: You needn't take it any further, sir. You've proved to me that all this ultraviolence and killing is wrong, wrong, and terribly wrong. I've learned me lesson, sir. I've seen now what I've never seen before. I'm cured! Praise god!
  • Lawlessness is lawlessness. Anarchy is anarchy is anarchy. Neither race nor color nor frustration is an excuse for either lawlessness or anarchy.
    • Thurgood Marshall, speech at the national convention of Alpha Phi Alpha, St. Louis, Missouri, August 15, 1966, as reported by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 17, 1966, p. 1.
  • Our most serious challenges to date have been external—the kind this strong and resourceful country could unite against. While serious external dangers remain, the graver threats today are internal: haphazard urbanization, racial discrimination, disfiguring of the environment, unprecedented interdependence, the dislocation of human identity and motivation created by an affluent society—all resulting in a rising tide of individual and group violence.
    • To Establish Justice, to Insure Domestic Tranquility, final report of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (1960), p. xxxii. Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower was chairman of the commission.

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