Sam Harris on Violence

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

There are differences in temperament, Sam Harris has found, across which it may be impossible to communicate about the reality of human violence:

Thinking about violence is not everyone’s cup of tea. Again, I do not consider ignoring the whole business to be necessarily irrational (depending on where one lives, one’s degree of responsibility for the security of others, etc.) It is irrational, however, to imagine that such insouciance can pass for an informed opinion on how best to respond to violence in the event that it occurs. I have now heard from many people who have never held a gun in their lives, and are proud to say that they never would, but who appear entirely confident in declaiming upon the limitations of firearms as defensive weapons. Before proceeding, perhaps there is general rule of cognition we might all agree on: It would be surprising, indeed, if avoiding a topic as a matter of principle were the best way to understand it.

The choice to own a gun, he says, comes down to this:

If I hear a window break in the middle of the night, I want to be armed with more than my idealism.

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