What Will You Do If Someone Tries to Kill You?
By Bryan Caplan
As I once said, after someone in a roundtable discussion had called me
a pacifist, “If you come at me and try to kill me, you’ll see how much
of a pacifist I am. I’ll defend myself, with force if necessary.”
My prediction: If someone suddenly tried to kill David, he wouldn’t “defend” himself. He would run away. So would I. So would almost everyone. As this scene from Fight Club beautifully illustrates, it is very hard to pick a fight with a stranger. Flight, not fight, is humans’ standard response to violence. And for the most part, our cowardly reaction is entirely functional.
I agree with David that self-defense is morally appropriate under certain circumstances. Indeed, I think that pure revenge is morally appropriate under certain circumstances. But even when you have a right to fight, you probably won’t exercise your right – and you’re probably wise not to.
P.S. If you read David’s full account of “Peacemaking at a Raiders’ Game,” you’ll see that he has an above-average helping of physical courage. But I still think he’d run if someone suddenly tried to kill him. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.