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Power in philosophy : two arguments for nonviolence today

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Alomes, A (1998) Power in philosophy : two arguments for nonviolence today. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Contemporary philosophy has a case to answer when it only offers a range of
accounts on power which implicate violence. An analysis showing that violence
cannot be legitimate fuels even deeper concern. It would appear that the moral
agent is left facing two (rather unsatisfactory) choices: either pursue power
through violent means, or renounce violence and remain powerless. For some,
this situation will be deeply counter-intuitive requiring an alternative solution.
As an alternative candidate for power, Western nonviolent action contains some
useful beginnings for a theoretical account, but its apparent limitations have led to
a dismissal of the subject by mainstream philosophy. Two contemporary
examples (the Tibetan community in exile and the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission in South Africa) successfully demonstrate the exercise of power
through nonviolence. By taking a Western and non-Western philosophical
approach and bringing the theoretical foundations together we find compelling
evidence for a new action theory of power based on nonviolence.
This approach through "fusion philosophy" brings to philosophical discourse new
definitions of violence and nonviolence and a fresh perspective on the roots of
violence and the pathway to the antidote. The contemporary application of MK
Gandhi's satyagraha, or "truth insistence" through the work of Professor
Samdhong Rinpoche, highlights the important moral issue, that nonviolent action
is not only descriptive, but also representative, and what it represents is the truth.
Here we find the context for individual action and accountability, and a
mechanism for effective social change.
Contemporary theorists writing on power who make necessary connections
between power and violence, fail to notice that violence is also representative,
and fail to ask what it represents. While the change from violent action to nonviolent
action may not suit some, progress should at least reflect a choice;
and contemporary philosophy is faced with providing the conceptual scaffolding
to support the increasing number of individuals, groups and nations moving
through this important transition.
This thesis seeks to answer the question: "Is it reasonable for the epistemological
foundations of power to reflect only violence?" concluding that it is not. I argue
that violence is too narrowly defined and offer new definitions of violence and
nonviolence. Further, that violent action represents falsity or error and is morally
wrong. It also represents the supposed legitimate exercise of power when it is in
fact illegitimate and unjustifiable. I conclude that nonviolence represents a more
morally acceptable type of action because it represents the truth in two senses--
about the way things are, and about the way things ought to be.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Power (Philosophy), Violence, Nonviolence
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1998 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1998. Includes bibliographical references

Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2014 00:48
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:55
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