I want to know whether being Violent with speech too can be considered as violence - partially or fully?

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    Well, in most jurisdictions "sufficient verbal provocation" is recognized as a defense for battery, e.g., books.google.com/books?id=g9K5DQAAQBAJ&pg=PA288 Of course, your response to verbal provocation is your choice, since there's no physical threat. And if you do choose fists, then the verbal provoker has an absolute right to defend himself.
    – user19423
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 9:58
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    Please define how one is violent with speech. Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 17:50

3 Answers 3


John Stuart Mill in On liberty will say that what makes a violent speech violent (construed as 'legally violent', that is, a legally impermissible act to do onto others) depends on the context. What makes a violent speech legally violent is a matter relating how or when to legitimately exercise freedom of speech. Mill's answer to this question is the Harm Principle, which states, "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Stated equivalently, individuals have the freedom to do everything which injures no one else.

To explain how the Harm Principle works, Mill applied it to the case of the Corn Laws which excited the minds of the 19th century British people. The laws imposed restrictions and tariffs on imported grain, which entailed the enrichment of the landowner class and the starvation of the British laborer class. Mill maintained that if you made a violent speech like, "Corn Laws are evil. They kill people!" in a Parliament session, your speech is an exercise of the freedom of speech. However, if you uttered the same speech in front of a landowner's house with an angry mob, your speech is counted as the legal violence since it could endanger the safety of the landowner's family.

Many legal scholars employ the harm principle to understand the limits of individual freedom and the limits of legitimate forceful interference of the government in the actions of individuals.

  • What if Violent speech, though doesn't cause physical pain to other but mental, emotional or psychological pain.
    – Mr. Sigma.
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 4:12
  • How can mills distinction in terms of corn law speeches be justified? I mean Both are demands to a governing body with the agency to change and both are free speech. Neither is even asking to kill landowners they just ask for change.
    – haxor789
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 9:31
  • @haxor789 It is wise to keep in mind that humans, such as an "angry mob", are usually not strictly rational, and so one can anticipate reactions to words and circumstances. If I blow smoke in your face, probably there is no harm to you, but if it was intentional, you are likely to - correctly - act as if you are being threatened. Often, one has only a split second to avert harm or catastrophe. Funny world, not very reasonable, isn't it?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 10:32
  • @ScottRowe The thing is that he's essentially taking sides. In Mills time access to parliament was not self-evident and so only few people could make use of that free speech that all should posses. And if they are correct about saying that it kills people than this action itself would also be violent not just pointing it out. I mean I get that he apparently seems to be aware that speech can be a threat even if it's not explicitly mentioned, but then he should make that explicit because that's kinda important.
    – haxor789
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 10:54

Speech by definition is not violence; nevertheless, non-violent speech can cause great harm.

Defamation, disparagement, verbal abuse are classic examples. A skilled abuser can unhinge the intended target by uttering just a few seemingly harmless words. Cousin Bette casually spoke a few words, as a consequence Adeline developed a nervous convulsion and quivered for the rest of her life.

Nevertheless, experience has shown that the harms caused by censorship is far more greater than those caused malignant speech. The Great Chinese Famine, which starved millions to death and stunted the growth of hundreds of millions more, was the direct result of silencing opposing views.

Snakes do not cause great harm to humans as they used to do, not because snakes have ascended to higher moral plane; it was human knowledge of snakes that mitigated this evil. Some humans are venomous snakes; most humans are snakes at various moments. Thanks to moralists, most of what we know about humans are what they should be, not what they really are, as a consequence of which malignant speech can still wreak havoc. If school children were taught the truth about human nature the same way animals and plants were introduced, it is possible that humans can tolerate absolute freedom of speech without letting the malignant part cause too much harm.

As this moment, I think using speech to counter speech is fair game.

  • "Nevertheless, experience has shown that the harms caused by censorship is far more greater than those caused malignant speech." WW2 and the holocaust?
    – haxor789
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 10:56
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    @haxor789 perhaps the censorship side represented by 1984 would be worse? Had some government attained control such that dissent was impossible and even unthinkable, i would say that is worse than a war which ended a genocide and defeated an absolutist government.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 20:12
  • @ScottRowe Isn't 1984 largely inspired by the real life totalitarianism of Hitler and Stalin's regime? And can you neatly separate censorship from hate speech? Practically speaking hate speech censors people. Like if you entrap people in hatred and us vs them narratives than dissent becomes treason and thus censored. Also the war was started by the absolutist government and the genocide was part of that war effort... Like extermination was a goal of that war.
    – haxor789
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 21:38
  • @haxor789 so the war was the solution to the problem of unchecked censorship and genocide, right? So, not having a war would have been... Worse, right?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 15:42
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    Censorship is never great, but if the Nazi party had stayed banned after their high treason in 1923 it might have saved a lot of lives.
    – haxor789
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 0:51

Depends on how you define violence. Apparently "free speech absolutists" and/or bad faith actors like to promote the narrative that speech in any way shape or form is harmless or at best with very little exceptions that don't infringe upon their hate mongering.

And to that end they like to promote a purely physical reading of violence in the sense of physical attacks that deal harm to the body. So in that regard violent speech would just be speech that is idk so loud that it tears down your ear drums or whatnot, but would not really consider the content of the speech.

However there are apparently also other definitions of violence:

"the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened[2] or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation."

Which go further than the pure physical force. Or you could look at the results of violence and declare actions with the same result as violent as well.

So again that kinda depends on what you're talking about with violence.

Regardless of that the seemingly popular "sticks and stones" narrative is largely false. While words itself are likely not going to hurt you, they can set in motion a chain of events or result in a framing that is very well causally responsible for harm (both mentally and physical).

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