The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.

The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight. Discuss The Unbound Soul Now

The May Philosophy Book of the Month is Misreading Judas by Robert Wahler.

Revenge

Discuss morality and ethics in this message board.
Featured Article: Philosophical Analysis of Abortion, The Right to Life, and Murder
User avatar
James Radcliffe
New Trial Member
Posts: 17
Joined: July 1st, 2019, 1:10 am

Revenge

Post by James Radcliffe » July 6th, 2019, 1:41 am

THE QUESTION:
I'm interested in learning about anyone's experience with revenge, primarily as the doer of revenge rather than as the receiver. On a scale of 1 to 10, how enjoyable was it? Do you regret it? How often do you still think about it? And most importantly for me, do you feel that it has significantly changed you as a person, or that it has signicantly changed your perspective on life having done it? I would greatly appreciate any information anyone is willing to share, and I think I and anybody who reads this will find it very educational.

WHY I ASK:
There are two sources in particular that stimulate me to ask this question. One is "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky. In it, the protagonist, Raskolnikov, kills a mean, greedy old woman pawn-broker and her sweet but (if I remember rightly) mentally-challenged sister in order to rob them. As a consequence, though I think he never really expresses regret for his crime, his whole life is shattered. He's constantly afraid of getting caught, but more importantly than that, even when getting caught isn't on his mind, he's never at peace, and he can never enjoy himself, even when he's with his family who he hasn't seen in a long time, or
after he's done other really kind things for other people. (It's been a while since I read this, so don't hold me too fast to any details.)

So, this book isn't so much about revenge, it's more about the long-range effects that doing something really bad has on your soul. It still makes me think about revenge though. In any case, the point is that it always seemed to me to be an unrealistic portrayal of how people feel after having acted in a way that is conventionally considered really bad.

The other source for my curiosity is this short quote from "Poor Richard's Almanack" by Benjamin Franklin. I've also always been skeptical of it:

"468. Take this remark from Richard, poor and lame, whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame."

ME PERSONALLY: The only real revenge I think I've taken happened when I was too young to really remember it (e.g. like hitting people back after they hit me at school). Ever since high school, I've been extremely calm, reserved, and isolated, so consequently I've had relatively few opportunities for any more "advanced" social (or anti-social) acts. I'm sure if I thought harder about it, there are probably a lot of little revenges that I take on people that I'm not even aware of (like saying things in a slightly more snarky way than I otherwise would), but as that kind of revenge would be mostly subconscious (if I'm using that word correctly), it's hard for me to be able to think of much I could say about it.

So for me, on an empirical or phenomenological level, revenge is a mostly unknown frontier that I've only heard a few myths, tall tales, and scare stories about. Never a first-hand account.

User avatar
h_k_s
Posts: 679
Joined: November 25th, 2018, 12:09 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Aristotle
Location: Rocky Mountains

Re: Revenge

Post by h_k_s » July 7th, 2019, 8:34 am

Nope. Not me.

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 427
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: Revenge

Post by chewybrian » July 7th, 2019, 9:35 am

James Radcliffe wrote:
July 6th, 2019, 1:41 am
from "Poor Richard's Almanack" by Benjamin Franklin. I've also always been skeptical of it:

"468. Take this remark from Richard, poor and lame, whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame."
Like you, I am struggling to think of a real act of revenge that would qualify for me. Yet, I had problems with anger in the past, and I think old Ben has it mostly right. When I was angry, I would yell or speak rudely to people, or perhaps talk badly about them to others. Even if I was correct about the facts or the bad intentions of others, though, I find these actions shameful. Perhaps most shameful was what I did most often, turning this angry energy inward and remaining bitter about situations beyond my control. I wasted a lot of energy on the anger habit, and could have done better for myself and others if my energy was directed where it could do good.

If someone angers you (and you have the facts correct), then presumably either they have done something shameful, or they are ignorant of facts, or not wise enough to interpret the facts, etc. If you seek revenge, or even just get angry, then you are committing a shameful act, and your act does not even the scales, but only brings shame to you, while their shame, if they had any, remains as it was.

The anger habit comes from the idea that you can set right an 'injustice' by hurting the person who hurt you. It's easy to see how wrong that idea is in the abstract, but it is a hard trap to avoid once the habit has taken root. Even if you don't act on the anger, the step of becoming angry is a mistake in logic and judgment that can be overcome with a lot of hard work. You can build a new habit of putting trivial matters in their proper place, and understanding that others usually act in the way they think is right, even if they have the facts wrong. Perhaps the other guy is trying to right an injustice in his head. The best you can do is present the facts to him as best you see them, and move on. If you are right, then it is up to him to learn and grow, but getting angry is a serious impediment to learning and growing. If he is not ready, don't let him hold you back by getting angry or plotting revenge.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

User avatar
h_k_s
Posts: 679
Joined: November 25th, 2018, 12:09 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Aristotle
Location: Rocky Mountains

Re: Revenge

Post by h_k_s » July 7th, 2019, 1:15 pm

Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The notion comes from Galatians 5:19 KJV as written by St. Paul.

Pope Gregory 1st edited Friar John Cassian's original list into the 7 we now have:

o Gluttony
o Greed
o Sloth
o Envy
o Wrath
o Pride
o Lust

The Vatican has recently added drug abuse and wealth to the list as well, so now there are Nine Deadly Sins.

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 427
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: Revenge

Post by chewybrian » July 8th, 2019, 9:02 am

h_k_s wrote:
July 7th, 2019, 1:15 pm
Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The notion comes from Galatians 5:19 KJV as written by St. Paul.

Pope Gregory 1st edited Friar John Cassian's original list into the 7 we now have:

o Gluttony
o Greed
o Sloth
o Envy
o Wrath
o Pride
o Lust

The Vatican has recently added drug abuse and wealth to the list as well, so now there are Nine Deadly Sins.
I think I've managed them all at some time or another. I am making some progress, but not out of fear of Hell or looking for a shot to go to Heaven. I've just discovered that virtue really is its own reward. I am happier trying to do the right thing than trying to get away with something, even if I don't make the world better along the way, or get a ticket to Heaven.

Some are easier to put aside than others. Greed, gluttony, envy and pride are easy to conquer if you admit to yourself how trivial material things are in the harsh light of mortality and eternity. If you can just face up to your own death without anger or denial, you are halfway to being a better person.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

User avatar
h_k_s
Posts: 679
Joined: November 25th, 2018, 12:09 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Aristotle
Location: Rocky Mountains

Re: Revenge

Post by h_k_s » July 8th, 2019, 9:15 am

chewybrian wrote:
July 8th, 2019, 9:02 am
h_k_s wrote:
July 7th, 2019, 1:15 pm
Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The notion comes from Galatians 5:19 KJV as written by St. Paul.

Pope Gregory 1st edited Friar John Cassian's original list into the 7 we now have:

o Gluttony
o Greed
o Sloth
o Envy
o Wrath
o Pride
o Lust

The Vatican has recently added drug abuse and wealth to the list as well, so now there are Nine Deadly Sins.
I think I've managed them all at some time or another. I am making some progress, but not out of fear of Hell or looking for a shot to go to Heaven. I've just discovered that virtue really is its own reward. I am happier trying to do the right thing than trying to get away with something, even if I don't make the world better along the way, or get a ticket to Heaven.

Some are easier to put aside than others. Greed, gluttony, envy and pride are easy to conquer if you admit to yourself how trivial material things are in the harsh light of mortality and eternity. If you can just face up to your own death without anger or denial, you are halfway to being a better person.
You sound like a Stoic. I therefore salute you. Marcus Aurelius must be your favorite philosopher, although you have quoted Plato.

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 427
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: Revenge

Post by chewybrian » July 8th, 2019, 11:05 am

h_k_s wrote:
July 8th, 2019, 9:15 am
You sound like a Stoic. I therefore salute you. Marcus Aurelius must be your favorite philosopher, although you have quoted Plato.
There is no stoic, as my favorite, Epictetus, would tell you:
Show me someone sick and happy, in danger and happy, dying and happy, exiled and happy, disgraced and happy. Show me! By God, how much I’d like to see a Stoic. But since you can’t show me someone that perfectly formed, at least show me someone actively forming themselves so, inclined in this way…. Show me!—Epictetus, The Discourses
It's all a work in progress at all times. I can't say I'm happy, but I am less pissed off, and that's a start.

I find a lot of good nuggets in The Meditations, but his rambling style is harder to work with. Epictetus, or Arrian if you like, gets right to the matter, especially in the Enchiridion. Epictetus should be the patron saint of anyone who wants to improve, but especially those who have issues with anger, anxiety, depression, substance abuse... He is the real father of cognitive behavioral therapy, but I'm sure he wouldn't care if he did not get the credit, as long as people were making progress.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

User avatar
h_k_s
Posts: 679
Joined: November 25th, 2018, 12:09 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Aristotle
Location: Rocky Mountains

Re: Revenge

Post by h_k_s » July 8th, 2019, 11:48 am

chewybrian wrote:
July 8th, 2019, 11:05 am
h_k_s wrote:
July 8th, 2019, 9:15 am
You sound like a Stoic. I therefore salute you. Marcus Aurelius must be your favorite philosopher, although you have quoted Plato.
There is no stoic, as my favorite, Epictetus, would tell you:
Show me someone sick and happy, in danger and happy, dying and happy, exiled and happy, disgraced and happy. Show me! By God, how much I’d like to see a Stoic. But since you can’t show me someone that perfectly formed, at least show me someone actively forming themselves so, inclined in this way…. Show me!—Epictetus, The Discourses
It's all a work in progress at all times. I can't say I'm happy, but I am less pissed off, and that's a start.

I find a lot of good nuggets in The Meditations, but his rambling style is harder to work with. Epictetus, or Arrian if you like, gets right to the matter, especially in the Enchiridion. Epictetus should be the patron saint of anyone who wants to improve, but especially those who have issues with anger, anxiety, depression, substance abuse... He is the real father of cognitive behavioral therapy, but I'm sure he wouldn't care if he did not get the credit, as long as people were making progress.
I just read his bio on Wiki. Apparently Arrian was his student who documented all of Epictetus' concepts and teachings. Great stuff !!

User avatar
Maddening Voicebox
New Trial Member
Posts: 2
Joined: July 9th, 2019, 11:20 pm

Re: Revenge

Post by Maddening Voicebox » July 9th, 2019, 11:42 pm

An interesting proposition I assume to question is what exactly are the conditions wherein revenge is not a net negative. Under what circumstances is nothing lost by revenge because only then is the satisfaction in taking logically sound.

If a reasonable person for whatever reason does something unreasonable to you but you have the option of repairing the relationship and continuing as you were, then by satisfying revenge over something that might be trivial your ruining a perfectly fine relationship be it work/romance or friendship.

Say a coworker is being routinely pesky and getting in the way of your work, and after countless hours of trying, maybe even telling your boss, there is no hope that you can convince them to stop. Is it then not logical to take revenge?

Id guess in this perfect circumstance, its all about the level of revenge. What level of revenge is going to make a positive change and not be harsh enough that it should get you fired or worsen your targets attitude towards you enough that the cycle continues. If you purposely offload them more work and begin to reply with passive aggressive sentiments wont they also up their hostility towards you?

Unless a situation is so negative that least negative route of defusing the negativity is revenge, well you'd be hard press to call revenge a logical action.

User avatar
frailRearranger
New Trial Member
Posts: 15
Joined: May 31st, 2019, 8:06 pm

Re: Revenge

Post by frailRearranger » July 10th, 2019, 11:12 pm

Like others here, I can't think of any great examples of my acting particularly vengefully. Though, I certainly have had my moments of anger and spite that I've been bottling up, then I'll make some biting remark, and I almost always end up regretting it. My anger emboldens me and makes me assume that I'm obviously right, but it is not obvious to the listener who has not been brooding with me all this time. I am frequently humbled afterwards, realising that I'm wrong, or that even if I am right, my delivery was a disaster.

Revenge, like most emotions, is better than nothing, but worse than conscious reason. In a structured society, we have used conscious reason to replace revenge with justice. We would have revenge to fall back on if we found ourselves in a state of anarchy/war in which there is no concept of justice.

aveenire
Posts: 32
Joined: March 21st, 2019, 12:48 pm

Re: Revenge

Post by aveenire » July 12th, 2019, 11:00 pm

frailRearranger wrote:
July 10th, 2019, 11:12 pm
Like others here, I can't think of any great examples of my acting particularly vengefully. Though, I certainly have had my moments of anger and spite that I've been bottling up, then I'll make some biting remark, and I almost always end up regretting it. My anger emboldens me and makes me assume that I'm obviously right, but it is not obvious to the listener who has not been brooding with me all this time. I am frequently humbled afterwards, realising that I'm wrong, or that even if I am right, my delivery was a disaster.

Revenge, like most emotions, is better than nothing, but worse than conscious reason. In a structured society, we have used conscious reason to replace revenge with justice. We would have revenge to fall back on if we found ourselves in a state of anarchy/war in which there is no concept of justice.
if I don't make the world better along the way, or get a ticket to Heaven.

User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 3687
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: Revenge

Post by LuckyR » July 16th, 2019, 3:07 pm

frailRearranger wrote:
July 10th, 2019, 11:12 pm
Like others here, I can't think of any great examples of my acting particularly vengefully. Though, I certainly have had my moments of anger and spite that I've been bottling up, then I'll make some biting remark, and I almost always end up regretting it. My anger emboldens me and makes me assume that I'm obviously right, but it is not obvious to the listener who has not been brooding with me all this time. I am frequently humbled afterwards, realising that I'm wrong, or that even if I am right, my delivery was a disaster.

Revenge, like most emotions, is better than nothing, but worse than conscious reason. In a structured society, we have used conscious reason to replace revenge with justice. We would have revenge to fall back on if we found ourselves in a state of anarchy/war in which there is no concept of justice.
No need to invoke anarchy/war. In my experience most wrongs that I suffer occur in realms where there is no formal justice available (the schoolyard in days past, the office or on the road currently). IMO revenge (or self administered "justice"), is not inherently good or bad. It is unnecessary (and thus "bad") when the formal justice system can provide justice, but that is a less common circumstance. The question is: what do you do when the offense occurs in an environment that is not covered by the justice system? Nothing?
"As usual... it depends."

User avatar
underground-man
New Trial Member
Posts: 4
Joined: July 20th, 2019, 2:02 pm

Re: Revenge

Post by underground-man » July 20th, 2019, 4:25 pm

LuckyR wrote:
July 16th, 2019, 3:07 pm
frailRearranger wrote:
July 10th, 2019, 11:12 pm
The question is: what do you do when the offense occurs in an environment that is not covered by the justice system? Nothing?
In those cases, I think, it's justified. It's a way of showing that person and others you will retaliate. The issue is in what is a fair retaliation and that is why a justice system or higher authority keeps things peaceful. Say someone offended you and you retaliate in a way that the person feels is overkill. They will retaliate against that retaliation, and so on, and it will go on until one side decides to leave the other alone. Usually this is how a higher authority comes to be
According to Weber, the state is that "human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence within a given territory."
Worst case, things descend into chaos because no one can agree on what is fair and what is not.

User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 3687
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: Revenge

Post by LuckyR » July 25th, 2019, 2:09 am

underground-man wrote:
July 20th, 2019, 4:25 pm

In those cases, I think, it's justified. It's a way of showing that person and others you will retaliate. The issue is in what is a fair retaliation and that is why a justice system or higher authority keeps things peaceful. Say someone offended you and you retaliate in a way that the person feels is overkill. They will retaliate against that retaliation, and so on, and it will go on until one side decides to leave the other alone. Usually this is how a higher authority comes to be

Worst case, things descend into chaos because no one can agree on what is fair and what is not.
I agree that it is justified, though not required. The goal should be an appropriate response, someone could get it wrong, but so does the formal justice system from time to time.
"As usual... it depends."

User avatar
Felix
Posts: 2941
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 5:45 am

Re: Revenge

Post by Felix » July 26th, 2019, 4:01 am

frailRearranger wrote: In a structured society, we have used conscious reason to replace revenge with justice.
What about capital punishment, is it not legal revenge?
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

Post Reply