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RAMU GANDHI ON AHIMSA

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    International Phenomenological Society

    Injury, Harm, Damage, Pain, Etc.Author(s): Ramchandra GandhiSource: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Dec., 1973), pp. 266-269Published by: International Phenomenological SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2106694 .

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    DISCUSSIONINJURY, HARM, DAMAGE, PAIN, ETC.

    I hope in this note to clarify little the nexus of related notionsexpressed by the group of words which form the title of this note:Injury, Harm, Damage, Pain, etc. But before I can say anything t allabout these notions I would like to try to establish the followingthesis: that no human being can self-consciously egard himself asnot being valuable in any sense whatever,that it would be self-con-tradictory o assert the proposition"I am not valuable in any senseswhatever." I shall present two arguments in support of the abovethesis and then show that, given the truthof this thesis,the notionsof injury, harm, damage, etc., become immediatelyclarified.Suppose you told me that you did not regard yourselfas being

    valuable in any sense whatever. Suppose now that I asked you thefollowing question in response to your unqualifiedly self-denigratingstatement: "Do you regard yourself, s the issuer of the statement'I am not valuable in any sense whatever,'as being valuable in somesense or other?" Suppose you replied "No!" I thinkif you did that,I could argue that in that case you had no right to attach any im-portance to your unqualifiedly self-denigrating tatement, not evenenough importance to enable you to regard it as being true. Thenotion of somebody having the right to regard a statement of his asbeing true and the notion of his attaching some, as opposed to no,importance to the statement in question are logically connectednotions. It would be self-contradictoryo assert "I regard the state-ment that p as being a true statement, lthough I attach absolutelyno importance to the statement that p." I shall ward off a possibleobjection at this point. Somebody might, t could be argued, asserta tautology and quite properly also assert, even in the same breath,that he attached absolutely no importance to the tautology he as-serted. In reply to this objection I shall simply say that it is a misuseof language to call a tautology an assertion. An assertion must atleast intend to be informative, nlike a tautology.Now if you attachsome importance to your unqualifiedly self-denigratingtatement

    266

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    INJURY, HARM, DAMAGE, PAIN, ETC. 267and you must ifyou are going to regard it as being true - a bit ofthis importancehas logicallygot to rub offonto the notion of your-self as the issuer of your statement. So you cannot,without stulti-fyingyourself, ell me that you do not value yourself n any sensewhatever,attach any importancewhatever to yourself.The above argumentmay not satisfysomebody who could con-ceivablytake the view that even if one cannot make an unqualifiedlyself-denigratingtatement, ne could neverthelessthinkan unquali-fiedly elf-denigratinghought. want to argue thateven this s impos-sible. This is because such a thoughtmust involvetheemploymentbythe thinkerof the symbol "I." Now the account of the nature of thesymbol"I" which I findsatisfactory s thefollowing: In thinking hecomplex thought ymbolizedby the expression "I," I imaginemyselfbeing cast in the role of an audience by an imagined speaker. Thisis what makes thinking ossible - the imaginativecasting of oneselfin therole of a "listener," .e., n the role ofone who weighs,considers,etc., the importance or truthofutterances: i.e., the role of a thinker.Now it can be argued that to be cast in the role of an audience bysomebody is to be the recipient of what must be regarded as aminimallycaring attitude. No addressing, no communication, cantake place if speakers regarded their would-be hearers merely as"targets" of theirinteractionistmoves. Communicativeattentionhasto be solicited, nvited, t cannot be simplyelicited in themanner ofan effectof a causal action.And solicitation, nvitation, tc., must beminimallycaring activities. Thus to imagine oneself as being cast inthe role of an audience must involve imagining oneself being therecipientof a minimallycaring attention. t would be self-contradic-toryto try o denythis,because such a a denial too would involvethethinking f the complex thought ymbolizedby theexpression "." SoI cannot thinkof myself n a way whichdoes not involvethinkingin thesense of imagining that a minimalvalue was being attachedto myself.And how can I, in thinking, ogically necessarily believethat a minimalvalue was being attached to myselfand at the sametime thinkthat I was not valuable in any sense whatever?Surely Imustregardmyself s beingvaluable in the sense ofbeingminimallyvaluable to those I imagine to be addressingme!If my argumentsabove have been sound, then to be a self-con-scious human being must be to regard oneself as being valuable insome sense or other.And to regard oneself as being valuable is toregardoneselfas being vulnerable to anythingwhich sought to takeaway whatevervalue one regarded oneself as possessing. This con-nection can be seen more easily by reflectingupon the connectionbetween the notions of "regardingonself as valuable in some sense

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    268 PHILOSOPHY NDPHENOMENOLOGICALESEARCHor other" and "regardingoneself as being precious in some senseor other." The conceptsof injury,harm,damage, pain (of requisite in-tensity), etc., are concepts which self-conscioushuman beings mustlogicallynecessarilypossess, because it is the job of these conceptsto pick out states of affairswhich human beings, regarding them-selves as being valuable in some sense or other,must findunaccept-able. I am not suggestingthat theremust be a unique set of states ofaffairs which must be picked out by the concepts of injury,harm,etc. If my argumentshave been sound, then theremust always besome states of affairs actual or possible) whichhuman being wouldfindunacceptable (bad, unwelcome,etc.). The concepts of injury, tc.,are open-ended concepts which pick out these states of affairs.Ofcourse there are subtle and importantdistinctionsbetween injury,harm,damage, pain, etc. My purpose in this note is not, however,toexplore these distinctions, ut to show thenecessary applicabilityofnotions such as the above ones to human life.Concentratingon the notion of injury, would like to concludethis note by consideringthe followingset of questions: (a) Whydowe say,when we do say, thatA's act of inflictingnjury upon B wasa bad action? (b) Whydo we say, when we do say, that A's act ofinflicting njuryupon B was not a bad action?Now the answer to question (a) above cannot be that wediscover empiricallythat A's act of inflicting njury upon B was abad action. The notion of "a bad action" is part of the notion of"inflicting njuryupon somebody." But it does hot follow fromthisthat we can invoke this logical connection and condemn every actof inflictingnjury upon somebodyas a bad action. This sounds oddon the face of it, but a consideration of question (b) above shoulddispel this sense of oddity.Whenwe say that A's act of inflictingn-jury upon B was not a bad action,we always implythat A's injury-inflicting ct cannot be considered in isolation,that it is integrallypart of some wider action - such as, for example, a self-defensiveaction - which is admittedto be acceptable, i.e., not bad, good, etc.Finally, before really concluding,a few words again about theconnection between thenotionof "regardingoneselfas valuable" andthenotionof "regardingoneselfas vulnerable." A psychotic, omeonethe structureof whose self-consciousnesshas suffered ome kind offracture,would not, perhaps, be in a position to regard himselfasbeing valuable in any sense whatever. But for this very reason hewould not be in a position to regard himselfas being vulnerable toinjury,etc. Does not this fact throw lighton the psychotic's inade-quate self-denfensivections?Take now nota psychoticbut a morallygood man. (I am not of course implying hat a psychotic s a morally

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    INJURY, HARM, DAMAGE, PAIN, ETC. 269bad man). I think t is a mark of moral goodness in a man that heattaches less value to himself than others attach to him. Now forthis very reason our morally good man would regard himself asbeing less vulnerable to things ike injury,harm,etc., than those whoare not morally as good men as he is. He would shrug off all sortsof - to us unacceptable - thingswhich happened to him as "notreally" being injuries, etc., something lesser men would find muchharder to do. These facts of life supportmycontention, think, hatregarding oneself as being valuable involves regarding oneself asbeing vulnerable.And that it is this factwhich fixes the logical areaof operation of such notions as injury, harm, damage, pain (ofrequisite intensity), tc. RAMCHANDRA GANDHI.DELHI UNIVERSITY.

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