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The philosophy of biological voluntarism


Voluntarism is the philosophy according to which all forms of human activity, agreement, and association should be as free as possible. It categorically rejects violence as a method of achieving goals. However, being oriented toward nonviolent struggle, it permits the use of defensive actions and self-defense against individuals who have violent intentions and initiate attacks, since it is first of all a philosophy of specifically “non-initiation” of violent attacks.

Voluntarism rejects political methods of struggle as counterproductive and immoral, since achieving a free non-violent society through political instruments would require the initiation of violence. It favors non-political methods of struggle, such as disobedience, education, counter-economics, etc. Ideologically, voluntarism does not designate any particular arrangement of society as obligatory; it only puts forward the necessity of achieving freedom of activity, agreement, and association. Therefore, anyone with any non-authoritarian and non-violent views, including both right-wing and left-wing libertarians, can be a voluntarist.

What would an ideal voluntarist society look like? Trying to imagine it, we will realize that there should be no prerequisites for initiating violence by anyone, and the morality of non-violence should be generally accepted. The aggressive impulses of all its inhabitants must have inhibitory limits; they may be directed toward nonviolent activity or defensive behavior, but in no case toward deliberate harm and assault. All of them should feel inner resistance (psychological discomfort) to the suffering of others, be empathic, and any harm they do, if for some reason this does happen, should cause them to feel a strong sense of guilt. In such a society, no one would violate freedom of activity, agreement, and association.

As we can see, the problem of why we do not yet live in a voluntarist society has a biological basis. Not all humans have a functional and strongly expressed violence inhibition mechanism that gives us the ability to automatically, spontaneously, and reflectively experience the reactions listed above[1]. However, this does not mean that we need to somehow change human nature itself. Based on the position of moral nativism, we can argue that, normally, humans still possess, to a certain extent, innate and biologically determined morality, including the propensity for altruism and empathy[2]. And based on a lot of research, including anthropological and military research, normally the violence inhibitor is still functional enough for an individual to experience strong inner resistance to committing violent attacks[3][4]. Only a few, quite dysfunctional individuals do not experience the slightest resistance even to committing murder; they are also called psychopaths. Such people are only 1–2% of society, although in some samples, such as violent offenders, CEOs, and politicians, their proportion is much higher, which in itself explains a lot[5][6][7].

Understanding all of this gives us the opportunity to propose a biological approach to the development of the ideas of voluntarism, showing us the ideal to aim for and suggesting concrete approaches in this undertaking. We need to consider violence and psychopathy not as something natural and normal, just socially unacceptable and harmful, but as a pathology and disorder. Moreover, such a condition in an individual meets the Wakefield disorder criteria: it leads to harm to oneself or others and is associated with the failure of some internal mechanism to perform a function for which it was biologically designed (in our case, the violence inhibition mechanism)[8][9]. This means that we need to find and develop cheap, accessible, easily produced and distributed, effective, fast-acting, and safe therapies and practices that restore and enhance the function of the violence inhibitor. We should then administer them to violent and psychopathic individuals as a voluntary practice aimed at improving the individual's capacity for healthy socialization, as an alternative to punishment for prior violent acts, or even as a mandatory measure in defensive actions against individuals who directly express violent intentions and attempt to commit attacks.

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1) Blair, R. J. R. (1995). A cognitive developmental approach to morality: investigating the psychopath. Cognition 57, 1-29. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(95)00676-p
2) Mikhail, J. (2020). Moral Intuitions and Moral Nativism. The Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology (M. Vargas & J. Doris, Eds.), Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:
3) Ferguson, R. B. (2013). The prehistory of war and peace in Europe and the Near East. Pp. 191-240 In: DP Fry ed. War peace and human nature: the convergence of evolutionary and cultural views. Oxford Univ. Press.
4) Grossman, D. (1995). On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. Boston: Little, Brown
5) Fox, B., & DeLisi, M. (2018). Psychopathic killers: A meta-analytic review of the psychopathy-homicide nexus. Aggression and Violent Behavior. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2018.11.005
6) The Australian Psychological Society (2016). Corporate psychopaths common and can wreak havoc in business, researcher says:
8) Wakefield, J. C. (2007). The concept of mental disorder: diagnostic implications of the harmful dysfunction analysis. World Psychiatry. Oct;6(3):149-56. PMID: 18188432; PMCID: PMC2174594
9) Faucher, L. (2012). Evolutionary Psychiatry and Nosology: Prospects and Limitations. Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication. 7. doi:10.4148/biyclc.v7i0.1776
Last modified: 2024/04/20 18:29 by Volunto

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