When is it ok to use violence?

We are governed by many laws to help ensure that we treat each other in a proper manner. Sometimes, however, an individual may feel that it's necessary to take action into his own hands. Is it ever ok to use violence to do so? If so, then what are the criteria for its exceptable use?

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are you suggesting that without the laws, people would choose to treat each other in a "proper" manner of their own volition?
i utilize internal restrictions for the acts you mention, but these are considered "wrong/evil" by an overwhelming majority of the society, and, as such, are a not a very good example.

how about speed limits, a more gray area? if it wasn't for the 65 mph limits on highways, plus the un-written "so long are you're going 10 mph over the speed limit, you're unlikely to get pulled over" rule, i would probably drive quite faster, only leveling off when i thought i was losing control of the car. clearly, this is not a good idea - doing 90 or 100 leaves me little chance to react. still, i can't guarantee that this would be on the front of my mind every single time i get in behind the wheel.

looks like we're heading for the classic "people are inherently good" vs. "people are inherently evil" argument. i believe people are inherently evil, and site all of recorded human history as my evidence. therefore, we need laws to keep us from exacting physical/mental/emotional/financial violence upon ourselves and others.
i think i finally get your point (only after re-reading the back and forth several times ;) ). i agree - going back to your first post - that laws do not and should not dictate morality (how we treat ourselves and others). but, as long as lawless individuals exist, we will need laws.

and going back to the original question, when laws are not available to curtail or prevent lawless actions (when a thief breaks into your house in the middle of the night, for example), i believe it is ok to take matters into your own hands. of course, the extent of the violence is wholly dependent on one's ethics and abilities (do you try to just kick the thief out of the house or do you do something that could end his life?).
An interesting thread, gentlemen. I would agree that humans are inherently sinful, and therefore need curbs on their behavior. For most of us, these are self-imposed curbs that we derive from our upbringing, and they work pretty well. I would submit, though, that modern American culture is tilting dangerously toward the lawless. The "I'm okay, you're okay" generation (of which I am, unfortunately, a member) preaches compassion for everyone and the planet, yet practices self-indulgence (Al Gore's heated indoor swimming pool is a prime example of this dichotomy). When "it's all about me" is your mantra, then rules and laws ultimately mean little if they stand in your way.
I don't think that violence is a good way to solve our problems. People must get effort to obey the laws and improve them, if they are not sufficient to assure the rights of the citizens.
I think violence is never the answer...unless it is.

Sometimes diplomacy works, other times however, the opposition may only respect an overwhelming force prior to disengaging...and sometimes, not even that works.

Examples:

Pope Leo, through diplomacy...and threats of St. Peter's wrath...persuades Attila the Hun to turn back, and not conquer the prone city of Rome.

The US, understanding the Japanese divine sense of mission, realizes that only an unequivocal show of force will demoralize the Japanese enough to end their participation in WWII. It worked.

Saddam Hussein, out manned, out gunned, hopelessly losing his country while hiding in a dirt hole in the ground...is still talking trash and refuses to give up.
Well obviously it is acceptable in self-defense. If we are talking vigilanteism here then I believe that is acceptable there as well especially in cases in which the justice system fails or policing is inadaquate.
But doesn't vigilantism undermine the law? If we don't respect the decisions of the court because we disagree with the outcome, and take matters into our own hands, then why bother having laws and courts at all?
The problem with vigilantism is that the vigilantes inevitably get carried away. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." If you are a law unto yourself and answer to no one, it is the rare man indeed who can resist the temptations to abuse that power.
Wouldn't giving aboslute power to the courts and justice system corrupt them then? Following this line of thought we can rightfully determine that the justice system is corrupt and should not hold our confidence, and at that point we begin using our own common sense and sense of justice. Can't you think of any miscarriages of justice?
Violence outside the arena of athletic competition is justified when the goal is protection: protection of your home, your family, your community, your country. There are predators out there who respond only to violence. It is unfortunate, but true. Some people simply cannot be reasoned with. Of course, self-protection is in this category, too. If necessary, I am perfectly prepared---and as a martial artist, well-trained---to protect myself with violent means if necessary.
My favorite quote from Theodore Roosevelt addresses this issue: "Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
I once heard a relevant quote -- "Violence is rarely the answer, but when it is, it's usually the only answer."
I tend to agree with you here - some people only understand the language of physical force, and it's a sorry man that doesn't have at least some basic skill in wielding it against random violence that threatens them and their loved ones.
The problem with this issue is that, when we're talking about "when it's ok to use violence", because violence is so random, it's hard to draw any firm lines around when and where it's ok to respond with force. The principle of self-defense and family-defense seems to hold, though.

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