Rob Henderson:

It can be hard, though, to accept that morality motivates violence. Maybe there’s something wrong with thinking of violence as moral. Isn’t the point of morality to care for people, or at least not hurt them?

We are told that a “surprising new scientific theory explains why morality leads to violence.” It turns out that people are willing to be violent over the things they care most deeply about, especially if those things are considered rare and irreplaceable. I suppose this is “surprising” to anyone raised in a Skinner box, unacquainted with the great philosopher-poets who already addressed this inherent shapeshifting, transitory, mysterious nature of life long ago:

“How could anything originate out of its opposite? For example, truth out of error? Or the will to truth out of the will to deception? Or selfless action out of self-interest? Or the pure sunlike gaze of the sage out of covetousness? Such origins are impossible; whoever dreams of them is a fool, even worse; the things of the highest value must have another, separate origin of their own—they cannot be derived from this transitory, seductive, deceptive, lowly world, from this turmoil of delusion and desire! Rather from the lap of being, the intransitory, the hidden god, the ‘thing-in-itself ‘—there must be their basis, and nowhere else!”— This way of judging constitutes the typical prejudice by which the metaphysicians of all ages can be recognized; this kind of valuation looms in the background of all their logical procedures; it is on account of this “belief” that they trouble themselves about “knowledge,” about something that is finally christened solemnly as “the truth.” The fundamental belief of the metaphysicians is the belief in oppositions of values. It has not even occurred to the most cautious among them to raise doubts right here at the threshold where it is surely most necessary: even if they vowed to themselves, “de omnibus dubitandum.” For one may doubt, first, whether there are any opposites at all, and second, whether these popular valuations and opposite values on which the metaphysicians put their seal, are not perhaps merely foreground estimates, only provisional perspectives, perhaps even from some nook, perhaps from below, frog perspectives, as it were, to borrow an expression painters use? For all the value that the true, the truthful, the selfless may deserve, it would still be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for life might have to be ascribed to appearance, the will to deception, self-interest, and desire. It might even be possible that what constitutes the value of these good and revered things is precisely that they are insidiously related, tied to, and involved with these wicked, seemingly opposite things—maybe even one with them in essence. Perhaps! — But who has the will to concern himself with such dangerous Perhapses!