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Where Does the Non-Aggression Principle Come From?

Anyone else here a fan of Red Ice Radio hosted by Henrik Palmgren out of Sweden? I stumbled on it a few years ago when he was talking with a guest about evidence of ancient European culture in far-flung places of the world, which was fascinating.

Anyway, today I was listening to him interview a guest you might know, Marc Stevens, who was coming from the 'anarchist/voluntarist' point of view that government is an irrational concept, which boils down to people telling other people what to do at the point of a gun, or using the circular logic that their code applies because their code says so.

I get where he's coming from, and I agree with much of what he said; but when it came to the portion where he dismissed the notion of God-given rights, as having no evidence for their existence, I couldn't bring myself to agree. I interpret the world around me to demonstrate that some things are self-evident in our consciences, reflections of a natural law that actually exists, transcendent over the material world.

What I found odd, though, was that he was very vocal about upholding the non-aggression principle, and in decrying violence, deaths in the Middle East, etc. as 'terrible', 'horrific', etc. This made me wonder -- where does he think the non-aggression principle comes from? Why does he speak about it as if it is a real principle that exists, a real reflection of right and wrong? Doesn't that contradict what he had otherwise said about people being delusional that there are actual, real rights that are founded in natural law? Also, on what basis can he decry violence as 'terrible', if there is no overarching principle that is real?

Anyway, I was curious what insights and explanations others here might have to offer to help me understand the thinking on these questions.

Where do you think the Non-Aggression Principle comes from?

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SteveMT's picture

Perhaps from Jesus, who did say "love your enemies."

That is about as non-aggressive as it gets.

Matthew 5:43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It comes from Proverbs

"Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm." Proverbs 3:30

Does anyone here know of an older or better statement of the non-aggression principle than this one by Solomon(around 950BC)? Assuming this is where history first records the principle, then let's have a closer look at what it meant to those people at that time.



Hear, O Israel: YHUH our God YHUH one. And thou shalt love YHUH thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.


Where the principle of non-aggression comes from is compassion.

What would it feel like if it were being done to you? If bad, then don't do it.

Fundamental. Self-evident. What more do you want?

Freedom is my Worship Word!


...everyone, for all the great food for thought on the NAP. Busy weekend, so can't respond much more at the moment; but I'm mulling over what you've all said.

Hope you have a great rest of the weekend.

The NAP is just another name for natural rights

Natural rights are knowable as analytical truth. If we believe two things about rights, that they are unalienable and universal, then it's clear that the set of natural rights are the moral right to act in any way that does not create a contradiction if someone else had that same right.

If you think rights can be granted or rescinded then this doesn't apply. But we have another word for things that can be granted, 'privilege'. By definition privileges can only exist if someone else is denied them. By fundamental economic law we know this as well.

The NAP is simply a distillation, by way of contraposition, of natural rights. Instead of saying you can do anything which doesn't infringe on the natural rights of others, we simply say you may not aggress on others, ie not infringe the natural rights of others.

Natural law is a bit different. Natural law is a discoverable, but not absolutely predictable property of human nature.

When I say natural law is not absolutely predictable I mean in the way prices are not and may only be known by humans acting freely. We know the shape of natural law because we know history and can deduce a lot from human nature. But planned law suffers from the same ultimate defect as planned prices. Humans are always evolving and more importantly react to change, react to the plans and always will work to subvert them.

The way to create the greatest wealth is simply not to plan markets, and the way to create the greatest morality is simply not to plan law.

i discovered the non

i discovered the non agression principle when i was real young and noticed when i got hit or something of mine was takin from me i didnt like it. So i figured other people wouldnt like it either, therefore i try to treat people the way i want to be treated.

reedr3v's picture

It is natural to human society.

Culture advances the more it is practiced. Today as more humans realize that we all share the potential for virtue, no matter whether spiritual or atheist, those who understand the NAP and practice it in daily life, teach children by peaceable example: no aggression, respect all others. The more peaceable people, the better a culture develops.

Among those still unenlightened only lip service is given to the Principle; children are shown hypocrisy even as they are told: don't hit, don't bully etc. while seeing clear examples of coercion daily from adults in their families, schools, political and regulatory culture.
Still, even the enemies of the NAP must pretend to honor it. That tells the story. Worldwide consciousness is developing toward more humane ideals, but there is a long long way toward consistent implementation.


for the nature of conscious life.

The creation, production and fair exchange of values is the business of evolving consciousness, love and life.--Craig Johnson

A closed group

You need a society of like-minded people who agree to not violate a certain set of basic rights. Each person agrees not because they respect anyone else's rights, particularly, but because they see setting this standard as a way to protect their own rights.

Each person in the group, or the majority, or those who control enforcement mechanisms, must have a similar list of rights that they wish to protect. This is why it always boils down to property. That is the most basic definition of all rights: the right to claim and control physical property, beginning with the physical property of one's own body.

It's a delicate balance. When control shifts to people who are too stupid or ignorant to track on all the practical/philosophical underpinnings of property rights, you're on your way to a bad situation.

Maintaining the standard of no individual having their property violated requires civilization (appreciation of a certain quality of thought and lifestyle) and "eternal vigilance." The standard, the NAP, doesn't come from any magic place and it isn't inherent in the human animal. It's a device that a collection of smart people, relatively isolated from not-so-smart people, adopt and protect because each participant perceives a personal advantage.

Christianity: "All things

Christianity: "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."

Confucianism: "Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you."

Buddhism: "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."

Baha'i: "Blessed is he who preferred his brother before himself."

Islam: "Hurt no one that no one may hurt you."

Judaism: "That which is hateful to you do not do to your fellow."

The NAP is everywhere.

Simple Facts and Plain Arguments
A common sense take on politics and current events.


Must be my native American blood

The poetry of Non-Agressive Principle makes me think of hunting, where rather than exerting energy to attack, one exerts energy to attract.. a box trap, pit trap, snare.. a predetor trap.

It's still a form of force, but using the target/consumer's wants and needs.. law of attraction.. It's how government operates for the most part, why slavery is such an illusion for so many, no one is beating us with whips or chains.. but sometimes it sure feels like it.

The right to be left alone

Is related to the "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" concept.

Its really about choosing a perspective, and the one we choose is your fellow man's perspective. Your fellow man doesn't want other people to force him to do anything, he also hopes you will voluntarily help him when he needs it.

If you take societies perspective, then you have force, as the greater good - or the needs of the many take precedence, and thus justify force.

Private property

From what I have gathered, the chief and only axiom of libertarianism is the belief in private property. From this they infer that murder is bad because one owns one's own body. As a Catholic, I see this as a circuitous way to acknowledge the existence of God or even any absolute or universal truths or laws (beyond that supremacy of private property). But because governments have grown to the point of unquestionably violating the principles of both subsidiarity and religious freedom, libertarian candidates end up aligning more with my views than mainstream candidates.

The non agression principle ...

in order for it to exist it must be above Reason and Faith. It must be first. It must be the very definition of a human.

In other words, in order for the principle to exist and be correct and true, then there are humanoids that are not human. They are merely animals at times. The non agression principle demands that behavior is the prime parameter in distinguishing an animal from a being and not genetics.

If a person can learn and if a person has a conscience it matters not. A person must choose to learn and chooses to seek knowledge and chooses to have a conscience. That decision is made every day, every minute, every second, and the choice sometimes changes. We are all, at times, merely animals, and at other times people.

If instinct is most important to us, for our survival, then evolution would not have given us this brain. On the mystic side, we are made in God's image, and God is perfect.

Violence can be defined as a solution to a problem without using reason. It is an instinctual reaction when faced with a problem or conflict. It is animal behavior.

As we live and grow and learn to be more human we have naturally become a more peaceful beast.

I know that most would disagree, but agression has diminished over time and we are moving towards peace. People are choosing to think, to reason, to be non agressive more now than ever.

God Bless.

Well put.

A principle by definition is instrinsic. It doesn't come from natural law, it is natural law.

I AM is all that is. Everything else is malleable.

If my last statement is not true then ...

our conscience was a genetic mistake and we are doomed for extinction.

Don't get me wrong, as long as the earth sustains life there will always be homo sapiens, but our consciene will be eradicated. We will revert back to 100% instinctual animals.

We will not be and are not now ... special.

We will be a mistake made by Mother Nature and Mother Nature will correct her mistake.

It is as simple as that.

God Bless.

I suppose I see non-agression as

an emanating principal of nature expressed through the human being, as it is now required for our survival. The increased prevalence due to necessity and certainly not due to a mistake.

when it served the human race, man was a predator and relied on his animal instinct. Now, voluntary cooperation and non-agression serve mans best interest and nature increasingly expresses itself in the human through logic, reason, and intuition.

I see two sides of the same coin: "Can the human being embrace morality, non-agression, logic, etc., before we self destruct?" and "Can the human species adapt quickly enough to the demands of our environment."

This change, from animal instinct to higher human intelligence, is going to be messy. I like to compare it to the unfathomable switch of Earth's newer creatures from reproducing asexually to sexually. How can something so neccessary for survival, yet so astronomically improbable occur?

Where I would disagree just a bit is on returning to animal instinct as I don't think it is an option. We need to evolve and adapt fast enough to survive and if we fail to do so our demise won't need any extra effort from mother nature. I think we would throw ourselves off the planet.

Peace :)

I AM is all that is. Everything else is malleable.

To answer your question - duh.

The answer to your question is,


Pandas eat bugs.

No matter where it came from...

...it has never been observed on the tribal or national level, to my knowledge, in the history of mankind. The most fundamental principle, if one can call it such, that is actually practised, is violence, or might is right.

Perhaps the non-aggression principle is merely a reaction to this universal aggression principle since the human mind works in this way...balancing "good" against "evil"..trying to make sense out of a meaningless world.

If this is true then we can categorise the non-aggression principle as natural wishful thinking rather than natural law.

The Christian explanation for this situation we find ourselves in is the best one I have found in my life. The solution to the problem proposed by the founder of the Christian faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the most radical of any on offer. Given that He is the only one so far who has conquered death and His indestructible Life is now in every one of His children it would seem to me that His solution is worth listening to...intently

Simply put He proposes that we all die to this existing world and be born again into the new world that He has created, is creating and will create, that is founded on love, joy, righteousness and peace, guaranteed and administered by His Spirit in each and every one of us.

"Jesus answered them: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'" (John 8:34-36)

Satanic interpretations of "Turn the other cheek" and...

The Golden Rule. "Turning the other cheek" is also an act of contempt and The Golden Rule is justice through empathy.

The truth is, if I initiate aggression on someone else, I deserve to get my butt kicked, or worse; and vice-verse. If someone else does not do this to me, my conscience (if I have one), will do it for them.

Life is eternal. Let those who initiate violence without provocation, spend their transition period to the next life (i.e., death) contemplating the stupidity of their actions.

I guess...

...this kind of goes to the difference between complete pacifism and non-aggression, which still encourages self-defense?

The Enlightenment

Quite particularly.


...would the Principle exist without the Enlightenment? Did the Enlightenment create it, or just help reveal it in new ways?

"Where Does the

"Where Does the Non-Aggression Principle Come From?"

Uhm....common sense.....or as the coined term says, do unto others as you would want them done unto you

If the ANY government entity shows aggression, then they deserve aggression back, if they dont want that aggression, i suggest they stop being the instigators of that aggression......its simple, its common sense, a small government would have an easier time of it, a big government by its nature, wouldnt

Is this common sense...

...really, ultimately 'right' or 'wrong'? Or are such terms meaningless, in the grand scheme of things?

I guess my struggle here, in listening to this interview, is reconciling the idea of there being no natural law that stands above us and the idea of calling violence 'terrible', as Marc did. Am I right in thinking that the dismissal of overarching, objectively real principles yanks the rug out from being able to call violence 'terrible', in any real, meaningful fashion?

when i say aggression, i mean

when i say aggression, i mean in its offensive capacity, i still think everyone has a right to defend themselves from those that are "aggressive", but it is the initial aggression that is black and white to me, it is the initial aggression, the one that starts it that should be condemned, whoever that may be, because i believe as time goes on the lines between aggression and defenders wont be so clear cut, not when revenge is mixed into it.......that is why it is so important to condemn any thoughts of the act that STARTS it, knowing what it will lead to.....nobody wins, except those who have others to do their dirty work with no consequence, no personal negatives to their lives from their actions, if they did, they'd have more respect for consequences that which it is the people will alwas get dumped with
Im not disagreing with you, just expanding on my thoughts thanks to your input

Michael Nystrom's picture

The Non Aggression Principle springs from the minds of men

Since they are to weak and afraid to take ownership of that fact, they ascribe the principle to be holy.

The Earth can be any shape you want it, and you can ascribe any law you want to be a 'divine' law, and then spend the rest of your life arguing about it.



...my musical horizons some more there. :)

I guess it's just a bit unsettling to me if, say, the Killing Fields of Cambodia represent actions that were not actually, truly, objectively wrong, outside of what biochemical state our brains happen to be in.

Is the 'rightness' of the NAP really just a subjective thing? Or does it stand apart, and above our own particular existence?

Guess it's basically the same question as to whether Love is transcendent or not. Is Love really the ultimate reality, or an illusion -- a temporary mask over the void?


By the way, the idea that medieval Europeans believed in a flat Earth is greatly exaggerated. :) I see it the other way around: those who deny eternal Love are limiting the dimensions of reality in their view. At least one day they will discover that deeper reality is actually there. Their lives aren't really going to drop off the edge of the map into nothing.

Come on man, there's 50

Come on man, there's 50 conversations on this already. It's just as easy to argue religions draws its tenets from the logical reasoning for rights ala Rothbard. One requires arbitrariness and belief in the supernatural and the other requires logic and reasoning that everyone possesses and doesn't alienate the majority of the population that doesn't believe in your particular version (one of thousands on this planet so isn't it lucky you were born into the "right" religion) of the Sky Fairy.

Why pick something arbitrary when you can pick something you can actually make an argument for?

"In reality, the Constitution itself is incapable of achieving what we would like in limiting government power, no matter how well written."

~ Ron Paul, End the Fed

Sorry to...

...make it an odd number. :) You must mean 50, extending into the past. Perhaps I should have done a better search for existing posts.