Theories of Violence and the Explanation of Ultra-violent Behavior

In T. Levin (ed.), Violence: Mercurial Gestalt (2008)

Patricia A. Turrisi
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Michael Shaffer
St. Cloud State University
Theorists in various scientific disciplines offer radically different accounts of the origin of violent behavior in humans, but it is not clear how the study of violence is to be scientifically grounded. This problem is made more complicated because both what sorts of acts constitute violence and what needs to be appealed to in explaining violence differs according to social scientists, biologists, anthropologists and neurophysiologists, and this generates serious problems with respect to even attempting to ascertain the differential bona fides of these various explanatory programs. As a consequence, there is little theoretical reason to suspect that efforts to prevent violence will have any appreciable effect. In this paper we investigate the general issue of whether any of the general theoretical approaches to violent behavior can reasonably be taken to be the best approach to the explanation of seriously violent behavior. Our more specific aim is to examine the controversial explanation of violent behavior offered by Lonnie Athens in order to ascertain whether it can be seriously considered to be the best explanation of violent behavior.
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