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Scholars have considered the relation between violence and justice as an empirical issue or as a normative issue. If we ask, “What is the relation between (people's conception of) justice and their proclivity to engage in violence?” then it is an empirical issue. If we ask, “Can violence ever be just?” then it is a normative issue.

The Empirical and Normative Issues

The empirical issue has engaged observers of politics at least since Aristotle (384–322 BCE), who argued that revolutionary violence often results when a political regime does not conform to the conception of justice held by a large segment of the population. Hence, a democratic revolution in the name of equality may take place in an oligarchic regime that favors the rich, as Aristotle noted. The ...

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