A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.

A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.Seneca

This sword of coins is intended to ward off evil and illness, and kills no one.

This, a Chinese sword of coins, is intended to ward off evil and illness, and kills no one.

What does that mean?
This concept is always a heated topic, but one that I believe should be addressed. This quote simply states a simple truth of basic physics. An object at rest remains at rest until acted on by an outside force. A sword, sitting there, doing nothing, will not kill anyone.

Even the famous Sword of Damocles was doing nothing besides existing. A person had set it as a trap, but the sword was doing nothing besides hanging around. It is possible to put a sword in a location and orientation where it could be dangerous, but the sword has no motive, and no method. It simply is.

The same goes for knives, broken bottles, guns, fires, golf clubs, cars, or any other item that can cause death. None of them have any intent to cause harm, that is what the human adds to the equation. The human is the weapon, everything else is just a tool to that end.

Why is the intent of a person important?  
Only humans have intent, only humans can kill. The inanimate objects, however objectionable, are merely tools in the hands of a killer. Does it matter that Cain slew Abel with his bare hands, a rock, or a branch/club? Would he be any more or any less dead if the tool used in the killing was a sword or a gun?

Humans are complex beasts, and at times, the worst in us come out. When something horrific happens, rather than blaming the person, it is easier to blame the tool. But the tool has no intent, it is neither good nor evil, it simply exists. Good or evil may come of it, but that distinction is up to the human.

It is far easier to discuss the merits of a tool than it is to discuss the underlying human condition that lead to such a terrible act. That would require taking a long, hard look into the darkest corners and intents of others, and by extension, ourselves. To do that is difficult, and far too many people avoid the difficult, preferring to reach for the easy instead.

Where can I apply this in my life?
My kitchen knives have occasionally drawn a tiny bit of blood, but have never jumped up and chased or threatened me. Nor have they ever tried to kill anyone. The same goes for my swords (mostly wooden) and my other weapons and tools. And what are we to say about golf clubs and hammers? People have been killed with these as well. Might that be something about which you want to think?

Handguns are often used by murderers to kill people. There have been laws passed against murder, and against handguns. Yet the murders by handguns continue. In some countries, the murder rates have not changed, only the weapons used. Some countries with gun bans are now looking at knife and sword control, as they are now the most common tools for murder.

But, again, the tools have no intent. They simply exist. People have been killing other people since Cain and Able, or from the days of humans as apes with aspirations, depending on your creation beliefs. It’s always been with us, and always will be, until we manage to free ourselves from hatred, jealousy and our evil impulses. Not in my lifetime, at least.

Consider two situations, and their implications. The first is a trained martial artist using their training to disarm a murderer with a gun. At this point it’s easy to say gun=evil and martial artist=good. The second is a trained martial artist misusing their skills to beat someone up, and a police officer using their gun to save the life of the victim. In this case martial artist=evil and gun=good.

Now, look past the tools and focus on the intent of the individual. The people who are doing evil, in each case, are the source of the evil, not their tools. Whether they use their hands or a gun as a tool, the human is the source of the evil intent, never the tool. Again, look past the tools, and look to the intent of the people doing good. Whether it’s the hand of the martial artist or the gun of the cop, the good rests in the human, not in the tool.

Cars kill far more people each year than guns, but most people seem to understand that cars are inanimate objects and neither good nor evil. They are also easily recognized for the good they do, and their overall utility, so they are often excluded from this characterization of evil, even when used to deliberately run down and kill people.

Yes, it’s far easier to blame the tool for the evil, rather than admit that humans in general, and by extension us as individuals, are capable of such terrible acts. But as long as people have evil urges, and succumb to them, they will use tools to kill others.

This tendency to blame the inanimate object rather than the monster wielding it has been going on for over two thousand years, so it won’t likely go away any time soon. But we need to start taking a long, hard look at people, and by extension ourselves. Because that’s where the problem resides.

From: Twitter, @AmeeraBlitz
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/luciusanna176805.html
Photo by inyucho

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31 Responses to A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.

  1. florian mosleh 6 January 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    Basics aside, this doesn’t change that the designed-for-purpose of guns is to injure and kill people. Even if I were to agree that the purpose of handguns is self-defense (i don’t), that self-defense isn’t achieved by shooting the bullets fired at you out of the air, or holding up the gun to block them. Furthermore, if it’s a more effective weapon for defense in close quarters, odds are it’s also a more effective weapon for offense in close quarters. Again, I think that you are confusing design-objectives and intent for application.

    Do you think that there are weapons/items that common people should not be allowed to buy or own?

    • philosiblog 7 January 2013 at 2:24 am #

      I keep getting the feeling that you think all handguns are evil, even the one used last week by a mother to stop a convicted felon who broke into her house. If an item is normally benign, say a kitchen knife, and it can be used for ill, why cannot an item which you believe is normally used strictly for ill be used for good? Or should she have forgone the handgun and tried to grapple with the ex-con, with her life and those of her children on the line?

      As for weapons, in a Utopian society, where everyone knew their limits and only had weapons they could control and use effectively, I feel no need for any restrictions of any type on any weapon. That said, we obviously don’t live in such a society. That said, I believe that with an age restriction and proper training, anything you can afford should be available. There are collectors with tanks and artillery pieces. The only incidence of tank violence I can recall is when the government used one.

      When I was younger, every single person I knew who had a Japanese sword were utterly incompetent as swordsmen, and a danger to themselves and society. Fortunately, all were too poor to afford a real, sharp blade. Now, I know very few who own Japanese swords, and all are highly competent and well trained. That is why I believe a training program, with age boundaries, would be beneficial. The trainer would be legally and morally ‘on the hook’ for the behavior of the student. It would keep things simple and sane, so long as there is a large supply of trainers, as they become the choke point for those trying to restrict what can be owned and used.

    • Sergio Brudini 25 November 2016 at 6:14 am #

      Just stumbled on this blog and could not help myself. Want to add my 2 cents. Inanimate objects don’t have any mechanism to carry intent of a creator if they were created. A gun can be used just as a paper weight all its life. Here intent of its creator is completely irrelevant. Natural objects like stones don’t have any “creator ” and no intent for their existence. A stone can be used to build a house or to crack a skull. At the beginning of the human history it was mostly later. I believe that assigning human features ( like intent, being good or evil) to physical objects is dangerous for human society because it allows to transfer responsibility for an action from a person to an object.

      • philosiblog 28 December 2016 at 8:38 pm #

        Thanks for stopping by and for adding to the conversation is such a succinct and intelligent way.

  2. florian mosleh 28 December 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    To your point that my understanding of the fundamental purpose of handguns is incorrect, as the vast majority of handguns are fired at targets and not people, I would point out that the vast majority of handguns are designed by people to be used as sidearms, often in combat situations (to kill people).

    There is a (to me) important difference between the designed for purpose of a thing and how it is actually used. In researching several handguns recently, I discovered that the impetus to design many of the most commonly sold ones was a request for military contracts. You may use your Glock to fire at paper targets, but it was *designed-for* the Austrian Military, whose primary objective is not to fire at bits of paper. So, perhaps the disagreement lies in the meaning of the phrase “fundamental purpose”. To me this term reflects the design goals of the people who build these things, not how they are actually used, necessarily. The purpose of a car is not to sit in a parking space, even if most vehicles in North America spend more time parked than actually moving.

    At what point does a nice, ambiguous tool like a handgun, become a bad specific tool like an IED? I don’t think that Nobel would be passing out awards to firearm or ammunition manufacturers were he still around. I know that hollow point bullets make for great accuracy at target ranges, but they are mainly designed for maximum stopping power (reduced risk from ricochet and moderated ranges of penetration being tertiary selling points).

    • philosiblog 3 January 2013 at 5:23 am #

      If you’re going to take the military route as the origin of handguns, let’s review basics. You don’t go to war (hunting humans) with a pistol. You have a rifle or a heavier weapon for that. Your pistol has significantly less stopping power (or killing power, if you prefer) than anything else on a modern battlefield. Your pistol is for defending yourself in close quarters because the space is too tight to use your rifle, or because your rifle is broken and your pistol is all you have. A pistol is, as it always has been, a primarily defensive weapon, by design (a second rifle would have been more useful, but a bit too bulky to carry).

      I agree that we seem to have a slightly different view on fundamental purpose for things, but I believe that most can be cleared up with additional information exchanges.

      I don’t agree that all IED’s are bad. If an IED goes off and no one is around, is it still bad? What if it is used by good people to destroy a vehicle used by bad people? Or is it bad because it’s designed purpose is to kill, even if the primary ingredients were fertilizer (designed to help food crops grow) and fuel oil (designed to keep people warm in the winter)? Again, I disagree that any inanimate object has any moral value, good or bad (or evil).

      Sorry to be so long in getting back to you, it’s been a crazy couple of holidays, with a 4000 mile road trip for a wedding slipped in-between.

  3. florian mosleh 28 December 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    I will agree that inanimate objects are free of intent, but as to whether they are “evil” or not is more complex.

    I am not religious, so I had to consult Wikipedia for a working definition of what evil actually is. The best grasp that I can get at the concept is that it equates to “profound immorality”. It is quite conceivable to me that Immorality is sometimes something that is done, but also (perhaps more often) something that is not done. For example, suppose that i am told to throw a rock across a room every minute or so. I begin doing this, and after about an hour a person comes and stands before me. If I continue to fling rocks, I would probably hit and injure her. I would be exercising morality by recognizing the risk and potential suffering to this person and not carrying out my task.

    A handgun is a tool, crafted and designed by a human to kill people. It will execute this purpose without the ability to make a moral judgement. It is fundamentally Immoral, or maybe Amoral. It is deadly and lacks morality, which might make it evil.

    Empathy is a principle driver in the human being’s ability to process and act on moral principles. If an object is free of the culpability of being “evil” because it can’t empathize, and hence moralize, then so are people who lack these faculties, right? A sociopath is a person who lacks empathy, if he or she takes a gun and starts shooting hundreds of people, are they evil for it?

    It seems like maybe these questions about good and evil are circular navel-gazing that doesn’t really accomplish much, so maybe it makes more sense to look at your initial premise.

    “The human is the weapon, everything else is just a tool to that end.”

    An IED by the roadside is a specialized tool for blowing up soldiers. Is it in and of itself a “bad” device? Is it wrong to manufacture them? Is the only objectionable act actually placing it and arming it?

    I think the problem with these metaphors and generalities is that they themselves are immoral. We are as human beings equipped with the capacity to assess a given situation and determine if it is moral or immoral. To make a generalization that automatically renders innocent dangerous implements and their manufacturers is just lazy. If someone makes an IED, odds are he’s a terrorist and a profoundly immoral person, and the device itself is an abomination that needs to be dismantled.

    Generally though, if someone makes a device that can kill a person and sells it to someone without any clear notion of how they might use it… well… suddenly it’s more complicated for some reason.

    By the way, I’m sorry these replies are getting so long winded. If you’d prefer we can continue this conversation via email. 🙂

    • philosiblog 28 December 2012 at 6:07 pm #

      We will have to disagree with the fundamental purpose of a handgun. It may most often be reported on may well be killing people, but the vast majority of them shoot targets far more often than people.

      I agree that the tool has no judgement, and simply fulfills it’s purpose, just as a golf club doesn’t care whether it’s hitting a small ball or the back of someone’s head.

      I agree with your use of empathy as a primary method for determining good from evil. Propaganda has been used for centuries to de-humanize one’s enemies, so that killing them in no longer immoral, and more easily done without raising moral questions in the population.

      As for an IED, that is a very specific tool. The general purpose of explosives is to make holes in rock, or at least that was the purpose to which Alfred Nobel invented it. His horror at it’s adaptation to war was the reason the Nobel Prize for Peace exists. As for when it becomes an evil act to use explosives, I believe the evil starts when you decide you will actually use it to kill or maim others. An intellectual discussion of the topic (such as this one) is obviously well above the threshold of evil. 8) That is why there are laws where it is illegal to conspire to do something, even if one never actually executes the plan, or actually accomplishes the desired end.

      That brings up an interesting problem with morality as practiced by most humans. I, and by extension my causes, are justified and moral. The other guy is the evil one. I am not a terrorist, I’m a freedom fighter. The other guy is not a freedom fighter, they’re terrorists. The sale of a potentially dangerous object to someone with no known allegiance is morally problematic, but as it wouldn’t be obviously evil, most would let it slide as a ‘grey area’ or “he seemed like such a nice guy, how was I to know?”

      As for taking this to e-mail, I consider the whole purpose of the blog to foster comments. If it ever gets to the point where it’s too big, I’ll put in some forums and we can take it over there, but until then, let’s keep the ball rolling!

  4. florian mosleh 27 December 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Once again I think you and I are in “violent agreement”. 🙂

    “I agree that the maker provides a purpose for a tool. Machine guns were designed with the intent to prevent war by making it too terrible to contemplate. Does that make machine guns inherently good?”

    No, it means they are inherently “terrible”. “Don’t come with your own terrible things or you will meet my terrible things” is the implicit exchange happening here.

    Just as we don’t think that it’s a good idea that everyone should have nukes, because so many paths of mutually assured destruction will likely just eventually lead to destruction, machine guns are not available for general purchase in the US, they require extensive licensing. I was recently informed of this when in a similar discussion I misapplied the term Machine Gun when I mean Assault Weapons.

    We fashion these *evil* things because we want to deter people. Perhaps even because when confronted with evil, they will recognize it and choose good.

  5. Shawn 26 December 2012 at 1:53 am #

    I must agree with the author. An object, any object, is only an object. How can a sword, or a gun, or even hands commit an act of evil without the individual making a decision to commit an act of evil? A man with wealth has the ability to help others, or, let the greed consume them and do harm to gain more. A gun is only a tool. I use them to hunt with. I’ve defended our nation with one, and, once my family with one. It was how I used it, not what I used.

    • philosiblog 26 December 2012 at 7:29 pm #

      Thanks, that was my point. There was a bit of a discussion as to whether that was the point that Seneca was trying to make, but it most definitely is the point I was trying to make.

    • florian 26 December 2012 at 10:46 pm #

      The whole point of Seneca’s discussion was to reenforce the reality that this question isn’t easily answered one wayor another. It’s a complex issue and simply saying it’s one way or the other glosses over the inherent complexities of the question.

      It’s fine to get romantic and speak of having virtuously used weapons to “defend your nation”, but in the modern context whether this is a good or evil thing is really a matter of perspective. the last time someone had to use weapons to directly defend the US from an attack was in World War 2 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. There are divergent views on whether anything the US has done in warfare since was actually in defense. Regardless, this underscores precisely the sort of conceit that Seneca warns of when it comes to the instruments that we hold to be so blameless.

      Also, in any case, it is best to look at Seneca’s words in context. The quote at the head of this article is divorced from it’s context, and Seneca presents it as something that is opposed to his own views. To be clear, he isn’t saying that a sword is necessarily always a tool of evil, but he weighs the consideration of latent evil in inanimate objects at great length and, at best comes to a conclusion that is ambiguous.

      If nothing else, this discussion has gotten me reading more Seneca. He was definitely not the kind of guy that viewed things as being so easily divided into black and white. Consider the Golden Hammer Principle. The idea is that if you give a child a hammer, the whole world starts looking like nails to be driven. A man with a gun, if he has self restraint may be a force of good (or nothing at all), but in the absence of that discretion, the hostility and vice that is latent to all human beings finds a quick release. Worse yet, give a man a gun and point him at some strangers and tell him they are a threat to his homeland, and he may go charging off to start killing people, and automatically assume that he must be a force for good because… well… he just must be.

      • florian 27 December 2012 at 12:02 am #

        something that is also disregarded in alot of this “tool” rhetoric is that even if a tool is non sentient, it is imbued with purpose by it’s maker.

        a kitchen knife used to murder someone is a tool made for generally yummy purpose being used to do something evil.

        a Glock 17 was developed to shoot humans. if you think it was made for hunting go read about it, it wasn’t. it’s a thorny issue to debate if fundimentally the killing and maiming of humans is neither good nor evil. but as a tool, the handgun is made for the job of killing humans, and frankly, i couldn’t think of any trade that could do with less hobbyists.

      • philosiblog 27 December 2012 at 2:05 pm #

        I agree that the maker provides a purpose for a tool. Machine guns were designed with the intent to prevent war by making it too terrible to contemplate. Does that make machine guns inherently good?

        Ask OJ Simpson’s Ex Wife about knives, and how they can be used for good or ill. They were designed to help us eat, but meat is meat, and cuts as well on the cutting board or in a dark alley.

        Our Glock has never been shot at anything other than at paper. Handguns were developed for close defense, both for civilians and for military uses, just as a knife or dagger was the counterpart to a sword. Bad people will always be armed, it is part of how they gain advantage over the good, unarmed people. They are already armed in violation of the law, and prey on the unarmed, which is also against the law. They always have, and always will. To disarm the victims is the most heinous of crimes an intellectual could possibly perpetrate on them. Don’t let emotion cloud logic or judgement.

      • philosiblog 27 December 2012 at 1:57 pm #

        Interesting points you bring up, but almost all can be used to undermine your own positions. More reading of Seneca being the exception. 8)

        You caution against presuming a person is basically good and can resist temptation, then (in the final paragraph) take the opposite position, presuming that people should be presumed to be innately hostile and prone to vice, easily manipulated into attacking innocents with little to no provocation.

        The quote is about a murderer, not a soldier defending their country, so the premise of your second paragraph is shaky at best. I agree with your conclusion in the third paragraph, which you state the result is ambiguous.

        I disagree that any object is innately anything but an objects. Any object can be used to kill, from pencils to bulldozers. Some are more efficient at it than others, true. Some are designed to do so, yes. But none of that makes an object evil. That requires intent. We may have to disagree on this point.

      • florian mosleh 27 December 2012 at 2:23 pm #

        “presuming that people should be presumed to be innately hostile and prone to vice, easily manipulated into attacking innocents with little to no provocation.”

        I don’t believe I made this presumption. I said that people who are wise use discretion. My specified as “Worse” example in fact says that such a man *MAY* choose to do bad things. As a point of fact, some do and some do not. Personally, I tend to believe that people are inherently good, but can be misguided. I understand that this perspective puts me in something of a minority. Nonetheless, I don’t see where my statements undermine my own position. They may undermine your impression of my positions, but I think I’ve pretty solidly reasoned through my views. Thanks! 8)

        I don’t know which quote you are referring to with respect to my second paragraph being shaky (wow this tangled web of cross-referenced discourse sounds sooooo academic 😉 ) I was responding to Shawn’s assertion that a noble pursuit he has engaged in with firearms is the “defense of his nation”. I do not believe that he is a murderer, but I suppose we do live in uncertain times (please excuse my black humor here).

        As to your last paragraph I think that, politically charged disagreements Vis-A-Vis firearms aside this is actually an interesting basis for broader Philosophical Inquiry: What is the difference between “Designed-for-Purpose” and “Intent” ?

        Certainly, most handguns are designed for the purpose of shooting people. Are they not designed with the Intent of being effective hole-punchers of human beings? It’s an ugly way to look at it, but it’s the cold reality isn’t it? Putting warm, fuzzy and romantic notions like “defense of homeland” into this maybe makes someone feel more wholesome about wielding such a thing, but it is an instrument of death and destruction.

        Is a device exclusively made to kill human beings evil? What is evil? I’m not a religious person, but I know that buried somewhere in the Bible is a bit where a grizzly dude wanders up a mountain, talks to a burning column for a bit and wanders back down with a couple bits of stone that, among other things, suggest “Thou shalt not kill.” So, even if I am (gratefully) unqualified to be an arbiter of what exactly is evil, some crafty folks back in the day decided that killing is. By extension I would infer that devices meant to streamline the process of killing are instruments of evil (according to these same crafty folks). A man may resort to evil by employing said device. He may also affirm his goodness by resisting temptation.

      • philosiblog 27 December 2012 at 7:26 pm #

        Sorry, in the interface for WordPress didn’t show to whom you were responding.

      • philosiblog 27 December 2012 at 7:30 pm #

        As for the broader question, to me, intent requires a cognitive ability. Objects and most animals do not. Designed-for-purpose, until we get a little more advanced in genetic manipulation, it will apply to inanimate objects.

        What are your thoughts on this?

  6. florian mosleh 23 December 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    I wish I could agree with you. Really.

    The principle point on which I think we agree with regards to what Seneca is saying is that I don’t think he finds these objects merely to be an amplifier of the holders intent. He believes that there is such a thing as an evil object.

    He quotes Posidonius, whom he has already assented to sharing his views, with as saying: “Things which bestow upon the soul no greatness or confidence or freedom from care, but on the other hand create in it arrogance, vanity, and insolence, are evils. But things which are the gift of Fortune drive us into these evil ways. Therefore these things are not goods.”

    To me what is most interesting about the piece is the end, which reads a little ambiguously to me. I’m one of those people who (unfortunately) is an Idealist that hopes that one day we will be sufficiently noble creatures to not need laws (Utopian Anarchist sort of). Because of this, I feel like what he says at the end is (to paraphrase), “Let us not make laws to outlaw those things that are evil. Let us instead choose to eschew evils without the need to be bound by laws.”


    • philosiblog 23 December 2012 at 10:04 pm #

      Agreed. There is indeed some ambiguity in his letter.

      Where I disagree with Seneca (if your interpretation is correct) is that any thing can be evil. I believe to be evil, there must be enough intelligence to know the difference between good and evil, and to choose evil. Wolves kill for food, as do humans. When a wolf kills a human, it’s not evil, it’s a wolf being a wolf.

      I too hope that someday we won’t need laws to differentiate between right and wrong. The Chinese have a saying “Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one.” I believe that is true today. Those who chose to be good and moral, do so because of their beliefs and values. I imagine there are things you will not do because of who you are and what you believe, rather than simply because it’s a against the law. The idealist in me hopes we’ll live in a flavor of Beneficent Utopian Anarchist Society. The pragmatist in me, sadly, keeps my sword sharp against the day it is needed for the protection of my family.

      And, yes, a truce would be nice – not that I think it ever got all *that* bad. 8)

  7. florian mosleh 21 December 2012 at 8:50 am #

    I don’t think I agree with you interpretation. Look again.

    The document is, at it’s core, an inquiry into the goodness or badness of riches. The sword is a metaphor used as an incidental comparison to the role of riches in the hands of the wealthy.

    “All goods ought to be free from blame…” the things he identifies as pure and free from blame things that are ‘good’, not ‘goods’ as in ‘goods and services’.

    In the same paragraph, he says, “but riches produce shamelessness. The things which are goods give us greatness of soul, but riches give us arrogance. And arrogance is nothing else than a false show of greatness.”

    I won’t say that you can extend Seneca’s contempt for riches all the way through his metaphor, and apply it back to the sword, but it seems unlikely that he would tie the two together because he believes the inverse.

    I think it’s far more likely that Seneca believes that Swords, like Riches “puff up” our spirits and make us arrogant.

    • florian mosleh 21 December 2012 at 11:12 am #

      Please try to excuse my bad grammar and spelling errors.

      • philosiblog 23 December 2012 at 1:23 am #

        Not a problem. I use spell checkers and grammar checkers to help me. I’m lousy at them on my own. Use the tools! 8)

    • philosiblog 23 December 2012 at 1:22 am #

      I believe we are in violent agreement. 8) I tried to make that point clear, and I apologize if instead I clouded it. My point is that the sword is blameless. It is an object. If an evil person holds it, it will be a tool for evil. If a good person holds it, it will be a tool for good. If a person of questionable moral content holds it, they may well be tempted to do ill with it, just as the pursuit of riches can do the same to a person of questionable moral content. The sword, like riches, is an amplifier of the person holding or pursuing. If they are good, much more good will come from it. If they are evil, much more evil will come from it. If they are not fully in either camp, there will be temptation to do ill, more-so than to do good.

      Ultimately, Seneca is dancing around the ‘power corrupts’ argument. I believe corruption needs a toe-hold. There are people who able to withstand the temptation and resist the corruption. Consider the millions of people in the US alone who own guns. That there are so few shootings implies that nearly every single one of those people do not fall under the influence, the “puffing up” of their egos and go on shooting rampages.

      I believe, based on your comments in your most recent comment, that we agree, am I correct?

  8. florian mosleh 20 December 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    It’s amazing how often this quote is used to rally Seneca to the side of those who believe that Weapons are merely tools in the hands of those who do evil. You haven’t actually read the piece in which Seneca wrote these words. I know, because I just read it after seeing so many people refer to it. It is fabulously ironic that the actual full quote says,

    ‘Certain men answer this objection as follows: “You are mistaken if you ascribe disadvantages to riches. Riches injure no one; it is a man’s own folly, or his neighbour’s wickedness, that harms him in each case, just as a sword by itself does not slay; it is merely the weapon used by the slayer. Riches themselves do not harm you, just because it is on account of riches that you suffer harm.”‘

    Seneca is engaged in a broader discussion on morals and identifies a common set of arguments against his own beliefs, which are that the object used in the enactment of an evil are not able to be separated from the evil itself. In essence, this is totally contrary to the assertion you are trying to suggest Seneca is making.

    If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself:

    And then, do Seneca a favor and stop misquoting him.

    • philosiblog 21 December 2012 at 5:17 am #

      I am so glad that you have read the whole thing. And I am also glad that you speak for Seneca. I’m sure he is proud of you.

      That said, I do not consider it ironic in the slightest. Whether you follow someone’s belief system or not is not required for you to be allowed to comment on them.

      Your link is to a slightly different translation, but still quite valid. If you read from the beginning of the paragraph in which the quote is contained, he is stating many arguments, pro and con, for the gaining of riches. The sword is used as an example. Also note that each of the arguments stated are in the third person, not in Seneca’s voice, therefore (logically) not necessarily his position.

      Oh look! In the very next paragraph (marked 31 in your link), he states quite clearly that he believes the better argument is the one that states that riches are not evil in themselves, but that in the pursuit of them, men are often tempted to do evil. Applied to the sword, the sword is not evil, but the people with the sword may be tempted to commit evil acts. I don’t know how that differs from my position in the blog post.

      If you wish to debate, I will gladly do so. I have even lost a couple. However, I would appreciate you toning down the attitude just a little bit in your next comment. Thanks!

      • Joe Lovell 16 April 2016 at 12:56 pm #

        St. John Chrysostom somewhat restated Seneca a few hundred years later:

        “For men of understanding do not say that the sword is to blame for murder, nor wine for drunkenness, nor strength for outrage, nor courage for foolhardiness, but they lay the blame on those who make an improper use of the gifts which have been bestowed upon them by God, and punish them accordingly.” (St. John Chrysostom)

      • philosiblog 20 April 2016 at 2:55 am #

        Thanks for stopping by and for leaving your informative quote.

        Yes, the thought comes up from time to time. And the truth, that humans act irresponsibly, seems lost on some. While you can injure (or worse) yourself or others with a sword, knife, fork or even a rake, it takes a human to do it. Whether it is actively or even accidentally causing the harm, or through carelessness leave it where it can subsequently cause injury, the common factor is the careless or irresponsible human. Inanimate objects are simply that, inanimate. Until they are used by a human, they are nothing but potential harm. To do actual harm, that takes a human.

  9. mosby504 15 December 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    http://truththeory.com/2012/06/28/fingerprints/ thought you might like this quote.

    • philosiblog 15 December 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Thanks! Look for it in the not-too-distant future.


  1. A sword never kills anybody;it is a tool in a killers hands. - 25 January 2013

    […] need to think for themselves to stay FREE. GodBless Chris A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer?s hand. | philosiblog Ever wonder where your thoughts come from? Reply With […]

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