(All quotes from: James Gilligan, Violence - Our deadly epidemic and its

causes, New York 1996 (Putnam)


'The more I learn about other peoples' lives, the more I realize that I

have yet to hear the history of any family in which there has not been at

least one family member who ahas been overtaken by fatal or lifethreatening

violence, as the perpetrator or the victim - whether the violence takes the

form of suicide or homicide, death in combat, death from a drunken or

reckless driver, or any other of the many nonnatural forms of death' (p.5)


'I work as a psychiatrist. My approach to the problem of violent behavior

is bio-medical, or to be more precise, bio-psycho-social: I view violence

as a problem in public health and preventive and social psychiatry. My

purpose is to arrive at an understanding of the causes of the various forms

of violent behavior, in the hope that understanding will help to clarify

how we can most effectively and efficiently prevent such behavior.' (p. 17)


(About working in a maximum security proson in Massachusets): 'To speak of

these men as "the living dead" is not a metaphor I have invented, but

rather the most direct and literal, least distorted way to summarize what

these men have told me when describing their subjective experience of

themselves. Many murderers, both sane and insane, have told me that "they"

have died, that their personality has died, usually at some identifable

time in the past, so that they feel dead, even though their bodies live

on.' (p. 33)


'Once they [the murderers,JBG] have seen that killing others does not bring

them back to life, many murderers find that the only way to feel alive,

since they cannot feel anything emotionally, is to feel physical pain. So

they attempt to induce such feelings by cutting or otherwise injuring their

bodies.' (p.39)


'I am suggesting that the only way to explain the causes of violence, so

that we can learn how to prevent it, is to approach violence as a problem

in public health and preventive medicine, and to think of violence as a

symptom of life-threatening (and often lethal) pathology(...). To think of

violence as evil - if we confuse that value judgement about violence with

an explanation of it - can only confuse us into thinking that we have an

explanation when we do not.'(p.92f)


'Condemning violence or forgiving it are irrelevant, once you see violence

as a problem in public health and preventive medicine. No one supposes that

because doctors do not waste their time and energy on "condemnations" or

"punishments" of cancer and heart disease that they are somehow "soft on

cancer" or "permissive" toward heart disease.'(p.93)


Return to Main Menu