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The Non-aggression Principle

The non-aggression principle is a moral stance which asserts that aggression is illegitimate.

Also called the non-aggression axiom, the anti-coercion principle, the zero aggression principle ZAP, the non-initiation of force, or NAP for short.

Aggression is defined as the initiation or threat of non-consensual physical force against the person or property of another. Aggression is understood to include indirect force such as theft by stealth and fraud. Unlike pacifism, the non-aggression principle does not preclude violence used in self-defense or the defense of others.


The meaning and scope of the NAP is debated. Here are some of the interpretations:

  1. A legal principle about enforceable law.
    Legal definition (Walter Block)

  2. A fundamental moral principle that applies to the civilized society moral environment (but perhaps not to survival situations or for self-actualization.)
    Modal ethics definition (Hogeye Bill)

  3. An ethical guideline, one of many heuristic principles for determining norms.
    Rule utilitarianism

  4. A fundamental moral principle applying everywhere.
    Unqualified definition and perhaps most common (L. Neil Smith) nap-art-sm

    "A moral stance which asserts that aggression is inherently illegitimate.” - Wikipedia and many other sources.


  5. A fundamental moral principle applying everywhere except emergencies.
    Objectivist definition (Rand, Rothbard, and many others.)

  6. A moral heuristic saying that any aggression must be justified.
    Intuitionist definition (Michael Huemer)

Hogeye Bill: I like 1, 2, and 6. I use my own modal ethics (#2) the most. Note that what constitutes aggression is dependent on some underlying property system. E.g. In a sticky property system the squatter is the aggressor, while in a possession property system the person who attempts to evict the squatter is the aggressor.

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