Dove of Peace

Beginner's Guide to Peace - Finding Solid Footing

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

First Steps - The Logic of the NAP

Woodland Path

To build a logical foundation for the Non-Aggression Principle we need to agree on a few basic premises.

First we need to determine what we know for certain. One thing that seems irrefutable, at least to me, is that I exist. To borrow from the mathematician Rene Descartes, “I think, therefore I am”. I cannot logically deny my own existence and I suspect you will conclude the same about yourself. Though we may not know why we are here or for how long, we are here now. Our recognition of this reality is where we begin our journey.

The Thinker

What next seems obvious is that we are each responsible for the movements of our own bodies. I can think of a basic action to perform and my body will do it, within reason. No one else seems capable of controlling my body the way I can. I therefore must be the owner, or possessor, of my body. This is the concept of Self-Ownership. Equally important, I cannot control any other person’s body by my thoughts. I therefore cannot rationally assert that I am the owner of anyone else.

On the Move - Human Action

The next thing we discover is that, in order to live fully, we must be free. We are animated beings, not rooted plants.


- To survive, we must be free to move, to procure our food and drink.

- To be moral, we must be free to reason and to choose. We cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by base impulses less we become slaves to our bodies. Neither can we allow ourselves to be ruled by others less we become slaves of a different sort.

- To thrive, we must be free to reach into the unknown, to feed our mind’s curiosity, to question and discover what lies beyond.

Connections - Whether an infant grasping for a first touch or an elderly person reaching out for a final one, whether or not we even have the capability, we all share the fundamental need to connect with others. To create healthy and enduring bonds it is vital that these connections be free of coercion and of our own choosing.

Pausing for Reflection


We as human beings are one of the few animals that can recognize ourselves in the mirror. More importantly, we have an innate ability to recognize our fellow human beings and are able to reflect on and consider other people's situations empathetically.

One thing we quickly notice is that we are all in the same predicament. To live we are all compelled to take action, and by necessity we must step into the spaces that separate us. It is here that we encounter each other and discover the need to tread carefully and respectfully, and to not aggress. It is also here that we discover the benefits of making connections, finding mates, building friendships, and creating vibrant communities.

As sole owners of our bodies, we are each responsible for our own actions and have an unquestionable right, or claim, to the products of our labors. It should be obvious, with a bit of reflection, that these rights also apply to others and that we can make no claim to their production without mutual agreement, whether it be trade, charity or some other peaceful exchange.

Negotiating the Outside World


In asserting ownership of our individual efforts there are some complications. Our productive endeavors require interaction with the outside world, both for a supply of raw materials and as a storehouse for our output. In extending beyond the natural boundaries of our bodies we inevitably find ourselves at risk of conflict with each other. With regard to the spaces that previously separated us, the need to negotiate and reach agreements becomes vital.

Harmony and Balance

To deal fairly and peacefully with each other it thus becomes crucial to establish rules to provide fair and reasonable access to source materials as well as to support each other’s claim to our own productive output. The aggregation of these rules is the concept known as "Property Rights".



- The Non-Aggression Principle is based on the concept of Self-Ownership. We are ultimately free to act as we wish but are also responsible for our actions.

- In our interactions with others, there arises a need to provide orderly access to resources as well as protect the products of each person’s labor. One solution is the institution of Property Rights.

Which Way? Which Way?


Picture Credits

^ Tennessee trail: Photo and artwork by Andrew Lesko.

^ The Thinker: Photo by Jean-David & Anne-Laure of a sculpture designed by Rodin in 1880. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

^ Touch: Detail from the fresco The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo (1508-1512). Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

^ Reflection: Detail fom the painting The Toilet of Venus by Peter Paul Rubens (1612-1615). Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

^ Venetian Trade: The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice. Painting by Canaletto (1730). Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

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