May 22, 2003

We know well the axiom about someone else's right to throw a fist ending where our various noses begin. Trouble is, that boundary might not be quite so clear of late.

Does it begin with the physical intersection of fist and nose? A bit late to block harm, I would think. Yet the mere possibility of harmful outcome as a result of a possible action based on resources would not be the place to begin either. The existence of hands implies the possibility of a fist, but it also implies a multitude of other possibilities, many of them neutral or positive toward others. Shall we bind all other hands against the possibility of a thrown fist? Shall we amputate against the possibility that we ourselves might walk, accidentally or on purpose, into somebody's outstretched, palm-forward hand?

The fight started when he hit me back.

Intent must factor into this balance as well -- but an intent tempered by the action and its observable consequence. The very existence of intent reinforces implied awareness of temporality: for intent is meaningless without a structure construct connecting likely outcome with likely action (within the current limitations of knowledge). Once one becomes aware that connection of fist with flesh does bring about physical harm to others, there is no point to claiming benign intent while swinging wildly or with purpose in a room which contains other people. Whether or not the fist is intended specifically to hit, the action has placed the onus of avoidance exclusively on everyone other than the one swinging. Common sense suggests that this would not be a desirable model for all in the room to copy.

So: find the overlap wherein possibility translates into true and immediate prediction, such that an action can be clearly identified as a directed fist within a temporal window allowing the consequences of that action (as they would have been without external interruption) to be averted -- if the greater societal construct finds it desirable for such averting to happen.

Simple, yes?

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