The Epistemology of Murder

Murder, She Wrote, continued

The Epistemology of Murder

Washburn notes that one reason there is so much violence reported in the media – after all, there are lots of non-violent events occurring in the world – is that people are interested in its meaning, i.e., what is the murderer trying to tell us/someone/the world by this behavior? Such communication arises from what Zorzybski called a “semantic (or evaluational) reaction,” behavior dependent on the meaning that the individual attributes to the situation in which he or she finds him- or herself.

“To fully understand an act of murder, one must, as Truman Capote did in his factual ‘novel,’ In Cold Blood, reconstruct the entire existential field which circumscribes the moment when the trigger is pulled or the knife is thrust.

Such completeness, of course, is seldom possible or practical. Detectives are ordinarily content with establish a ‘motive.’ …   The question of what happened inside the murderer is subordinated to the simpler task of making his crime intelligible in terms of certain norms and expectations about what people value and intend. These expectations are usually highly conventional, constituting, in effect, a code by which a society orients itself when it must makes sense out of the behavior of others.”

“From the point of view of general semantics a great deal of pathological behavior can be understood as a result of an inability to emerge from orientations that have become outmoded. This creates functional gaps, blind spots, inner schisms that are expressed socially in acts of violence.”

“The assumption is that human development passes through an ascending series of semantic epochs or quantum jumps in awareness, each providing a fuller and more satisfactory motivational framework.

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