Advertisement

What is Terrorism?

Chapter
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Law book series (BRIEFSLAW, volume 9)

Abstract

For the moral assessment of terrorism and counterterrorism, one needs a real descriptive definition of terrorism to identify one’s subject matter and avoid misunderstanding. It is a mistake to omit violence from one’s definition both because this is entrenched in ordinary language and because this is a crucial wrong-making characteristic of terrorism. However, one need not limit terrorism to political violence because one can treat political terrorism as one species of terrorism more broadly defined. For moral purposes, one should define terrorism as the attempt to coerce an indirect target by means of terror produced by the use or threat of violence against a direct target. Although it is true that terrorism can have a wide variety of purposes, not all of them are essential to its nature. It prejudices one’s moral judgment of terrorism if one defines it as an attack upon the innocent because this suggests that it should be judged simply in terms of just war theory rather than a wider range of relevant moral reasons. To limit terrorism to the systematic use of violence ignores the moral similarity to such acts as kidnapping.

Keywords

Definition Violence Targets Political Coercion Terror Innocence Just war Purpose Systematic 

References

  1. Bauer M (2005) In: Shanahan T (ed) Philosophy 9/11: thinking about the war on terrorism. Open Court, Chicago, pp 3–21Google Scholar
  2. Bauhn Per (1989) Ethical aspects of political terrorism: the sacrificing of the innocent. Lund University Press, LundGoogle Scholar
  3. Coady CAJ (1985) The morality of terrorism. Philosophy 60:47–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Coady C AJ (2001) Terrorism. In: Becker LC, Becker CB (eds) Encyclopedia of ethics, 2nd edn. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Coady CAJ (2002) In: Coady T, O’Keefe M (eds) Terrorism and justice: moral argument in a threatened world. Melbourne University Press, CarltonGoogle Scholar
  6. Coady CAJ (2004a) Terrorism and innocence. J Ethics 8:37–58Google Scholar
  7. Coady CAJ (2004b) Defining terrorism. In: Primoratz I (ed) Terrorism: The Philosophical Issues. Palgrave Macmillan, HoundsvilleGoogle Scholar
  8. Fletcher GP (2006) The indefinable concept of terrorism. J Int Crim Justice 4:894–911Google Scholar
  9. Gallie WB (1955–1956) Essentially contested concepts. Proc Aristot Soc 56:167–198Google Scholar
  10. Held Virginia (2008) How terrorism is wrong: morality and political violence. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Hoffman B (1999) Inside terrorism. Inigo, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Nathanson S (2010) Terrorism and the ethics of war. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. Primoratz I (2004) What is terrorism? In: Primoratz I (ed)Terrorism: the philosophical issues. Palgrave Mcmillan, HoundsvillGoogle Scholar
  14. Schmid AP, Jongman AJ, Horowitz IL (1988) Political terrorism: a new guide to actors, authors, concepts, data bases, theories and literature. Transaction Books, New BrunswickGoogle Scholar
  15. Stapley C (2009) Terrorism: its goals, targets, and strategies. In: Lowther AB, Lindsay B (eds) Terrorism’s unanswered questions. Proeger Security International, Westport, pp 15–31Google Scholar
  16. Steinhoff U (2007) On the ethics of war and terrorism. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Teichman J (1989) How to define terrorism. Philosophy 64:505–517Google Scholar
  18. Waldron J (2010) Torture, terror, and trade-offs: philosophy for the white house. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  19. Walzer M (1977) Just and unjust wars. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Wardlaw G (1989) Political terrorism: theory, tactics, and counter-measures, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wellman C (1979) On terrorism itself. J Value Inq 13:250–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Wellman C (1991) Violence, law, and basic rights. In: Brady JB, Garver N (eds) Justice, law and violence. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, pp 170–186Google Scholar
  23. Young R (2002) Political terrorism as a weapon of the politically powerless. In: Coady T, O’Keefe M (eds) Terrorism and justice: moral argument in a threatened world. Melbourne University Press, Carlton, pp 55–64Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyWashington University - St LouisSaint LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations