Terrorism and Collective Responsibility

Terrorism and Collective Responsibility

Terrorism and Collective Responsibility

Terrorism and Collective Responsibility

Synopsis

The terrorist threat remains a disturbing issue for the early 1990s. This book explores whether terrorism can ever be morally justifiable and if so under what circumstances.
Professor Burleigh Taylor Wilkins suggests that the popular characterisation of terrorists as criminals fails to acknowledge the reasons why terrorists resort to violence. It is argued that terrorism cannot be adequately understood unless the collective responsibility of organised groups, such as political states, for wrongs allegedly done against the groups which the terrorists represent is taken into account. Terrorism and Collective Responsibilityprovides an analysis of various models of collective responsibility, and it takes into account recent discussions of military responsibility and business ethics. The book also explores the problems that terrorism poses for the just war tradition.
The arguments of prominent philosophers against terrorism are critically examined and the claim that terrorism necessarily violates the rights of innocent persons is considered. Wilkins sets forth an original definition of terrorism that is sure to provoke controversy.

Excerpt

I am indebted as always to my teachers and students. Two of my teachers deserve special mention for their work in areas relevant to this study: Joel Feinberg for his work in collective responsibility and rights, and Harold T. Parker for his work in administrative and military history. Joe White, Angelo Corlett, Victor Tam and Edmund Wall, although formally my students, were substantively my teachers as well.

Chapter 1, “Can terrorism be justified?”, appeared in Assent/ Dissent, edited by Joe White (Dubuque, 1984), and Chapter 2, “Terrorism and consequentialism,” appeared in The Journal of Value Inquiry (1987). Although I have updated these chapters in several respects, they remain substantially as they were in their original form. Because the chapters of this book were written at different times over the past decade the reader will notice some differences in vocabulary, philosophical style, and emphasis, but none, I hope, in their overall consistency. This book is a study in applied ethics, so besides discussing the writings of other philosophers on the topics of terrorism and collective responsibility I have also commented on the works of some journalists familiar with these topics.

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