On the Ethics of War and Terrorism

On the Ethics of War and Terrorism

On the Ethics of War and Terrorism

On the Ethics of War and Terrorism

Excerpt

The very idea of an ethics of war is suspect to some people—either because they believe that all's fair] in war or, on the other hand, because they think that there simply cannot be such a thing as an ethically condonable war or an ethically condonable kind of warfare. That there should even be an ethics of terrorism, and hence some legitimate kind of terrorism, is likely to appear not merely to some as a position which is in equal parts absurd and immoral. According to common sense, terrorism is the paradigm of senseless, or, at the very least, of downright illegitimate and detestable violence.

But common sense is not necessarily a reliable standard in these matters. In the course of history it has often enough adjudged obviousness to opinions which were by no means obvious, but rather completely unfounded and, moreover, wrong. Consequently, when it comes to ethical questions of some importance—and war and terrorism probably are phenomena of some importance—one is well advised to advance philosophical analysis against common points of view and to question pre-existing, socially established frameworks of discussion and prejudices, instead of docilely accepting them. At least, one is well advised to do this if one is concerned with exercising one's own responsibility. For we are not only responsible for our deeds; we are also, and foremost, responsible for the formation of our beliefs—since everything further follows from this. It is true that, lately, some circles have sworn to an abstention from reflection, on the grounds of a kind of unconditional solidarity—similar to an abstention of reflection on the basis of religious belief which was once declared to be no less decent. But such ideas are perverted and ignorant, and they . . .

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