Jaggar, Alison, and . What is Terrorism, Why is it Wrong, and Could it Ever Be Morally Justified?

2005, Journal of Social Philosophy 36(2): 202-217.

Content: Starts with a nice historical discussion of the emergence of the term ‘terrorism’ and some of the ways that it changed before and after the 9/11 attacks. Jaggar offers a specification of the concept and then her own conception, which can be practiced by governments and international bodies, and then discusses several kinds of conflict in which it may be deployed as a tactic. Here is her definition: “Terrorism is the use of extreme threats or violence designed to intimidate or subjugate governments, groups, or individuals. It is a tactic of coercion intended to promote further ends that in themselves may be good, bad or indifferent. Terrorism may be practiced by governments or international bodies or forces, sub-state groups or even individuals. Its threats or violence are aimed directly or immediately at the bodies or belongings of innocent civilians but these are typically terrorists’ secondary targets; the primary targets of terrorists are the governments, groups or individuals that they wish to intimidate” (2005: 209).

Comment: Would make good required reading on the subject of terrorism.

McPherson, Lionel K., and . Is Terrorism Distinctively Wrong?

2007, Ethics 117(3): 524-546.

Introduction: Many people, including philosophers, believe that terrorism is necessarily and egregiously wrong. I will call this “the dominant view.” The dominant view maintains that terrorism is akin to murder. This forecloses the possibility that terrorism, under any circumstances, could be morally permissible—murder, by definition, is wrongful killing. The unqualified wrongness of terrorism is thus part of this understanding of terrorism.

I will criticize the dominant view. Some philosophers have argued that terrorism might not be impermissible on either a rights‐based or a consequentialist analysis. But I will not pursue the question of whether terrorism could ever be justifiable. Rather, I will argue that the dominant view’s condemnatory attitude toward terrorism as compared to conventional war cannot be fully sustained. I propose that a version of the argument that terrorists do not have adequate authority to undertake political violence—and not the prominent argument that noncombatants should be immune from deliberate use of force against them—is the most plausible basis for finding terrorism objectionable.

Comment: McPherson challenges the view that there is something distinctively wrong about terrorism as compared to conventional warfare. In addition to a discussion on terrorism it presents challenges to traditional interpretations of just war theory.