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Terrorism: A Philosophical Investigation


Unfortunately, in the modern world, the acts of terrorism are not rare. When a person hears about one building or airplane crash, the first thought is that it is a terroristic attack. In this paper, the analysis of one of the supposed acts of terrorism will be developed, using the definitions and approaches given by Igor Primoratz, following the main aspects of moral evaluation, discussing possible moral justifications through the lines of consequentialism.

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The chosen case happened at one of the local supermarkets. A handmade car bomb exploded in the underground parking with more than 50 people being emotionally challenged, 13 people being seriously physically injured, and two people receiving injuries not compatible with life. The investigation showed that the “author” of the bomb did not even try to hide his personality. He delivered the car to a parking place and left it with no emotions. It was not difficult to recognize the man and find his current location.

When he was questioned about his intentions and goals, he remembered a five-year-old story when he was together with his family, and soldiers came and started their military activities that led to the deaths of his relatives. He planned this case for several years and took online courses on how to make bombs and work with different chemical compounds. The choice of the place was spontaneous as he was driving the city and observing people. Then, he made a stop at one of the buildings and found underground parking as his final destination. According to him, it was not just an act of terrorism, but revenge that was declared on justice and memory.

Primoratz’s Definition and the Case

Regarding the offered details of the case, it is possible to define it as terrorism. According to Primoratz, terrorism is “the deliberate use of violence, or threat of its use, against innocent people, with the aim of intimidating some other people into a course of action they otherwise would not take” (30). There are three main aspects in this definition within the frames of which the case has to be analyzed: the nature of the action, target population, and the goal.

To test the case, it is important to identify the nature of actions chosen by a potential terrorist. The car bombing was a “deliberate use of violence” because the person understood the possible outcomes of his actions and made certain preparations during a considerable period of time. In addition, it was clear that a number of “innocent people” could be injured or even die because of the fact that the place of attack was chosen spontaneously.

Common citizens who could know nothing about that event and the death of innocent people were the victims. A supermarket is a place where many people can be found almost anytime, and this choice proves that the terrorist did not care about potential victims. Finally, the goal of this attack was to “intimidate people” even if they were not aware of the course of action. The man aimed to demonstrate the possibility of taking his revenge and declare his grief because of the family’s loss.

Taking into consideration the fact that this case meets all three components of the terrorism definition given by Primoratz, it seems to be correct to count that car bombing as an act of terrorism. Several people lost their lives, several people were responsible for such a development of the events, and many people would remember about this case. It is not a difficult task for a terrorist to take someone’s life, and moral evaluation and justification are the integral parts of the analysis.

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Moral Evaluation and Justification

Some people can find it reasonable to excuse the decisions and actions of terrorists regardless of the outcomes achieved at the end. In this case, the man had a clear background for his decision to use a bomb and promote some injuries. In addition, he took properly planned steps and followed his own principles and beliefs. To provide a moral evaluation of the chosen terrorism act, the ideas of consequentialism have to be introduced.

The peculiar feature of this ethical theory is that human actions can be judged in regard to the expected outcomes (Primoratz 65). Therefore, even if a public opinion shows that the act has to be considered as wrong and immoral, it can be rationally justified even if the innocence of victims is proved (Primoratz 66). Consequentialists choose a method that differs from other approaches and understandings in terms of its morality. The inability to create one definite attitude to terrorism and consequentialism may challenge this moral evaluation.

As soon as human actions are judged through their consequences, consequentialists violate the foundation of such significant principles as the right to life, social respect, and moral equality. There are many contradictions in the moral evaluation of this case from the chosen point of view. On the one hand, a terrorist, as well as any other person, can have his/her interests, beliefs, and plans. He/she try to do everything possible to contribute to the fulfillment of the goals set.

Therefore, the goal of the terrorist to bomb a supermarket as an opportunity to take his revenge and say about his grief has to be justified. On the other hand, there are many people who come to a supermarket with their own thoughts and plans. They expect to buy new goods and products and come back home. Still, an unexpected bombing is a real shock for civilians, and consequentialists may define this case as the one that cannot be justified.

In fact, the supporters of consequentialism choose a serious and rather complex way to judge human actions and acts of terrorism. There are always two sides to the case, and it is possible to justify the position of every party. The man who uses terrorism as one of the possible ways to revenge can rely on his rights, emotional problems, and losses. At the same time, he does not think about the potential losses and outcomes of his decision.

As a result, even from the point of view of consequentialism, this act of terrorism is hard to justify. The man could have enough grounds and reasons to take this step. He failed to think about all the possible consequences and the aims that had to be achieved. It could happen that he wanted to threaten ordinary people or demonstrate the drawbacks in the civilian protection offered by the government. Still, his actions were impulsive and lacked the final goal of all his actions and decisions even after a thorough questioning. Therefore, the act under discussion should not be morally justified along consequential lines.

In general, it turns out to be a difficult assignment to defend terrorism acts and develop positive or, at least, neutral attitudes toward terrorists. The case that is chosen for this analysis has clear grounds and evident outcomes. However, the presence of goals and intentions of the terrorist and the lack of the description of expected outcomes are not enough to morally justify this action even from the consequentialist perspective.

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Work Cited

Primoratz, Igor. Terrorism: A Philosophical Investigation. Polity Press, 2013.

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