Defining terrorism – a typology

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This paper argues that philosophers require a strict canonical definition of terrorism if they are to be of any use in morally evaluating the changing character war. This definition ought to be a narrow, critical one, articulating precisely what is wrong with terrorism and strictly specifying which incidents fall into this derogatory category and which do not. I argue against those who avoid definitions or adopt wide and apologetic ones. The latter claim neutrality for themselves and accuse those who define terrorism strictly of political bias. The apologetics of terrorism often allege that stringent, critical, definitions of terrorism beg important questions of justification, rendering terrorism unjustifiable by definition. The apologetics of terrorism however, have an obvious political agenda. Those who deliberately blur the distinctions between terrorism and other forms of violence cannot claim academic ?neutrality? or ?objectivity? for their wide, defensive definitions, which are in fact deliberately designed to advance particular political views.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-351
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (CRISPP)
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009


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