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Terrorism: A Philosophical Investigation

ISBN: 978-0-7456-5143-9
224 pages
December 2012, Polity
Terrorism: A Philosophical Investigation (0745651437) cover image
This is the first comprehensive study of the core philosophical questions posed by terrorism such as: How should we define it? Is it morally distinctive? Can it be morally justified?

Igor Primoratz seeks to overcome relativism and double standards that often plague debates about terrorism. He investigates the main ethical approaches to terrorism: in terms of its consequences, rights and justice, “supreme emergency,” and the collective responsibility of citizens. The book provides a rigorous, yet accessible analysis of a range of moral positions, from the acceptance of terrorism when its consequences are good on balance to its absolute rejection. Primoratz argues that terrorism is almost absolutely wrong. It may be morally justified only when an entire people is facing a true moral disaster, and this should be understood in a highly restrictive way.
Conceptual analysis and normative arguments about the practice of terrorism are complemented with case studies of terror-bombing of German cities in World War II and the role of terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Terrorism: A Philosophical Investigation will be essential reading for researchers and students of philosophy and politics, and the general reader seeking to understand and evaluate acts and campaigns of terrorism.
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Acknowledgments vi

Introduction 1

1 Defining Terrorism 7

2 State Terrorism and Counterterrorism 30

3 Complicity of the Victims 47

4 The Consequences of Terrorism 65

5 Terrorism, Rights, and Justice 84

6 Terrorism, Supreme Emergency, and Moral Disaster 95

7 Is Terrorism Morally Distinctive? 114

8 Case Study: Terror Bombing of German Cities 126

9 Case Study: Terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian Confl ict 148

Summing up 170

Notes 176

References and Bibliography 180

Index 189

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Igor Primoratz is professorial fellow in the Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University.
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"Probably the best book on terrorism that there is."
Times Higher Education

"Very rich in content and is both clearly written and carefully thought out ... a provocative work that challenges widespread, deeply held moral, political, and historical beliefs. It is hard to imagine how a person could fail to benefit from this valuable overview."
Iyyun

"In this lucid and highly topical book Primoratz replaces the ‘moralistic rhetoric’ of the war on terrorism with a coolly and carefully reasoned evaluation of its target. Whether or not one agrees with his provocative conclusions, Primoratz’s rigorous and comprehensive arguments will need to be reckoned with."
Paul Gilbert, University of Hull

"Primoratz provides an account of terrorism which addresses the topic with the clarity and insight it deserves. Those who are morally perplexed by terrorism should read this book to find out precisely why it is morally unacceptable. Especially valuable is his discussion of state terrorism."
Steven P. Lee, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

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