Unit 9 - Wilkins_Justifiable_Terrorism

Unit 9 - Wilkins_Justifiable_Terrorism - Can Terrorism Be...

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Can Terrorism Be Justified? By Burleigh Taylor Wilkins From: Assent/Dissent , ed., J.P. White, (Kendall-Hunt, 1984), pp. 280-292. Probably the most important division in moral philosophy is between consequentalists who believe that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its contribution to some ideal end state such as the greatest happiness of the greatest number and deontologists who deny that this is so, at least in cases where the action in question would involve the violation of the rights of an individual or individuals. One of the few amusing aspects of the generally grim topic of terrorism is the way in which consequentalists such as R. M.Hare and Kai Nielsen seek to disassociate consequentalism from terrorism, treating terrorism ever so gingerly as though fearful that it might explode in their hands thus doing great harm to whatever variety of consequentalism they espouse. Yet it seems to me plain enough that if there were good reasons to believe that terrorism would contribute to bringing about some ideal end state then the consequentalist would be hard pressed to reject terrorism as a morally legitimate means to that ideal end state. What then is wrong with terrorism if it cannot be condemned on consequentalist grounds? The deontologist's case against terrorism can be stated fairly simply: terrorism involves the violation of the rights of persons who may be killed or harmed; even if no one is actually killed or harmed by the terrorist, there is the threat of harm, and threats are a species of coercion, of making people behave in ways in which they would not otherwise choose to behave; moreover, the persons who are, or may be, the victims of terrorism are frequently not the persons whose conduct the terrorist wishes to affect. Here Carl Wellman's distinction between the primary and the secondary targets of terrorism is useful, and his example of William Randolph Hearst (the primary target of the SLA) and Patricia Hearst (the secondary target) is well chosen. No matter what William Randolph Hearst, a publisher of considerable influence and affluence, may have failed to do for the poor and downtrodden, and no matter how suitable from a certain ideological perspective he may have been a target for terrorism, his daughter has done nothing to merit the treatment she received; and while her father undoubtedly suffered this was mainly due to the suffering he believed his daughter might be experiencing. The kidnapping of William Randolph Hearst as a means of coercing William Randolph Hearst into changing his policies and behavior must be regarded as significantly different from the kidnapping of his daughter as a means of coercing him into changing his policies and behavior. Should any person ever be coerced into doing what is morally right? The answer may well be, yes, under certain circumstances. Should any person ever be coerced by threats of violence into doing what is morally right? Perhaps the answer will still be yes, but it seems far more doubtful that a person should be coerced into doing what is
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This note was uploaded on 11/22/2011 for the course PHILOSOPHY 101 taught by Professor Simonoswitch during the Spring '10 term at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

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Unit 9 - Wilkins_Justifiable_Terrorism - Can Terrorism Be...

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