The Inferential Meaning of Controversial Terms: The Case of “Terrorism”

Topoi 42 (2):547-559 (2023)
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The international community has not been able to agree on a definition of “terrorism,” which has been a controversial term for decades. In order to understand the controversy, here the meaning of “terrorism” is analysed by means of the inferentialist framework developed by Robert Brandom. It will be shown that there is wide agreement about (at least some of) the consequences of application of the term, whereas the conditions of application are precisely what is at issue. Three consequences of application will be distinguished: epistemic, evaluative, and programmatic. Evaluative and programmatic consequences of application of the term “terrorism” are widespread and very serious, even in the absence of a precise definition, and that explains why the conditions of application are a controversial matter. In the end, the controversy is best understood as a clash of interests regarding when the consequences of the term should apply.



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José A. Gascón
University of Murcia

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References found in this work

Change in View: Principles of Reasoning.Gilbert Harman - 1986 - Studia Logica 48 (2):260-261.
Ethics and Language.Charles L. Stevenson - 1946 - Philosophy of Science 13 (1):80-80.
Terrorism: A Philosophical Enquiry.Anne Schwenkenbecher - 2012 - Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan.
The Language of Education.Israel Scheffler - 1963 - Philosophy 38 (144):189-190.
On terrorism itself.Carl Wellman - 1979 - Journal of Value Inquiry 13 (4):250-258.

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