The Concept of Security

In Michael Selgelid & Christian Enemark (eds.), Ethical and Security Aspects of Infectious Disease Control: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Ashgate (2012)

Jonathan Herington
University of Rochester
This chapter provides a philosophical analysis of the different meanings of “security” and, by so doing, identifies some key features of the concept of security. I begin by establishing a number of qualities which this chapter’s conceptual analysis should ideally possess. I then make an important distinction between security as a practice and security as a state of being, and argue that more attention should be paid to the latter if our goal is to interrogate the justifiability of using security practices in the context of infectious disease emergencies. The latter half of the chapter investigates three common features of contemporary accounts of security: (1) the referent object, (2) the conditions that object must satisfy to be secure, and (3) the distinction between the objective and subjective realisation of those conditions. I argue that accounts of the meaning of “security” identify a referent object and a set of conditions which must be reliable for that referent. I conclude by suggesting that a deeper engagement by moral philosophers with the concept and value of security (as a state of being) is required if we are to get very far in evaluating the justifiability of treating infectious disease emergencies as security issues.
Keywords security  infectious diseases  reliability
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