Defining Terrorism for Public Policy Purposes: The Group-Target Definition

Journal of Moral Philosophy 7 (2):253-278 (2010)
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Abstract

For the sake of developing and evaluating public policy decisions aimed at combating terrorism, we need a precise public definition of terrorism that distinguishes terrorism from other forms of violence. Ordinary usage does not provide a basis for such a definition, and so it must be stipulative. I propose essentially pragmatic criteria for developing such a stipulative public definition. After noting that definitions previously proposed in the philosophical literature are inadequate based on these criteria, I propose an alternative, which I call the 'group-target' definition and which distinguishes terrorism from other forms of violence by the distinctive principle of discrimination used by terrorists to identify legitimate targets. I argue that this definition meets the criteria for a satisfactory public definition, and suggest that based on it there is good reason to suspect the adequacy of anti-terrorism policies that rely predominantly on forceful interdiction of terrorists

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Eric Reitan
Oklahoma State University

Citations of this work

Terrorism.Igor Primoratz - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

W. B. Gallie’s “Essentially Contested Concepts”.W. B. Gallie - 1994 - Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 14 (1):2-2.
Terrorism without intention.David Rodin - 2004 - Ethics 114 (4):752-771.
What Is Terrorism?Igor Primoratz - 1990 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 7 (2):129-138.
The morality of terrorism.C. A. J. Coady - 1985 - Philosophy 60 (231):47 - 69.
Making war on terrorism in response to 9/11.Claudia Card - 2003 - In James Sterba (ed.), Terrorism and International Justice. Oxford University Press. pp. 171--185.

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