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Terrorism: Meaning of Life and Oxford University Press

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In his article “Terrorism,” Michael Walzer describes terrorism as the indiscriminate murder of innocent people. He goes on to explain that terrorists have the objective of destroying the morale of a nation and instilling fear within a society by not targeting a specific group of people, but rather, targeting the population as a whole and killing “random” people. Walzer and many like-minded philosophers share the view that terrorism is wrong and is not justified under any circumstances; thus rendering it akin to murder.

The preceding view is referred to as the “the dominant view,” as labeled by Lionel K.McPherson, because it is common to a great deal of people – many of who are not philosophers.

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McPherson attempts to discredit the notion that terrorism is wrong by relating it to modern warfare and showing the ways in which it is better in comparison. After reading the opposing arguments presented by Walzer and McPherson, I will be proving that although terrorism is not as immoral as war, it is still wrong.

The first premise to my argument is the fact that terrorism is not as immoral as war; the majority of proof collected to support this premise is obtained from Lionel K.

McPherson’s article, “Is Terrorism Distinctively Wrong? ” McPherson raises a rival view to Walzer and suggests, “terrorism is the deliberate use of force against noncombatants, which can be expected to cause wider fear among them, for political ends[1]. ” The first piece of evidence lies in the fact that noncombatant deaths contribute to between 75 and 90 percent of all war deaths. McPherson points out that we do not know the reason of these deaths, but because it happened during the period of war, it can safely be said that whether it be directly or indirectly, war leads to a high number of civilian casualties.

Moreover, terrorism is considered wrong because of the fact that it instills fear in the civilians, but as McPherson asserts, civilians have more to fear when it comes to conventional war as opposed to terrorism. The reason for this is because of the fact that terrorists generally don’t have the ability to attack and employ violence on a large scale because of state security or lack of resources. Thirdly, McPherson introduces the proportionality principle, which is a one of the laws of war. This principle “prohibits disproportionate or excessive use of force, with an emphasis on noncombatants[2]. This means that combatants cannot intentionally and excessively hurt noncombatants without a justified reason.

This principle is used by those who are against terrorism to prove that unlike terrorists, war combatants have a degree of care and concern towards noncombatants. Although this is true, it is necessary to look at the reasons behind an action when discussing the morality of a situation. It is known that states abide by the laws of war that prohibit the excessive use of force against noncombatants, however, it would be foolish to accept this fact without seeing why this rule was made.

McPherson points out that rather than these laws of war being based on moral concern for noncombatants; they are designed to protect the shared interests of the states in the grand scheme of things. So, rather than the logic being ‘lets not harm the noncombatants because we would be harming them,’ in reality, the logic is ‘lets not harm the noncombatants because, in the long run, it is in our best interest not to harm them. ’ This does not seem very moral to me. Lastly, I’d like to look more closely at a point raised by Walzer to defend McPherson’s argument that terrorism is more moral than modern warfare.

Often, terrorists make moral distinctions on who can and cannot be killed, and under what circumstances it is okay. This demonstrates the idea that, just like some war combatants, because they are human, a sense of hesitation and morality in the actions of terrorists is instantiated. Although this may not justify said actions of the terrorists, it does demonstrate a perhaps equal feeling of morality exhibited by war combatants, which does not allow for us to believe war is less immoral than terrorism.

Before I continue, it is important to note that one of the reasons McPherson’s argument on the morality of terrorism is unconvincing is because his argument contains the ‘irrelevant conclusion’ fallacy. That is to say that his point was to prove that terrorism can be morally sound and justifiable, but he proved it in comparison to war as opposed to proving it on an individual basis. “The fallacy of the irrelevant conclusion tries to establish the truth of a proposition by offering an argument that actually provides support for an entirely different conclusion. [3]

I believe that his argument was attempting to establish the truth of a different proposition, which is that terrorism should be morally justifiable because it ultimately does less harm than war. This leads into the second and main premise of my argument; even though it is not as bad as modern warfare, terrorism is not morally justifiable. I will grant McPherson the fact that he has successfully proven that war is equally, if not more unjustifiable than terrorism, yet this however, does not mean that one can automatically conclude that terrorism is morally sound. It is the lesser of two evils, but I do not think it is justifiable.

Walzer understands terrorism to be the “random” murder of innocent people, intended to spread so much fear that those who are subject to this violence feel as if they are in danger and will demand that the state fight or negotiate for their safety. The victims of terrorist acts are not selectively targeted, although this may seem to be comforting to some people, it is done with the intent of intensifying and escalating the level of fear amongst civilians. The harsh brutality of terrorism leads me to believe that a terrorist’s indiscriminate killings are completely unjustifiable.

As Walzer explains, “The names and occupations of the dead are not known in advance; they are killed simply to deliver a message of fear to others like themselves[4]. ” It is undeniable that terrorism results in massive amounts of fear and casualties, so, by no means should it be accepted as a moral solution to political disputes, nor should it be considered a positive alternative to modern warfare. Walzer does a very good job of describing the many ways that would lead one to believe that terrorism is not morally justifiable under any circumstances.

The Meaning of Life In his article, “The Meaning of Life,” Richard Taylor introduces the reader to the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus had revealed divine secrets to mortals and as a result was condemned to a life that consisted of him rolling a stone up and down hills until the end of time. Taylor explains that the most common interpretation of this ancient myth is that it “symbolizes our eternal struggle and unquenchable spirit, our determination always to try once more in the face of overwhelming discouragement[5]. He goes on to explain that the activities that we perform in our daily lives are given a sense of meaning if they have some sort of purpose or conclusion.

But the issue with working towards a purpose or a goal is that they are all of transitory significance and once they have been achieved, we must work for something else, thus it is a never-ending cycle of trying to achieve things with significance. An example of this could begin from high school, where Sally works towards achieving a diploma. This is of transitory ignificance because once the diploma has been received, she must find something else to give her life meaning – for instance, Sally now decides that she will go to university. For the next 4 years of her life, Sally works towards getting a university degree; once she earns that, she must work towards achieving a different goal. This shows that there are an endless amount of things that we wish to achieve in order to give our lives significance. Taylor then introduces a variation to Sisyphus’ story where the Gods decide to have some mercy on Sisyphus and embed in him an irrational urge to constantly roll stones.

With this variation, the situation completely changes and Sisyphus’ life suddenly has meaning because he is condemned to doing the one thing that he has the desire to do for the rest of his life. This leads into Taylor’s main point about the meaning of life; “the point of living is simply to be living, in the manner that is your nature to be living[6]. ” What I understand by this is that if we live our lives with the mindset that we will enjoy each and every thing we do, regardless of what the end result is, we will be happy and our lives will have meaning.

Taylor proposes the idea that we can add meaning into our everyday lives through accepting and embracing our struggles, even if they don’t lead to any lasting end. I agree with his view on the meaning of life and believe that it should one of the main facets of how people conduct their lives. However, I think that his view is utopian and based on sheer optimism rather than reality. The harsh reality is that the vast majority of people are very unlikely to change their ways of thinking and adopt Taylor’s suggested outlook on life.

The desire would need to be created internally as opposed to a result of external things. This outlook would go against the way society has been built and functioning from the beginning of time. In a society full of superficiality and citizens who are working towards the goal of ultimately earning money to achieve a life full of happiness, this new perspective would be almost impossible for everyone to adapt to. Richard Taylor’s perspective meshes very well with Thomas Nagel’s views on why it is reasonable for us to think that death is something bad.

In his article, “Death,” Nagel states that if death is an evil, it is because of what it deprives us of – that being, life. Nagel believes that after subtracting all of our life experiences, whether good or bad, the bare experience of life in itself is valuable. This argument relates to Taylor’s view on the meaning of life in the sense that both theories advise man to put aside any superficial needs and to focus on embracing life as a whole. Taylor introduces the idea that “the point of any living thing’s life is, evidently, nothing but life itself”.

This shows us how the two authors have very similar ideas on the meaning of life. The bare experience of life offers a lot of value, and if one is able to love everything that comes with it, they will be happy without receiving a transitory reward at the end; rather, they will be happy in themselves. Both Richard Taylor and Thomas Nagel support a method of living whereby nothing external is needed in order for someone’s life to be perceived as meaningful and valuable. I believe that the combination of Taylor and Nagel’s ideas on the meaning of life are respectable and should be, at the very least, considered by everyone.

Abortion Of the four readings on the topic of abortion, I believe that Rosalind Hursthouse’s “Virtue Theory and Abortion” is the most justifiable position because she is able to state her argument without calling the matter of “personhood” into question; also it proves to be very difficult to refute her argument. Many ethicists that either support or condemn abortion usually pose arguments that revolve around whether or not a fetus has the mental capacity for emotive processes that would render the fetus to be a person. However, this argument is inconclusive.

Due to the fact that there is no accurate way to prove the lack of or existence of “ personhood” in the fetus, the validity of the argument becomes less compelling as it has the potential to be argued endlessly until science is able to confirm or deny the claim. I believe that Hursthouse’s view on abortion is the most justifiable because she does not rely on the “personhood” dispute as the foundation of her argument and explains why the “personhood” disagreement is extremely problematic when the topic of abortion comes into discussion.

I will now analyze and criticize the other arguments in relation to the Hursthouse’s article and conclude with why Rosalind Hursthouse did the best job of defending her premise. In his article, “Why Abortion is Immoral,” Don Marquis comes close to taking the most justifiable standpoint on abortion because like Hursthouse, he recognizes the fact that the “personhood” status of a fetus has been argued endlessly. However, his argument in support of abortion being immoral is severely flawed because he bases his main argument on the future. Marquis believes that, similar to murder, an abortion deprives the victim of a future.

As we all know, the future is indeterminate until the postulated ideas come to fruition in the present. Thus, I believe it is irresponsible to state that the act of denying an adult of a future parallels the act of denying a fetus a future because the life and subsequent future of the fetus in question has yet to actualize. One may argue that Judith Jarvis Thompson’s article “A Defense of Abortion” is the most reasonable because she does not call the personhood status of a fetus into question; however, Thompson’s defense of abortion is convoluted because she does not actually defend abortion.

In her “Good Samaritan” example, Thomson maintains that carrying a fetus is comparable to being a good citizen in the sense that it is not a strict duty that one has no choice but to fulfill. Through her use of this example, she dilutes the potency of her argument. Aristotle once posited that the function of a human is to be a good human, yet Thompson implies that to be a ‘good citizen’ in our society would be to carry the fetus to term, and to not would render the woman an ‘okay citizen’.

Because of the fact that keeping a child (as opposed to terminating the pregnancy) is equivalent to being a ‘Good Samaritan’, Thomson’s argument seems to paint abortion in a negative light. As a result, her main argument seems to be contradictory and is not well supported. In her article titled “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion,” Mary Anne Warren’s justification for why abortion is moral simply falls short of the other readings. As stated previously, currently there is no way to prove that a fetus has any kind of emotional capacity at that fetal stage of development.

With that stated, Hursthouse also raises a very strong argument against Warren that renders her argument to be confused and invalid. Hursthouse states that through our attachment to the concept of life and how we particularize life, we have projected our feelings towards life onto the topic of abortion and have thus lost sight of the central tenet of the argument. Many argue that the life status of a fetus is relevant to whether or not abortion is immoral but because will never be able to know the “life status of a fetus”, Warren’s argument illustrates itself to be irrelevant.

We as a society have gone beyond the “familiar biological facts” of conception and are basing our personal stands on the morality of abortion on an ideal which has a societal basis that lies in the realm of moral absolutism as opposed to a strong factual basis. Finally, I believe that Hursthouse’s argument is difficult to refute because of its simplicity with regard to the virtue theory and because she acknowledges the fact that her viewpoint of abortion does not entirely take a clear position on whether or not she truly believes abortion to be immoral.

Her reasoning and rationalization of abortion is the most justified because she is hyperaware of the fact that every case of abortion is different and lies on a different point on the spectrum and that the position on the spectrum will vary from person to person. Moreover, she recognizes the fact that due to how humans particularize life, feelings of guilt due to the act of abortion are inevitable which directly informs the reason as to why so much controversy has always and will always surround the issue.

Furthermore, as Aristotle believed that all humans strive to be good, one cannot simply reduce abortion to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. If all humans strive to be good, it would be safe to assume that in the pursuit towards goodness, most actions committed by humans are motivated by the need for good and at times; guilt, remorse, and anger are subsequent feelings. Through Hursthouse’s understanding and personalization of abortion, we come to know why we will forever be at odds with regards to this sensitive societal issue.

Cite this Terrorism: Meaning of Life and Oxford University Press

Terrorism: Meaning of Life and Oxford University Press. (2016, Oct 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/terrorism-meaning-of-life-and-oxford-university-press/

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