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Philosophy 9/11

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ISBN 0-8126-9582-8


306 pages


Philosophy 9/11

Thinking about the War on Terrorism

Edited by Timothy Shanahan

On September 11th, 2001, popular perceptions of terrorism were transformed. Although many terrorist activities had occurred earlier, the 9/11 outrages were widely seen as escalating the terrorist danger to an entirely new level. Vast resources were suddenly poured into "the war on terror," sweeping legislation was rushed through Congress, a major new department of the federal government was created, and two foreign countries were invaded and occupied in the name of the struggle against terrorism.

There has been no shortage of action. Yet human action is always directed by ideas, and many of the ideas inspiring the current flurry of "anti-terrorist" activities are in need of scrutiny and clarification. In Philosophy 9/11, philosophical scholars specializing in terrorism-related topics, several of them also officers in the United States military, closely examine some of the basic presuppositions of our response to terrorist attacks.

  • What is terrorism? How does it differ from other kinds of violence? Is the struggle against terrorism warfare—or is it really a matter of law enforcement?
  • What part does technology play in classifying and combating terrorists? Are we locked into a high-tech approach by the way we define the problem?
  • Is torture of terrorist suspects ever justified, and if so, when? And what about "targeted killing" and pre-emptive military strikes?
  • What can the ethics of "just war" tell us about the right way to deal with terrorism? Ought terrorism to be supported in a just cause? Can we hold terrorism to be inherently wrong without judging all operations inflicting civilian casualties to be wrong?

"This thought-provoking, lively collection of essays analyzes some of the toughest issues facing the post-9/11 world—the nature and varieties of terrorism, the ethics of torture, and justifications for preventive war and denial of POW status."

—James L. Cook, Ph.D., Colonel, USAF, Head of Department of Philosophy, U.S. Air Force Academy

"Anyone interested in the conceptual and ethical dilemmas of the war against terrorism will find food for thought in this excellent book. Kudos to Professor Shanahan for his strong introduction and superb editing."

—Jean Bethke Elshtain, author of Just War Against Terror

"Philosophers are turning, at last, to issues that occupy us as citizens and human beings. This book is a wonderful example of how much they can do to clarify the moral problems we face in our war on terror. The public debate surrounding these issues is deepened and made more intelligent by the essays printed here."

—John Lachs, author of A Community of Individuals and In Love with Life

Timothy Shanahan is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His books include Reason and Insight: Western and Eastern Perspectives on the Pursuit of Moral Wisdom (Wadsworth, 2002) and The Evolution of Darwinism: Selection, Adaptation and Progress in Evolutionary Biology (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

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