The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Is suicide bombing cowardly?

Here is the case for answering in the negative:
Most terrorists fearlessly make huge sacrifices for beliefs they hold dear. Suicide bombers aren't cowards; they are evil. If they were cowards, they wouldn't be so much trouble. Why do people call terrorists cowards? Is it because it is fun to take cheap shots at evil people? Or is it because being evil has less stigma than being a coward? Perhaps, this abuse of language is optimal deterence, because fearless people are particularly loathe to being labeled a coward.

Whether these evil people experience any fear at all is unknown to us. If they do, however, then it would seem that they act in spite of it, and not because of it. People often seem to strain to interpret terrorist bombings as cowardly. This is unnecessary, for there are so many apt derogatory terms for terrorists and their actions. In fact, I think that many people mean something more like 'dishonorable' when they use the term 'cowardly.' Under the account I gave recently, we might say that one acts cowardly by acting dishonorably from fear. However, dishonorable conduct is not cowardice per se.