This is the concluding chapter of Ted Honderich's book, Terrorism for Humanity: Inquiries in Political Philosophy (Pluto Press, 2003), a revised edition of three previous ones -- Violence for Equality: Inquiries in Political Philosophy (Routledge, 1989), Violence for Equality: Inquiries in Political Philosophy (Penguin, 1980), and Three Essays on Political Violence (Blackwell, 1977) which was also published as Political Violence (Cornell University Press, 1976). The concluding chapter is preceded by the brief Introduction to the whole book, which summarizes it and partly concerns the philosopher John Searle.


The six essays of this book, now revised after having previously been published as Violence for Equality: Inquiries in Political Philosophy, are the result of trying to inquire with an open mind into terrorism and more particularly what some people think are justifications of it or would be justifications of it. If you actually think about it, what can be said for and against terrorism or political violence? When, if ever, is terrorism right?

What can be said for or against terrorism of the kind of which we know too well -- the actual terrorism in Ireland, Columbia, flight 103 over Scotland, Palestine and elsewhere before September 11, and in the United States on that day, and since then? Can some of this terrorism have the name of being terrorism for humanity? What can be said for or against not this actual terrorism, but possible or conceivable terrorism instead, including terrorism for humanity?

To start with the actual terrorism we know and its possible grounds and their relative worth is indeed to be led on to think of different and perhaps better grounds -- in fact to think of terrorism that does not happen, or has not happened yet. To think about this is to shed another light on our world as it is, with the injustice of ordinary and extraordinary wretchedness and distress in it. What we in our comfort do to others and what we could stop doing. To think about it is to shed light on our own moral standing, and what we are obliged to do about our world, whether or not with a prudential eye on the future. This is my subject too.

Actually to inquire, to try to get away from preconception and automatism and the like, this was my explicit intention, and indeed I have found my way to some propositions uncongenial to me. Still, I have done rather better at finding congenial ones. Perhaps this helps to show that to open one's mind is not necessarily to lose one's convictions.

All of the essays in this book are exercises in political philosophy, or anyway attempts at it. Political philosophy is none of political theory, political history, or the sceptical and rightly cynical examination of our past and present politics, economics and international relations. It is not political science, reflective journalism however good, religious morality however enlightened [1]. Nor, of course, does political philosophy consist in Hymns to Democracy, or Reflections on the Danger to the Liberal Society -- let alone works of ideological self-deception, assumptions of a kind of stupidity in a society and making for more of it, propaganda of traditional kinds, and governmental lying by official vocabulary and by obfuscation. After the second Iraq war, our newspapers and screens remain full of the latter stuff, and also the Hymns and the Reflections, mainly because our politicians are full of it, Bush and Blair to the fore, so suited to one another.

There are other respectable and indeed essential books on terrorism and/or the decency or indecency of our own lives, some of them being sorts of books just mentioned -- political theory and history, and the rightly cynical examinations. They have strengths not aspired to by this book. Political philosophy is what results from a different kind of concern for clarity and for orderly reflection and full argument. It has in it that commitment to logic in a general sense that is the distinction of all philosophy worth the name. It abstracts from kinds of details. That remains true of political philosophy when it is, as it usually is, a part of moral philosophy, indeed what should be about half of moral philosophy.

Although the essays have been revised since September 11, they were written before then. About this fact, you can have the reassurance that books are not news, which is near to being their general recommendation. Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, if you will allow me the comparison, and whatever you think of it, is not much touched by having been written before the revolution ran its course. Nor is Marx's Capital not to be reprinted because a wall fell down in Germany, or Paine's The Rights of Man left unread because the nation he was welcoming into being does no honour to his radicalism. But no doubt, even if this lesser book is about more than the terrorism we know, and about ourselves in addition to terrorism, it might be thought to lack something more as a result of having been written before the act of September 11, sometimes said to have changed the world. What is it that it might be thought to lack?

Perhaps a horror that goes with having really personally identified for the first time with victims of terrorism? Maybe the people leaping from the twin towers. Well, that fact of personally identifying does prompt some new lines in this revised edition, but not any change in its conclusions. Does the book, having been written before September 11, need a fuller conception of Islamic terrorism and its relation to terrorism for humanity, and a fuller sense of what we who have been attacked can do and will do in counter-attack for whatever reason? One reply is that philosophy is more general than that, which fact is connected with its distinctive commitment to the clarity, consistency and completeness of our natural logic.

Should I, after September 11, amend the book's conclusions? To do more did not seem necessary or right. One large reason is that books such as this one are long arguments claiming serious attention, however hopefully. It is no bad idea to leave them standing. They may put a case worth hearing. There is always the possibility, for anyone having some of the self-scepticism of a proper philosopher, that first thoughts rather than second thoughts are best.

If what you are about to read might have been a little longer, for having been written after September 11, it might also have been a little worse. Perhaps no single event in our lifetimes, certainly no single day's event, has been so used. If September 11 has had its natural effects on our feelings and in other ways, it has also been used by most of our politicians and also others to fortify the conformity in which so many of us live our lives. That is the social stupidity that is not a matter of our natures but of an ignorance satisfactory to others and thus a weakness and absurdity in judgement. This book came before the reinforcement. It did not run the risk of being distorted by it.

Still, there would have been no risk of a comma in it being changed as a consequence of reading pieces after September 11 by one or two of my fellow philosophers. The American John Searle occurs to me, a bully boy who has done some service in the philosophy of mind. He wrote a piece during the course of the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, in 2001, when the bombing and missiling were in progress. He provided us with what he said was needed, 'an intelligent response' to terrorism and in particular Islamic terrorism [2].

There should be more such wars carried forward, he said, one by one. Removals one by one of governments that somehow support or tolerate terrorism. These wars are needed, he said, to avert what will otherwise happen, the anthrax pandemic of 2003 in America, the germ terrorism of 2004 killing a million Americans, and the smuggled nuclear bombs of 2008 killing five million Americans -- these various weapons having been prepared, as he knew, in the laboratories of Iraq.

But the war-mongering and the awful predictions, the latter having some reason and sense in them despite their drama, were not what was most notable in this philosopher's thinking. What was most notable was another reasoned proposal to his country:

"We need to give up on the illusion that there is some policy change on our part that will change the attitude of the terrorists. Short of all of us converting to an extreme version of fundamentalist Islam and driving all the Israelis into the sea, there is no policy change that will alter their determination to kill us. The policy changes that are urged on us -- stop the bombing, use the United Nations, etc. -- might peel off some of their moderate supporters but will not weaken the resolve of the terrorists."

To say that no reasonable American policy change would have any effect on the terrorism in question is to contribute, out of ideological or other passion, to the stupidity of nations, America above all if not America alone, the stupidity of ignorance and weak and absurd judgement.

The revisions throughout this book are more stylistic than substantial. One revision brings the book into line with an indomitable linguistic fact, the universal use of the term `terrorism' rather than `political violence'. The revision is also in line with the fact that reasonable definitions make the two terms mean the same thing [3]. There is no great point in making a distinction. Another revision is owed to a change of mind about a great principle, the moral principle that informs the whole book. It will meet with less confusion and less protestation of confusion if it has the name of being the Principle of Humanity.

The use of the term `terrorism' did indeed seem necessary. That is not to say that it is comfortable to me. The word has taken over partly the result of a choice and indeed a manipulation of language by governments, allied interests and sometimes parts of peoples for their own ends, sometimes ends that remain transparently vicious, as in the case of contemporary Zionism in Palestine [4]. Still, there is little gain in being a Canute against the tide of language. More important, there is reason to keep in view the human fact of the victims of political violence, to which the use of `terrorism' with its connotations is also owed. It would be no service to truth or morality to shrink from the term, as it is no service to truth or morality to use it in the common politician's way that not merely implies but declares in passing that all of it is wrong.

The necessity of the term 'terrorism' remains a necessity despite another fact. It is that much terrorism is absolutely as rightly spoken of in other ways. It is also an ongoing reply to state-terrorism, self-defence, defence of a homeland, freedom-fighting, liberation struggle, personal self-sacrifice in the hope of gaining great goods for others, defence against ethnic cleansing, a struggle of a people for their survival, terrorism for humanity.

You will anticipate my saying that something else is also true. Terrorism is not the only horror. There is another horror, another evil, another inhumanity. It is also necessary to have and keep it in view, to resist the language of avoidance and concealment that serves ends as much as the name 'terrorism', including ends that remain transparently vicious. Moral intelligence now requires excess in language, what others take to be excess. Do you say philosophy not the place for this? It is not clear to me why. Its logic is as much about wretchedness and distress as anything else.

The first essay of this book, if it aspires to that logic that is the distinction of all decent philosophy, is unlike others in not dealing with the question of what can be said for and against terrorism or political violence entirely by way of argument and reflection of a philosophical kind. That is, 'Wretchedness and Terrorism, and Differences We Make Between Them' is partly empirical.

The facts that are brought to political philosophy, and I trust to its improvement, concern average lifetimes of certain groups and classes. It is remarked that these facts must touch our reflections on terrorism. For the rest, the particular subject of the first essay is certain of our first responses to the facts of political violence and what can be called the facts of inequality, responses both in feeling and in doctrine.

Several pieces of reasoning by others are examined in the second essay, and perhaps handled too roughly. One has to do with the obligation to obey the law and to abstain from violence, and also with what is taken to be a conflicting and a higher demand, essentially a demand of conscience. It is the work of Robert Paul Wolff. The other argument examined in the essay is founded on the idea of a hypothetical social contract, and issues in particular propositions about the obligation to obey the law and to abstain from violence. It also issues in two large principles of justice. This theory of justice is the work of the liberal John Rawls.

The third essay, 'The Principle of Humanity', sets out what is argued to be the proper answer to the question of what distribution of well-being and distress there ought to be in societies and between societies. That is, the essay tries to deal rightly with the problem of justice, the first and main problem of moral and political philosophy, the first problem in thinking about terrorism and about wretchedness and other distress.

The solution offered to the problem, the Principle of Humanity, derives from a conception of categories of desire fundamental to all our lives. The principle considers general policies for achieving the end or goal of the principle, having to do with those great desires. The concern of the book is mainly with terrorism related to this principle, and our world as it is in relation to this principle.

The fourth essay, 'Our Omissions and Their Terrorism', begins from what is said by the violent, or some of them, against those of us who are law-abiding. It is that despite our moral confidence we contribute in an essential way, by our omissions, to denials of life, to wretchedness and other distress. The essay has to do with the reply that there is a great difference between acts and omissions, whatever else is to be said. It has to do, too, with another reply to terrorists and those who at least understand them. I mean the inevitable refrain about any tu quoque, that the guilty are trying to avoid the subject of their guilt. Those who kill and devastate are merely attempting an evasion.

'On Democratic Terrorism', the fifth essay, concerns democracy and violence. It sets out answers to the questions of how violence stands to the practice and to the rules of democracy, and, more importantly, an answer to the question of how it stands to the ends or values that are proposed in the fundamental arguments for democracy. There is, as a result, analysis of a particular kind of terrorism, named the democratic kind.

What can be saved of the tradition of an actual rather than hypothetical social contract is a first part of the subject of the last essay, 'Four Conclusions About Terrorism for Humanity'. Another part is the consequences of a certain moralism, an affirmation of moral necessities. Reflection on these two things leads to a further consideration of the empirical issues of wretchedness and other distress raised in the first essay and other great facts of distress. These in turn lead to the four principal questions about terrorism for humanity, and responses to them.

The essays were written as papers for philosophy conferences and the like. They have had some unity put on them, but they remain separate. Can they be thought to measure up to their awful, spreading and sometimes intractable subject? Sometimes they seem to me a bundle of materials for inquiry and argument, not an assembled thing. You, reader, can decide, and also wonder about the usefulness of imperfect things in a dark time of need, a time of attack on moral intelligence [5].

The essays taken together will not fully satisfy a tidy kind of reader. They deal more with our omissions than our commissions. They bring together the subject of terrorism against our commissions, say Islamic terrorism against our commission in supporting Israel in Palestine, with the subject of our omissions elsewhere, omissions that might have given rise to other terrorism, say African terrorism, and may still do so. There are reasons for this over and above the truth that there is no law of subject-matters for books, and that one thing, as already remarked, leads to another. One reason is that moral questions ask themselves, and certainly cannot be ruled out by tidy or self-interested or cozened persons. There is some assertive truth in morality. Another reason is that propositions turn up. One is that our indubitably being in the wrong with respect to omissions, if that is the case, must raise a doubt about any presumption of our being in the right with respect to our commissions. Sometimes a guilt is unlikely to go with an innocence.

The answers given to the four questions about terrorism in the last essay, as I say after making them, give rise to an idea that also has a place in this introduction. It needs somehow to be brought into consistency with something said at the beginning of it, about inquiring with an open mind.

If political philosophy should be an attempt to inquire with an open mind, it is also something else. If it is not ideology, it is advocacy, in a way related to the work of a decent barrister. Political philosophers are more like barristers than judges, even if barristers more or less convinced of the rightness of their cases, and it is worth remembering.
                                                                                           22 May 2003

1. Other books of political philosophy on terrorism are J. Angelo Corlett, Terrorism: A Philosophical Analysis (Kluwer, 2003), Trudy Govier, A Delicate Balance: What Philosophy Can Tell us About Terrorism (Westview, 2002), Richard Norman, Ethics, Killing and War (Cambridge University Press, 1995),  Paul Gilbert, Terrorism, Security and Nationality: An Introductory Study in Applied Political Philosophy (Routledge, 2003).  With respect to both political philosophy and sceptical examinations of our politics, economics and international relations, the outstanding works are those of Noam Chomsky, the great moral judge of our age: 9-11 (Seven Stories Press, 2001), Pirates and Emperiors, Old and New: International Terrorism in the Real World (Pluto, 2002), Necessary Illusions (Pluto, 1989), etc. For religious morality, see Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Writing in the Dust (Hodder & Stoughton, 2002).

2. The piece in question seems to have been published first on a University of California website (as and then elsewhere on the web (e.g. It was recommended in collections of readings on terrorism (e.g.

3. See below, pp. 19-21.

4. After the Terror (Edinburgh University Press, 2002), pp. 25-29, 150-151; 'After the Terror: A Book and Further Thoughts', The Journal of Ethics, 7, 2003, pp. 161-181.

5. A larger bundle consists in this book with After the Terror and the collection of papers On Political Means and Social Ends (Edinburgh University Press, 2003), and also Conservatism (Pluto Press revised edition, 2004).

Ch. 6

    It is a terrible fact of this time, not much lessened by there having been similar facts in the past, and the certainty of more in the future, that men and women make use of violence against persons and things, violence directed to changing societies but condemned by national law and what there is of international law. Some of this terrorism, if very likely none of it by national states, can be regarded as directed to the end of getting people out of wretchedness and other distress, the end of the Principle of Humanity. My purpose in this essay is to make some final responses, in good part sceptical ones, to the general moral question of what is to be said against and for such violence.


    Political obligation, of which we know something alread [1], is a supposed moral obligation to act legally, a moral obligation to act in accordance with ordinary law, the law of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France or the like. More precisely, members of a society are morally obliged to act in certain ways for a reason involving the fact that these are the legal ways. Members of a society ought to act so as to obey the laws of the society for a reason having to do in some way or other with the existence of the laws. They are not to act in other ways for a reason having to do with their illegality.

   This is distinct from any reason for not acting in those ways that does not have to do with the law, such as the plain reasons that to act in those ways may in itself and directly cause pointless suffering or be vicious, this having nothing to do with illegality. It is important that political obligation, so-called, be distinguished from other moral obligations bearing on the same legal or illegal conduct, obligations that would exist in the absence of ordinary law, and hence if the conduct were neither legal nor illegal.

    Some seem to think, still, that the general moral question of political violence can be settled by citing a doctrine of political obligation. It provides an effective argument. Let us consider something more of this, but in the main because it is a means to something else, what will be called judging between alternatives. Certainly there are large propositions about political obligation in the history of political philosophy, they have been paid much attention, and they are still relied on. There is not much that is more relied on.

    Thomas Hobbes may be taken to say that we ought not to break the law, and certainly ought not to contemplate acts of terrorism, because of the great danger of doing so, which he describes  a state of war. A decent existence depends on on accepting the restraints of legality. Breaking the law carries the danger of leading to a state of war. He may be taken to say, further, that as a result of the threat of this alternative, members of a society must consent among themselves to give an absolute monopoly of force to the state, and in fact all of us have entered into such a covenant, or anyway find ourselves in one willy-nilly. That is, we are in a covenant to obey the law, the state's law. The state's enjoyment of its monopoly is not conditional on its ruling in accordance with any agreed terms. It is not a party to the covenant, which is among us members of the society [2].

    From John Locke there is the different doctrine that the members of certain societies, those that are not subject to tyranny, ought to keep the laws of the societies, and certainly not resort to violence, since the alternative, if not necessarily so bad as Hobbes's state of war, is a lesser good, some hurt to the general interest, some reduction in the benefits of civil society. In fact we members of such societies do give our tacit consent to forswear violence and all illegality. The state, for its part, must respect and protect our natural rights [3]. In the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, perhaps, there are similar arguments. However, like others of his thoughts, they are obscured in his grand vision of society, its past, present and future [4].

    What we have, in Hobbes and Locke at least, are two arguments for the existence of an obligation to obey the law. One is of a Utilitarian or other consequentialist sort, that illegality will bring in its train some catastrophe or some loss of goods. To break the law is to endanger a beneficial order. The other argument is that we have made a contract or covenant to obey the law, or that we have given our consent. Let us first look at this second sort of argument. In considering it, of course, we shall not contemplate any merely imaginable or hypothetical contract, any contract other than an actual one. Rawls's method of argument for two principles of justice and for political obligation [5], includes an imaginable contract. Merely imagined contracts, whatever use they may be in inquiry into moral and political principles, and into non-contractual obligation, clearly give rise to no actual contractual obligations whatever on our part. That is, they do not give rise to anything like an obligation deriving from the making of an agreement.

     Let us examine the possibility of there being a contract between individuals and their state or society. What any contract comes to, at bottom, is that offers were made and were accepted by the two parties to the agreement, (1) How does an individual offer, to the society in which he lives and to the state under which he lives, to obey the law? (2) How do the society and state accept his offer? (3) How do they offer, and (4) how does he accept, whatever it is that they offer to him, presumably the common goods of civil society?

    The principal question of these four is the first one, about an individual's offer to his society and state. An answer derived from Locke comes to this: that an individual's tacit offer consisted in the accepting of social goods. Whatever else may be said of this, one clear obstacle to it is that the act of accepting something, in and by itself, is not an offer of any kind, tacit or otherwise. Nothing will turn an act of accepting, by itself, into the making of an offer. Any doubt ibout this can be put to rest by imagining acts of accepting something, say a gift or a payment, in various other contexts.

   Can we get any further ahead by considering not acts of accepting, but acts of participating in government, or related acts, say voting in a democratic election? Let us think of just the latter, voting, that has sometimes been taken as akin to offering [6]. Voting, evidently, is expressing a preference for one of a small number of general policies for a society, or, better, one of a number of would-be governments. One thing to be said of this, as of accepting something, is that in and by itself it is not offering. To express a preference is not in and by itself to make an offer. This simple truth, like the other one, has too often gone unstated and perhaps unnoticed.

    Certainly it is possible, in special contexts, for an accepting of goods or the casting of a vote (or just moving one's fingers, or doing a job, or standing still) to count as something else as well, such as an offer. This depends, as we all know, on there being a certain prior understanding. More particularly, the fact of an offer depends on a prior act or activity by the agent, perhaps an utterance, precisely to the effect that the subsequent accepting or voting is also to count as something else. It is just possible for there to be argument, I suppose, to the conclusion that each of us has acted in such a way as to convey that our acceptings of social goods, or our votings, are to count as offers to obey the law. Any such argument or speculation will surely be weak stuff.

    I shall not consider any, but simply make a proposal that may have the virtue of conceding what needs to be conceded, if anything at all is to be saved of the sorry history of doctrines about an actual social contract. Also, it goes a good way towards explaining that history. (If no explanation could be offered of the history, incidentally, one would of course have a reason for suspecting that one had missed a good argument in it that kept it going, or anyway an argument.) The proposal has to do with a general expectation rather than an agreement, and hence it has to do with something that has often been confused with an agreement. This is so since agreements, among other things, do certainly create expectations.

    Members of societies make many offers that certainly are related to the supposed offer on their part that is required by the Contract Argument, as we may call it, for political obligation. Many prospective employees offer, in addition to their work, a certain general conduct, more or less in line with legality. In modern societies, further, a good many of the people in question are prospective employees of the state. The offer is an unquestionable and ordinary one, part of a legal contract. So with the offers of individuals who enter into contracts having to do with the hiring of property. There are also related offers made in connection with memberships of various kinds, and with such things as travel.
What we have in all this is a large fact. It is that we make many offers of good behaviour or better. These ordinary offers of ours, and to a lesser extent our acceptings of social goods, and to a still lesser extent our votings, contribute to a general expectation: the expectation on the part of our fellows that we will obey the law. It is fortified by a yet larger thing, the plain fact of our customary behaviour where that does not have to do with offers, acceptings and votings. No one will think, I trust, that to create an expectation that one will do a thing is always somehow to agree to do it. One can create an expectation without its being true that doing it depends on an accepted conventional procedure to be gone through by two parties.

    In this general expectation and its possible frustration, particularly by acts of violence, we have something clear in support of the idea that we have an obligation to obey the law. This is pretty well the residue of the prolonged speculation about a social contract. The best description of our situation is not in part that we have made what counts as an offer, on which some of us may go back, but that we have contributed to a general expectation, which some of us may defeat.

    This residue is not nothing, but perhaps it comes to very little. It may be a small thing when compared with others, some of which are also arguments against violence, and some of which are arguments in favour of violence. To approach my main point, by way of an analogy, there is the simple truism that the prospective frustration of a class of slave-owners, when their general expectation that the slaves will not rise is defeated, places no noticeable obligation on the slaves not to rise. It is a general truth that what the frustration of any expectation counts for is a matter of what else is on hand. There may be such larger things on hand as misery, exploitation or injustice. Obligations having to do with these larger things will then defeat or overwhelm the obligation not to give frustration. To this point can be added another one, that there may be obligations that do not conflict with, but need no support from, the given obligation having to do with expectation. They are, so to speak, greater forces in the same direction, against violence. They too may have to do with misery, exploitation, or injustice.

    Let us leave the Contract Argument for a time and consider quickly the other reason for political obligation derived from Hobbes and Locke. It is, in one form, that the illegality of an act, as distinct from any other feature, increases the probability of a war of all against all, a catastrophe, or anyway the loss of great goods. This reason having to do with certain consequences, of course, can be advanced independently of the Contract Argument [7]. Taken just as it is, this reason for political obligation does pretty well require that we make judgements about such larger things as those just mentioned, misery and the like. This reason is therefore different from the Contract Argument in not making a false promise -- that we can have an effective argument against political violence without considering larger things. Speculation about an act's illegality leading to a catastrophe or a loss of goods does inevitably bring in the opposed speculation about the act's possible gains. There is its possible contribution, still taken as an illegality, to ending or alleviating misery and the like.
There is also another clear point, related to what was said of the residue of the Contract Argument. Whatever speculations we come to about illegality and its dangers and gains, they may be at least well-matched in importance by others. In a sentence, there may be at least as much to be said against my act taken simply as a killing, in itself and for its direct consequences, as when it is taken as something with consequences as an illegality. In another sentence, it may be that there is something to be said for an act of mine, considered in connection with large things, escapes from distress, and that this is of greater importance than what can be said against it as something that as an illegality may have certain consequences.

    There remain some other possible doctrines of political obligation, reasons for obeying the law that may deserve more attention than they have got. They are that there is fairness, or repayment of debt, or simply equality, in obeying the law if one has accepted social goods or if one has participated to some extent in a certain decision-procedure, perhaps, voted in a democratic election [8]. Here too, however, there surely is no possibility of having an effective argument that avoids large questions. This will again be a matter of who has what amounts of social goods, and who has what amounts of their opposites, or a matter of the extent to that elections have in fact been fair to all voters or members of society. One wonders if the Contract Argument has been so much to the forefront, as against these other possible reasons for political obligation, because it seemed not to raise the large questions.


    Consider people of a reflective and enlightened kind, people in some degree sympathetic to the Principle of Humanity, certainly moved by its great end. Now consider proposing to them that in the aid of progress towards the end, they shoot undefended ordinary people in the street, or give money to an organization that does. Consider advancing to them an argument of this predictable form: that the probable and the certain consequences of inaction or of non-violent action are such that violence, with all of its probable and certain consequences, is justified. Some of the people in question would reply along certain lines, and in a certain manner, rather as follows.

    It is wholly wrong to engage in attempting to weigh up what cannot be weighed up. Killing a man, killing a woman, maiming a child, destroying a family, these are atrocities that cannot be brought into a calculation of gains and losses. The things themselves are by nature inhuman or savage. It cannot be that there are common units in terms of that they are to be assigned a value. This cannot be done in terms of one category, the satisfaction of desires, or in terms of some few states of feeling or of mind. These things cannot be reduced to subtraction and addition of human experience, efficiently categorized and balanced against uncertain futures. They are outrages, and outrages are not to be measured against anything.

    Precisely the large-scale horrors of recent decades have resulted from attempts to do this. It is this computational morality that issued in the grisliness of wars for which the American war in Vietnam set a pattern and also earlier purges and massacres, and, in so far as it matters, the bestialization of those who carried them out. One must have an overwhelming pessimism about the attempt to reason in this calculative way.

    There is in fact no alternative to a morality of necessities: of what must be done, and what must not be done. This is not merely a matter of what ought to be done, and what ought not to be done, since moral necessities are more than merely imperatives. They have to do with the taking of life, sexual relations and relations of loyalty, the administration of justice, customs of respect and gentleness, and other things. Together they constitute the foundation of a human way of life, something needed in order to be human. We may have differences of judgement about them, but not to grant the existence of such necessities is to be other than human.

    If these necessities can come into conflict in abnormal, painful, and improbable situations, they are absolute none the less, and they can be so without benefit of religion or superstition. They have a truth, the truth of the human and the profoundly natural.

    Chief among the necessities are those having to do with not taking life, respect for individual life, a horror of killing. The proposal, then, to shoot people or to support this killing, for purposes of generalized well-being, is unthinkable. To do so would be to be degraded in a way not to be affected at all by political success.

    This response to political violence has been in a way derived from Stuart Hampshire's lecture, 'Morality and Pessimism' [9], although the lecture is wide in scope and does not mention political violence. Even if one cannot agree with its general conclusions about moral reasoning, it must be accepted as an admirable piece of work in moral philosophy. It succeeds in the rare thing of expressing a moral commitment, than which nothing is more important to morality. As for the response to political violence drawn from the lecture, surely one cannot but want to share its commitment. The force of affirmation, one may think, is not made the less by matters not brought into clear consistency and order.

   It may be, however, that there are pressing questions that are neither answered nor excluded by what is said, but in fact raised by what is said. It may be, that is, that they are questions that have one source in nothing other than moral passion. Can it be, perhaps, that these questions should not be asked? Can there be a proper refusal to consider questions that presuppose that atrocities may have a defence? The idea that this is so, or that something like this is so, may itself be taken to play a small part in the given response to violence.

   Well, it does seem true enough that there are circumstances in that we rightly say that it is right not to consider certain questions. There is little doubt, however, that these are circumstances that can be described in a more explicit and enlightening way. They are such that we already know or believe the answers to certain questions, or already know or believe enough of the answers. They are circumstances in which it is right not to consider further. That is, we have in fact considered the questions, or done something like it. It does not seem to me that with terrorism we are always in the requisite position of knowledge or belief. My reasons will become apparent.

    The sketched response to violence is of course not to be taken just as declamation that violence is terribly wrong, but rather as an argument. Moreover, its force as declamation really must be distinguished from its force as argument. What the commitment mainly comes to can be stated plainly.
There is an attempt made to reason about moral issues in a certain way, but this attempt fails, and in so doing has terrible results, such as a tolerance of terrorism, which tolerance is in fact ruled out by another way of proceeding, this being a reliance on moral necessities.

   We have here another promise, a second one, of an effective means of dismissing defences or excuses with respect to terrorism without difficulty, a way of avoiding large and awful questions.

   Let us begin at the end. It is allowed, as indeed it must be allowed, that moral necessities do sometimes conflict. It is allowed that they conflict, however, only in abnormal, painful, and improbable situations. What these situations are, of course, and whether they are so rare, will be determined in part by one's conception of the range or extent of the moral necessities. Hampshire's conception is such that necessities having to do with distributive justice are somehow included, and the inclusion must seem undeniably right. He mentions too the necessities of helping the poverty-stricken and the destitute.

    It might be taken as intended, in such responses to violence as the one sketched, that the moral necessities having to do with not killing are the chief moral necessities, and more than that, they are such as to overwhelm all others. There is no conflict of necessities here, or only a conflict quickly ended by victory. Can we take up this simple view, that there can be no situations whatever in which killing of whatever kind is allowed? If so, we without further reflection limit great the situations in which there can be conflict between moral necessities. The simple view may be appealing, partly for its very simplicity. If we reflect for even a moment, none the less, we are unlikely to be able to take it up [10].

    Those who suppose themselves to be entertaining it are almost certain not to be entertaining precisely the view that killing is not to be done no matter what numbers of deaths ensue, no matter what wretchedness or suffering, no matter what injustice. They are in fact likely to be thinking that we must never kill outside of certain permissible situations, perhaps the extremes of self-defence, and certain wars, and when the state and society judge that execution is necessary, and circumstances when an enslaved people try to throw off tyranny.

   Is it not impossible, however, to draw a confident line of this kind between the area where killing is wholly impermissible and the area where it is somehow permissible? The reason, generally speaking, is that it must be at least a possibility that the features that make killing permissible in the one given area, certain features of distress and injustice, have counterparts in the other area. To put the point in the other way, there can hardly be an overwhelming moral necessity not to kill in the one area if it is inconceivable that there is such a thing in the other. There is not a sufficient factual difference between, say, certain tyrannies and all related political situations whatever not involving tyranny, or between certain 'just wars' and all related situations not involving such wars.

    What we must allow is that sometimes, perhaps rarely, the conflict between moral necessities is conflict with necessities of not killing. Let us for the moment suppose no more than this, that there are some situations, perhaps few, in which such necessities conflict with others. We may have in mind a conflict between an act of killing and a course of action that will make for the persistence of some appalling injustice, the distress of a whole people. The question arises of what is to be done in such a situation.

    We cannot do nothing. I do not mean that it would be wrong to do nothing, that doing nothing is not morally possible, but rather that it is not a possibility at all to avoid going against one moral necessity. It is not as if we can do A, thereby going against one moral necessity, or do B, thereby going against a different moral necessity -- or do C, thereby going against no moral necessity The position is that we can do only A or B, each one going against a moral necessity. It is only if this is the position that we in fact have a situation where there is conflict between moral necessities. To take an analogy from war, there is no conflict in the relevant sense between the need to save the civilians and the need for the army to advance if there is a way of doing both. To return to our own case there is no conflict between the necessity not to kill and the necessity of ending the appalling distress if in fact we can do something that respects both necessities.

    If there is no possibility of an easy way. since one moral necessity or another must be denied, can we resort to something like an unreflective leap? Can we 'act spontaneously'? In most situations, this is unthinkable. There is therefore the inevitable conclusion that in almost all situations where moral necessities conflict, we must try in a rational way to do the best thing. This is not to be avoided. No commitment can save us from it.

    What hopes can we have? An answer is that we can try to judge between alternatives, each one including the denial of a necessity. We can try to compare the two alternatives directly, or by relating both to other circumstances of which we can conceive. Would one of the two be about as bad as a third circumstance, and the other worse? If we can or mjust do this, several things follow. To entertain the answer that we can try to judge between alternatives is to grant what already is sadly clear, that there is a sense of the word 'necessary' such that what we have been calling the moral necessities are not necessary. Simply to allow that there can be conflict between moral necessities is to move a good way in this direction. To say we can try to compare alternatives, secondly, may seem to run directly against the earlier part of the given response to violence. Is this comparing not exactly that method of moral reasoning that is said to be condemned to failure, and nevertheless to produce terrible results?

    Let me try to make a bit clearer what I mean by judging between alternatives. In many forms it is not uncommon, although we overlook some instances and are not inclined to draw attention to others. Governments and also lesser officers of state weigh up possible situations such that one situation would include the taking or the loss of life, as well as a certain gain, and the other situation would involve distress or a loss, but no loss of life. This takes place in the ordinary allocation of social expenditure, notably in connection with the level of medical services. This kind of judgement has other sorts of instances. It is a part of the daily life of ordinary individuals to choose for themselves between two situations only one of that carries some risk of loss of life. Plainly, to return to governments, this judgement is part of contemplating war.

    Very generally described, the procedure of judging between alternatives is one of weighing up (a) the extent to that and (b) the way in that each of two or more alternatives would probably or certainly satisfy desires or, as we are often inclined to say, needs. Would more needs or desires be satisfied in one situation? Whose needs or desires? Would the persons benefited be those who have already been more benefited than others? This is not the procedure of judging morally which of two extents and ways of satisfaction is right, but rather the procedure of assessing the extents and ways. It is almost certain to involve judgements of probability. How probable is it that certain extents and ways of satisfaction would follow from certain actions or policies? We shall look at this greatly important thing later.

    This comparison is unquestionably something that in some areas and circumstances can be done well, rather than something that cannot be done at all or hardly at all. It can be done with rational confidence, very roughly speaking, when the complexity of the task is within certain bounds.
It can more likely be done with such confidence, for example, when the wants or needs that would be satisfied by two possible courses of action are more or less of the same kind rather than of different kinds, or of fewer rather than more kinds. There evidently is less complication in comparing possible satisfactions of the need for food, say, than satisfactions of the needs for food on the one hand and for freedom on the other. The complexity of the task of comparison is more likely within bounds, secondly, if there are relatively simple principles as to the class or classes of people to be taken into account. It is one thing if the aim is to satisfy certain wants for as many people as possible, or indeed all persons in a society. It is another if one takes into account different classes, perhaps differentiated by the extent to that each class has already had satisfaction of wants other than those now in question. The complexity of the task of comparison increases, thirdly to the extent that wants, needs, and satisfactions are interdependent. It is often true that the satisfaction of one want stands in the way of the satisfaction of another, and so on.

    The idea that judgement between alternatives is impossible, that it cannot be done at all, seems to derive from confusing it with other things, including some things suggested by that sketched response to violence. This comparison is not a procedure whereby situations are looked at in terms of some single experienced stuff best called the feeling of satisfaction or happiness. It is supposed with whatever truth, that this was the recommendation of the early Utilitarians, but clearly it is true that very few of the relevant possible situations can be compared in just this way, this way alone. Indeed, many have no such ingredient. Nor can we deal in only a few such ingredients. This is not to say that situations cannot be weighed up in terms of the extent to that they satisfy desires or needs and the way in that they do this.
It is to be granted, too, that various things that can be called calculation or computation are impossible Again, they are not the comparison involved in judging between alternatives. It is to be granted also that there are difficulties, some of them notorious, in the way of systematizing or formalizing this comparison, and hence that there are no systems of a certain kind. This does not put comparison in question, or put its rationality in question [11].

    If judging between alternatives is not a method of proceeding that is always condemned to failure, it is not a method either that has an innate or general tendency to issue in terrible results. Like many other human practices, its upshots are mixed. Finally, is there any reason for thinking that comparison cannot take into account moral necessities? We have assumed that it can. There is no reason to think otherwise, since to speak of necessities is at bottom to speak of desires, no doubt great or deep desires. Not to regard them in this way would be to reduce them to mysteries.

    What remains to be said, for the moment, is that it may be mistaken to think that the conflicts between moral necessities are rare or few, that the need to judge between alternatives does not arise at all often. It may be mistaken to think, more precisely that terrorism never produces such a conflict. If that were so, it would be reasonable to say that a commitment to moral necessities offered us an effective argument against terrorism never or something close to that. One the contrary, there may be many circumstances where moral necessities conflict, where moral passion divides, and such that a choice must be made between necessities. The deepest of moral feelings may not be able to save us from many large and dark questions. On the contrary, such feelings may contribute to and indeed give rise to such questions. Evidently the only possibility, if we cannot rely on such things as moral necessities, is the business of judging between alternatives. We shall return to it, and to the question of how confident it can be with terrorism.

    We have it that neither a commitment to moral necessities nor any doctrine about political obligation will allow us to settle the question that faces us. More generally, there must be the idea that there is nothing by way of doctrine or commitment that enables us to settle these questions. It may be that we cannot settle our minds by way of Marx's theory of history and his propositions about terrorism and revolution, or by way of lawyerlike reflections on what is sometimes called the rule of law, or by an embracing of liberal values, or by a politician's reliance on the values of negotiation and compromise, or by any version of the idea, so refuted by the course of history, or simply by its wars, that those in authority know best.


    It will come as no great surprise that I think all doctrines and commitments -- roughly speaking all alternatives to judging between alternatives -- are too weak to enable us to settle the question of terrorism in an effective way. There are facts that overwhelm any arguments about political obligation, and any residue of them. There are facts that stand in the way of our thinking that violence only rarely raises conflicts between moral necessities.

   It is possible to disagree, and I am aware that many people, perhaps a majority, are bound to be uncertain. There is only one way, as it seems to me, of coming to a proper view. It is by having an immediate awareness of certain facts, and by adequately reflecting on them. They can be put into different kinds, categories and orders. A first order of them has to do with average lengths of life. A second has to do with what can be called economic and social facts. The third has to do with what are underdescribed as political inequalities. Attention was given to average lifetimes near the beginning of this book [12], and more attention is a good idea now. Let us also attend a bit to the other two orders of fact. It is only through doing so that reflection about violence comes into touch with reality.

    (1) Truths about average lengths of life in Britain, the United States and so on are summed up in a certain general proposition. It is that the worst-off tenths of population in terms of income roughly speaking, in the rich societies, live about six years less long on average than the best-off tenths [13]. The proposition, of course, is a summary of various facts of death. In the worst-off tenths, there are more infant deaths, more deaths of children, more of young people and adults due to sickness, more deaths at work and because of work, and, to a small extent, more old-age but none the less premature deaths.

    The average life-expectancy in the four poor societies is about 38 years, as against 77 in some of our rich societies [14]. The difference in average life-expectancy between the worst-off tenth in the poor societies and the best-off tenth in the rich societies is in the neighbourhood of 50 years, like a species-difference. Again these are summaries of various facts of death, still more grim. Again they are facts about individuals. They have precisely as much to do with individuals who have proper names as have bullets. The resulting losses of living time, to speak of them alone, are of the magnitude of many millions of years. These losses could have been prevented, and it is in fact within our power to change the future.

    Shall we, as many people will want to do, give little attention to these propositions about length of life? There are particular inclinations that lead in that direction, and also several reasons, of whatever strength. I shall mention six.
    There is the inclination to turn away from the subject because of the anticipation that moral or political consequences may be drawn from it. One may foresee its being argued that those who are now living shorter lives should be compensated, and that steps should be taken to change the probability that future members of the same economic classes will live shorter lives. One may foresee, too, that this argument may issue in a proposition about acts of violence directed towards compensation or change. Anticipations of this kind, while natural enough, do not give anything like a decent reason for ignoring the facts and suppositions about length of life. We need not further discuss, either, a second reluctance. It has its beginning not in the anticipation of political argument but in more unreflective feelings having to do with one's place and privilege in society, or the place and privilege of those with whom one identifies.

   We must resist, thirdly, that simple disinclination to consider things that may be connected in an immediate way with what every sane person regards as the horror of violence. One reason for paying attention to the darkness of our societies is that doing so may be the only tolerable way, or even the only effective way, of moving towards an ending of violence and its horror. Nor, fourthly, are the facts and suppositions about lifetimes to be put aside, because they necessarily are the beginning of an irrational appeal. By their nature they may give rise to feeling, but rationality and feeling very often come together. Indeed in certain inquiries, including our own, to inhibit feeling in certain ways is the most absurd of irrationalities.

    Are the figures given in the facts and propositions to be rejected as inaccurate? The answer is that they are as accurate as a reasonable judgement requires. A careful account of them would call for many qualifications. For example, life-expectancy figures for a group at a given time are based on records of deaths in an immediately prior period. As such, they are never perfectly accurate predictions. Usually, but certainly not always, the situation will turn out to be very slightly better than predicted. Again, by way of random example, there is some degree of error in the calculation of the size of the fifth social class in England and Wales. The calculation is based on the reported occupations of individuals after their deaths and some misreportings occur. Such deficiencies in the figures, and others like them, do not begin to make our use of them improper.

    Finally, are the facts and suppositions about lifetimes to be passed by because they are open to misconception? They are open to misconception, but they are none the worse for that. If we put aside everything about that mistakes can be made, we put aside everything. It would be a confusion, for example, to conceive what has been said as being about killings or intended deaths. It may be a mistake to say, even, that what we are considering are 'condoned shortenings of life'. Nor do our facts and suppositions concern violence being done to the people who die early. As already noted, there has been a persistent inclination in a part of the Left to describe almost any dark social or economic fact as a fact of violence. It is not one of my inclinations, and no such suggestion is meant. What we have before us are shortenings of life that are in a way natural and expected. That is not a reason for not attending to them, for not reflecting on them.

    Let us do so, at least a little.

    People now alive will live less long on average than other people in their societies, and so they will have less of what we can call the satisfaction of life, although that thin phrase does not begin to catch the reality. There are few circumstances, even near the end of one's life, where death is preferable to life, inexistence preferable to continued existence. Whatever one may think of unnaturally prolonged life, it is evident enough that an immense majority of people in the groups in question lack something that virtually everyone desires deeply and that others do possess. The fact is independent of whether or not the individuals in question ever have a thought of the likely length of their lives. Suppose that some do not. Unequal experience does not become otherwise if those who have it are unaware of the fact.

    Certainly the inequality in question is an unusual one. A man who dies, although he does not enjoy a longer life, does not miss it either. He does not feel deprived or suffer a lack. It may be that this must be regarded as of importance with respect to our response to the inequality. I shall not pursue the matter except to remark that the same question must arise in other contexts. A man who dies a death by violence is not distressed thereafter either. He too does not miss what he does not have. It is always or never important that a person whose life is shortened has a lifetime unequal to the lifetimes of others. The bare fact of inequality is always or never important.

    There is also the fact that some individuals are in ways aware that their lives will be shorter. There is then the matter of the felt distress that goes with the realization. No doubt it is true that blacks in America and unskilled men in Britain, and the lowest economic tenth generally, are not troubled throughout most of their lives by the prospect that their lives will be shorter than those of others. (One can say the same, of course, of those who die deaths of violence.) There are times, none the less, more common in the experience of those who will die natural but earlier deaths, when there is an awareness of the prospect of a shortened life. It may be suggested, by someone resolute enough, that their feeling is unreasonable. This is so, it may be said, because they are desiring what is not possible, anguished because they will not have what in fact cannot be given to them.

   Let us grant, for the purpose of argument, that it is not possible now to change their life-expectancy. While it may have been possible in the past to do something that would have issued in a different state of affairs in the present, it is not possible now. If this makes their desire 'unreasonable', it remains a truth that they have it, and suffer because of its frustrations. A man who has been incurably blinded, who wants to see, may not cease to have his 'unreasonable' desire or his anguish. He may also have a related and absolutely reasonable desire, a desire for compensation. So with the worst-off tenth. What we have before us also touches on the desire of almost every person that certain others should live longer. The fact of a shortened life is a fact for those who live on. A part, one of many, of that experience is the experience of a mother whose children die. It is an experience of death and hence not relevant to us, but also of death before time.

    Some may be stern enough to say that these last two considerations, about the conscious distress of some individuals because of their shorter lives, and the distress of those related to them, must be qualified in a certain way. Blacks in America do not expect to live as long as whites. Unskilled men do not expect to live as long as professional men. The families of these people do not expect them to live so long. As a consequence, whites or professional men would be more distressed if they shared the same lesser prospect of life. That is very likely a truth. Feelings and attitudes are in part the result of anticipations. Still, the truth does not very much diminish the facts we have before us. It does not begin to give us a reason for passing quickly over the facts before us.

    (2) The second order of facts may need less attention. It has to do with wealth and income, but more precisely with their consequences for lives however long or short. To glance first at rich societies, the one tenth of American families who have most wealth have in fact got 71% of it. The bottom four tenths have 0.2%. The bottom tenth has none worth speaking of [15]. The best-off tenth of American families, in terms of income or consumption, receive 30.5% of the total income. The tenth of American families that receive least in fact receive 1.8% of the total. The figures do not reveal that some families have quite extraordinary incomes and others have virtually no incomes at all [16].

    Will there be a great deal less inequality in the sharing of wealth twenty years from now in America? Or in Britain where the present figures are similar? Given the rate of change in the past, one can make a reasonable guess at what will be the state of affairs in a generation. It is that if there is no fundamental change in the two societies, the best-off tenths will have much the same shares and the poorest tenths will each have 1% or less. In terms of income or consumption, the best-off tenth has getting on for a third of it, and the worst-off tenth something like a 50th. There is unlikely to be any dramatic change for the next generation. As with America and Britain, so with other rich Western societies. There are similar truths about present distributions of wealth and income. We can be confident, too, to turn to the next generations, that the general picture is unlikely to be greatly different.

    These facts of wealth and income are not important for themselves. They are important because they are determinants and indicators of inequalities in a great part of the things that people value and need. They are determinants and indicators, more precisely, of inequalities with respect to things people will give much or indeed almost anything to have or not to have. Some of these are health or anyway releief from pain, some vigour rather than lassitude, shelter or a home, security in it, food, work, self-determination in one's onw life, work, some standing and respect, hope for one's children, a life with others of one's kind, a sense of not being ignorant, religion, ways of ageing and dying [17].

"...if you're one of us, it's very bad, the water situation is. You spend a lot of your time worrying about water. That's the truth. You just don't begin a day without deciding who's going to get the water, and when, and how good it'll be when it comes back. That's why I use Coke for my children, right from the start I do. It's the best thing you can get to take away their thirst, and give them the sugar they need. They drink it all over the country, it's made for the rest of the people. If they use it, we can. We have to, though. We can't turn to much of anything else. There's the milk you have in your body to start out with, and that goes real fast I hear say because we can't get enough for ourselves. My grandma, she used to say that nothing comes free, even a mother's milk, and that you plain run dry if you can't keep yourself fed up good. The one thing you can do is keep plenty of water inside, and that's what Cokes do, and as I say, they give you your sugar. And when the babies get on their own, they drink those Cokes and you can sec them perk up, perk right up. They'll be lying around, tired-likc, and waiting on me to figure out what I can find for them, and then I'll get the bottle opener and they know what's coming. My grandma, she said we'd be all dried up and dead and gone from starvation if God didn't send us Cokes." [18].

   The differences between classes within the rich societies are but one part of the present subject, the smaller part. There are also the yet more terrible differences between the rich and the poor societies.

   In the United States, the gross national product per person has recently been an average of $29,240. In four African countries, it has been about $220 a person [19]. These figures, of course, do not give one any direct grasp of actual incomes within the two groups of countries. They would do so if each gross national product issued in an equal income for each member of society. The bottom tenth of population in the poor societies has an average income some thousands of times smaller than the income of the top tenth of population in rich societies. This comparison does not pertain only to small groups of people, but to several hundred million.

    It has been a generally accepted fact that since 1965, and indeed since before then, economic inequalities between these two parts of the world have been increasing rather than decreasing. Comparatively speaking, the poor countries have been getting poorer and the rich countries richer. Their rates of growth are such that the gap has been widening. The only thing that could reverse the trend is what amounts to an absolute transformation in the economic relations of the poor and rich countries. If it does not occur, economic inequalities between the two groups of countries, and between classes within them, will be much greater in twenty years.

    It is again the consequences of these economic facts that are important. These consequences, other than those having to do with lengths of lifetimes, constitute those ways of existence that come to the attention of most of us by way of the newspaper advertisements of such charities as War on Want and the Save the Children Fund. These are such consequences as the awfulnesses and horrors of hunger over a lifetime, the experience of starvation, disease and other distress, disdain, being without help, ignorance, degradation. I have maintained that we must know more of these things. Still, it seems that to say so little of them as could be said here in a page or two would go against decency. For that reason or some other one, I shall not offer a brisk list of the facts of trachoma, leprosy or AIDs. Nor shall I attempt to quicken anyone's appreciation of being a life almost without hope. Each of us has a clear obligation to inform himself or herself, and to come to have the feelings required not by this or that moral or political or economic outlook, but by what can be called humanity.

    (3) The history of men and women, looked at in one direct way, has been a struggle for freedom, most importantly freedom those groups best described as peoples and nations. That is, it has been a struggle in that groups have sought to achieve some approximation to the freedom and power of other groups. This autonomy of a people consists, roughly, in the independent governance of a homeland. It is governance by the group as distinct from some minority of it, and it is also governance free from external oppression or constraint.

    It is remarkably easy, if one has always been a member of a group that attained freedom and power long ago, to think that groups who have not, and who struggle for autonomy, are in fact pursuing something not worth the shedding of blood. It is also remarkably easy, if one has always been a member of an autonomous group, to count the worth of autonomy for little as against the worth of something else, say some level of material well-being, or peace, or 'participation' in the governance of a homeland.

    There is a clear unreality about this. How can it be that an ideal of community or of generous humanity should lead to the idea that it is the groups having less or no autonomy that should be the first to give up what they have, or the hope of some? As for the worth of autonomy, there is a kind of absurdity in attcmpting to devalue it. Something for which sane and admirable men have always been willing to risk and to accept death, torture, punishment, and also self-accusation and the experience of guilt is something worth having if anything is. There is no alternative to this conclusion.
To say these things, inevitably, is again to raise problems. What groups count? What is a 'homeland'? I am inclined to the proposition that the most relevant answers, those to be heard first, are those given by those people who are the weaker and who define themselves as a group, an autonomy-demanding group. Their definition of themselves is most relevant, and their claim that something is their homeland is to be heard first. There is a proper presumption that they are right. No doubt it has happened that definitions and claims of this kind have sometimes been mistaken, in a large sense of the word. Perhaps this has been rare.

    Certainly there are clear and indubitable cases. The rape of Palestine by Zionist Israel is one of these. There is no need for an inquiry into passages of political and other history over half a century, accounts of agreements borken or offers refused, or even of atrocities committed. There is no need, even, for records of the murdering of children by soldiers in tanks or airmen with missiles, and the crimes against humanity of those who subsequently became prime ministers. The changing populations figures for the region, Jewish and Arab, overcome all of that. A people's homeland has been taken and violated by settlement [20]. A people has been violated. Nothing conceals it, certainly not any refrain about democracy against terrorism.


    The first of four main conclusions of this essay is that large and dark facts ensure that no doctrine or commitment can give us a an effective condemnation of all terrorism for humanity. No doctrine or commitment enables us to settle the question. Large and dark facts stand in the way of any progress by way of the Contract Agreement for political obligation, and any progress by way of the doctrine of moral necessities. It is impossible to believe that there can be only very few relevant conflicts between moral necessities conflicts involving the given violence. On the contrary, there can be many. In these conflicts, as in the case of reflection on the Contract Argument, we are led to judgement between alternatives. Let us return to that inevitable subject, about which the essential thing remains to be said. We can begin by recalling particular ends of terrorism for humanity, and the terrorism itself, and by considering the relation between the two things.

    Terrorism can be directed to undeniably good ends, first of all democracy, perhaps a better democracy than ours. Indeed, that terrorism can be directed to undeniably good ends is an understatement. It can be directed to the changing of circumstances such that there will be a general agreement in the future that they were circumstances of moral barbarity. Terrorism can be directed, to speak differently, to ends that make for progress towards well-being for those who are deprived of it. As already remarked, what I have to say mainly concerns terrorism for humanity. It is a certainty that in order to consider it one must also take account of responses of state-terrorism, and terrorism of the Right, but neither of these latter things raises large moral difficulty. There is a want of seriousness in a refusal to distinguish, say, between violence with the aim of securing a distribution of food that would allow children to live, and terrorism with the aim of defending the aggression of a people or race or class.

    It hardly needs adding that not all of the interim goals of terrorism for humanity are on a level. That is, some advances are of greater value, either for themselves or as means. No doubt it is generally true that the alleviation of the situation of the very worst off is the first priority. Those who are slowly starving to death have needs even greater than those who are seeking autonomy, or are defending only their liberties.

    Sometimes, as with a struggle for freedom, the end of a campaign of terrorism is specific enough. There was a clear end in the case of black terrorists in South Africa -- to end apartheid and a pretence of democracy. There has been a clear-enough end in the case of the Irish Republican Army and its successors in Northern Ireland. Certainly there is a clear end in the case of the Palestinian terrorists seeking to free their people and to end the violation of their homeland. It is now not a mistake or a self-deception, but merely a tactic, to confuse it with the destruction of the nuclear power Israel [21].

   In other cases, the end in view has been less specific or indeed not specific. To the extent that a specific end is insufficiently defined in a public way, or to the extent that in fact there is no specific end but only a general one, there is likely to be less chance of achieving the specific end or something of an intended sort, perhaps something within an intended range. Terrorism is an attempt to coerce peoples and governments in a certain way, that is to say that it attempts to bring them to have certain attitudes and to make certain decisions. It is distinct from an exercise of force that leaves no place for decision [22]. It follows that governments and peoples must have more or less unavoidable knowledge of what is being demanded of them, less room for pretence of ignorance. One way in that a campaign of violence may fail, then, is through insufficient definition. This would be true, perhaps, of any campaign that had as its announced end anything so general as what I have given as the goal of terrorism for humanity. 

    So much for ends. The second matter is terrorism itself. It is a mistake to avoid its true description, description that keeps its true nature in mind. Terrorism consists, in part, in atrocity and carnage. Its reality for us at this time is more or less immediate. That it is immediate, while the related facts of wretchedness and other distress are in several senses distant, is reason enough for not dwelling further on terrorism. This is not one-sidedness [23].

    Third, and most importantly, there is the resulting large matter of the relation of the means of terrorism for humanity to its ends, the matter of the relation of any campaign of violence to its specific or general purpose. This has to do with probabilities, and with the required sort of judgement between alternatives. Let us approach it by noticing five possible upshots of terrorism. Perhaps these are not quite all the relevant possibilities, and it will be apparent that they could be replaced by somewhat different classifications. This will not affect my argument.

    Individuals decide on a campaign of terrorism directed to a specific and well-defined end, the changing or ending of an appalling circumstance, one whose persistence will cause suffering to many victims. These victims of this circumstance will live badly and mostly briefly if the circumstance is not changed. This decision in favour of terrorism is of course the result, in part, of a conviction that non-violent means, including civil disobedience, will not succeed in ending or alleviating the circumstance of injustice.

   The campaign is taken forward, and it is resisted by the relevant state or government, for whatever reason. It is resisted, to speak more plainly, by individuals in power, perhaps democratically-elected individuals. Their resistance is successful, and so there persists the appalling circumstance to which the terrorism was directed The upshot of the violence, then, is useless distress and death. This is the first of our five possible upshots of terrorism.

    Whether the campaign of terrorism that would fail  was right or wrong, clearly, was a matter of judgement between alternatives. In one essential part, this was the question of how probable it was in the beginning and later, to a reasonable judgement, that the outcome would be what it was. Also, if a knowing judge would have found it difficult to estimate the probability of the outcome, necessarily there was uncertainty as to whether the right course of action, whatever it was would in fact turn out for the best.

   I take it that kinds and degrees of ignorance or uncertainty about the results of possible actions do not make it impossible to tell that of two is right. Almost always there is a discoverable right action, an answer to the question of what ought to be done [24]. The answer is determined in part by the available knowledge, however small that knowledge. Of course, whether the right action will turn out for the best is another question. One may be less than confident about that. I shall return to this fundamental matter, and also, incidentally, to the question of the morality of the state resistance to the terrorism in question.

    To turn now to a second possibility, the terrorism in question is like the first in terms of the circumstance to which it is directed and the conviction that alternative non-violent means would not change the circumstance. The total result of this terrorism is worse. The appalling circumstance of suffering is not changed, and, because of state-terrorism, a 'war on terror', terrorism of the Right, war itself and perhaps a military take-over or open oligarchy, there is yet more distress and death than would have been required by the state simply to defeat the campaign of violence. The upshot, then, is useless distress and death, more than in the first case.
A third kind of violence is such that the end is achieved, but by means that cannot be justified by that end. That is, the total result is worse than it might have been, perhaps for the reason that the given end would have been achieved by non-violent means, that in fact were operating, or for the reason that the given end would have been achieved by nonviolent means that would have been operating if there had been no violence. Again the upshot includes useless suffering. The fact is not of importance, but I think there has been relatively little violence of this sort, where a circumstance of injustice or misery is in fact ended, but the means of violence were unnecessary or excessive.

    A fourth possibility is that terrorism achieves its end, the end being worth it. A circumstance of viciousness is ended within a given time, and the terrible cost was nonetheless not too great. Non-violence would not have worked. Many of the revolutions and struggles of the past that now are celebrated as beginnings of national histories are taken to be in this category. Again, of course, the question of the rightness of the actions in question is to be settled, in an essential part, by what the probability was of achieving the given end.

   A fifth possible situation is one where the violence does not achieve its specific end, but does issue in a related state of affairs, or where violence has a general rather than a specific end, and does achieve something of the envisaged general kind. Non-violence would not have worked. The total result is better than the alternative. Certainly there has been violence of this fifth kind. I doubt that there is any serious outlook, short of an absolute passivism, which in this 21st century can perhaps no longer be serious, that does not have the consequence that there have been many cases of the fifth kind, and also the fourth.

    The essential and principal issue, of course, is whether anyone can say, with rational confidence, at or near the beginning, that some envisaged terrorism will have one of the five possible upshots rather than others. What is needed is an answer to that question. Or rather,  what is needed is an answer to a question, or indeed many questions in a campaign over the course of time, of this general form:

Which is right, non-violent action with no immediate harm to anyone, and with a certain probability of ending or altering a circumstance of suffering and injustice within a certain time, or terrorism at a certain immediate cost of death and destruction, with a certain probability of ending or altering a circumstance of suffering and injustice within a certain time?

To answer a question of this form is of course to do what was called judging between alternatives.

    Suppose for a moment that in a given circumstance we can know that the immediate harm of non-violence will come to nothing, or not much at all. Suppose too, although this will certainly harder, that we can say with some assurance what the immediate effect of the contemplated violence will be. Finally, suppose we have a grasp of the suffering and injustice to be affected by the non-violence, and the suffering and injustice that may be affected by the terrorism -- which two things may or may not be the same. A crucial matter remains. Can there be confidence in judging the two probabilities of success? Can we say with confidence what probability there is of the non-violence being successful, and what probability there is of the violence being successful?

    Given knowledge of each of the other matters it may be taken that if the non-violence probability is below a certain level, and if the violence probability is above a certain level, then an answer to the question can be had with confidence. That is, if the probability of non-violence being successful is below a certain critical level, and the probability of terrorism being successful is above a certain critical level, then an answer that terrorism is the right course can be made with confidence. On the other hand, if the non-violence probability is above the critical level, or if the violence probability is below the other critical level, then another answer can be had with confidence. That is, if the likelihood of non-violence being a success is above the critical level, and the likelihood of violence being a success is below the other critical level, then the answer that violence is wrong can be made with confidence.

    In the nature of things, however, both probabilities will usually be near their critical levels. This guarantees difficulty, at least difficulty. In the nature of things, to speak differently, it will be unlikely that a state and society are such as to make it relatively highly probable (well above a critical level) that they will give in to non-violence, while it is of relatively low probability (well below the critical level) that they will give in to violence. The general reason for this is a certain rationality.

   To express this simply, if the opponents of a state or government have a 75% chance of winning by resort to violence, then it will be reasonable for the state to bargain or compromise. There will be, that is, a decent probability of the opponents of the state achieving their goal non-violently. It is unlikely to happen that the opponents of the state have a 75% chance of winning by violence while there is a relatively low probability of their winning by non-violence. It is unlikely, indeed, that the opponents have a 50% chance of winning by violence while there is a relatively low probability of their winning by non-violence. On the other hand, if the opponents have only a 5% chance of winning by violence, then there will be less incentive for the government to bargain. There will be little probability of the opponents getting their way by non-violence. It will be a rare case where the opponents have so small a chance of getting their way by violence and a relatively large probability of getting it non-violently.

    In general, then, the probabilities will be close to their critical levels. There is the consequence, a large consequence, that a rational confidence will require fairly precise judgements of probability. Ordinarily, rough and hence more secure judgements will not be sufficient. A rough and secure judgement of probability will leave one with no decision whatever on the critical issue. There is no use in the judgement that there is a 60% or 70% chance of success, if the question of whether or not to go ahead depends on whether the chance is over or under 65%.

    I am inclined to the unhappy vlew that for the most part we cannot judge the relevant probabilities with the precision needed for rational confidence. Certainly judgement between alternatives is necessary, and almost certainly there is a right judgement. That it can be made with rational confidence is unlikely.

    There is an argument of another kind for this conclusion. Essentially it is that there has been a general failure to estimate such probabilities precisely in the past, and that the reasons for this are likely to persist into the future. There has not been anything like confirmation of claims to the effect that a certain proportion of campaigns of terrorism of a given sort will result in situations of a certain kind. No one has found identifying marks by which to decide that a conceived campaign is to a certain extent probable to have one of the first three upshots rather than the fourth or fifth. Indeed there has not even been much success in even the formulating of such claims. This essential prior activity, which might also be called the devising of hypotheses, has itself turned out to be pretty well impossible. It has been impossible to produce testable claims which have some possibility of being useful.

    The formulating and confirming of such claims would have been the result, of course, of study of the past. In fact, this endeavour of formulating and confirming claims could hardly have been distinct from another one, the giving of explanations of past sequences of events, past successes and failures. There is very little available by way of such explanations. If anything remotely like `laws of history' have been discovered, they have not been such as to enable historians to offer persuasive explanations of successes and failures in past political struggles. Certainly there should now be universal agreement that speculative philosophy of history, the pursuit of 'laws of history', has been a dismal failure. If we can be confident that some past event was a necessary condition of a subsequent one we cannot be anything like confident about what set of events was a sufficient condition for the subsequent one.

    This failure to explain the outcomes of past struggles and hence to arrive at claims for use in the present and future, has several explanations and they are truisms. One is that so many different factors enter into the producing of successes and failures. The range of relevant factors for a violent political struggle is exceedingly wide. The outcome of a violent struggle depends on (a) the opposition to the state or government, which may be taken to vary as a function of at least its size, social base or support, principles, ideology, aims and strategy, leadership, finances, organizational competence, and weapons, (b) the state's strength, which has to do with at least the government's form, popularity, competence, resources, and stability, and (c) the international environment, that includes the influence and support of other governments, movements and groups, changing relationships between them, and also the influence and pressure of international opinion [25].

    A second explanation of failure in explaining and predicting violent political struggles is that there is relatively little data to go on. This will only seem surprising or paradoxical to those who forget that we cannot for purposes of experiment increase the number or kind of such struggles. In most of science, by contrast, we can so act as to produce more and more data. A third and large explanation is the nature of history: there is not enough repetition in it to enable us to learn enough from it. Changes in technology are part of this story. Changes in ideology are as important, as are changing conceptions of what is within the realm of the possible. History is the product of human invention of several kinds, and endless invention gives rise to endless change.

    These explanations of past failure to explain and predict political struggles evidently suggest that the failure will persist. Particularly the third explanation, the nature of history, makes it unlikely that we shall come to do better.

    For the most part, then, we cannot make adequate assessments of the probability that political action or inaction will have a certain result, that an envisaged campaign of violence will be of one of the five kinds. We cannot make assessments adequate for a rational confidence. For the most part, for we cannot be at all confident that our judgements that a campaign of terrorism is wrong or right will turn out well. We cannot have the reassurance that doing the right thing, as we see it, will have the best upshot. For the most part we are subject to uncertainty.

   This does leave it open that there are cases where we can judge probabilities with confidence and so come to decently based verdicts. These will include some in which terrorism is judged right and some in which it is judged wrong. It is my view that some democratic terrorism, and in particular such terrorism as also has the aim of liberating a people from invasion and occupation, can be defended as right. This is so with respect to Palestinian terrorism now against the Israeli state. I have no doubt that the Palestinians have  a moral right to their terrorism against the Israelis. They have at at this time a moral right to their only possibility of redress against the resolution of the Zionist state of Israel and its state-terrorism. Never has terrorism had a better claim also to have the good names of self-defence, resistance, response to state-terrorism and so on [26].

   My second general conclusion, however, is that we are subject to an extensive uncertainty about terrorism, an uncertainty with relatively few exceptions. Some will be inclined to agree that an extensive uncertainty is indeed unavoidable, and then pass on to this proposition: even when is judged to be right, the judgement will quite possibly turn out badly, and so there is the general conclusion that violence must not be used. We cannot have the reassurance of such a proposition. There is as much reason to move from the given uncertainty to the proposition that even when violence is judged to be wrong, the judgement will quite possibly turn out to involve a mistake, and so we can conclude that violence may be used. There is, of course a long tradition that derives kinds of reassuring conservatism from claims about our ignorance. We must not do this or that leaving the well-tried path, because we do not know what dangers lie to one side. Whatever is to be said of all that, my claim about our uncertainty is such that it has neither a reassuring nor an unreassuring upshot. If we are uncertain in the given way, any inference to conservatism is worthless. The well-tried path is no more known to be correct than any other path [27].

    Despite all of what has been said, this general conclusion about uncertainty would have about it a certain strangeness if it were so to speak, the whole truth. This strangeness, looked at one way, would be the strangeness of finding very little of a substantial kind in the long historical endeavour of so many people, including moral and political philosophers and theorists. To speak differently, the strangeness would derive from a conviction that while our position with respect to much violence may be one of uncertainty, it is not only that. Surely we do also have certainty of certain kinds or anyway decently grounded belief. There is then something else to be said in connection with the general moral question of terrorism for humanity. It is my third conclusion. It pertains, incidentally, to other general moral questions and not only to violence.

    We have been concerned so far, essentially, with an overriding question. However, we can attempt to have other moral views of an action or campaign or practice than just an overriding one. This seems always overlooked in such contexts as our present one. It is not that we can attempt only two possible views, expressed indifferently by such pairs of terms as 'right' and 'wrong', 'justified' and 'unjustified', 'correct' and 'mistaken', 'ought' and 'ought not', 'morally necessary' and 'not morally necessary'. Or rather, it is not that we can take up only one of several overriding moral views, since, to mention one other, there is also the overriding view that the fundamental question is one whose answer must be uncertain. It is also true, to come to the point, that actions can have features and effects about that we are certain, perhaps many. An act can then stand in comparisons to many other acts.

    Let us say that both of two acts of bombing were wrong. It remains of obvious importance that one had a definition having to do with a struggle against suffering and injustice, and the other did not. It is probable that each act made for some progress or movement in the direction supported by the respective agents. This is then a way in which the first act, although it will not achieve a given end, and hence was wrong, has something to be said for it, that the second does not. The same sort of argument has a fairly wide application. Consider again the first act of bombing, and also the state-terrorism in response. We may suppose that there is no killing or wounding in the latter activity, except in self-defence. We may suppose that but for the opposition of the state, the suffering and injustice in question would be ended or affected. It is possible, then, while taking both the violent act and the replying activity of the state to be wrong, to see a respect in which the act has a recommendation not had by the activity. There is also the clear respect having to do with death and injury, in which the state's activity is superior.

    It seems to follow from this view of terrorism, as being open to more judgements than just two or three, that a certain policy with respect to certain movements should be adopted, a policy that comprehends realities. It is unlikely that it will be, except in so far as the interests of national states conflict. It is, roughly, that the treatment accorded to terrorist movements, some of them, should be different. By way of one illustration, it seems to be an indubitable moral necessity that the Palestinians should have the possibility of stating their claims to Americans, whose role in the crime against them is plain. They should have the possibility of having their case heard regularly on American television and in American newspapers, the violation of their lives and homes made clear. My third conclusion, then, is that if we cannot with confidence make overriding judgements about violence we can make lesser judgements, and they are of some value as guides to action.

    The last of my conclusions also has to do with comparisons, two comparisons between campaigns of terrorism on the one hand and, on the other, the policies and practices of the individuals who are the reality of sovereign states. We can proceed here in terms of overriding views.

    Of the mentioned categories of campaigns of terrorism, the first three worsen situations rather than improve them, and the others do the opposite. For the most part, it is impossible to have a rational confidence at the outset that a judgement for or against will turn out well. There are, of course, also some other situations where it possible to have a rational confidence or perhaps to be rationally certain. Let us have one of these in mind in connection with the first comparison. Let us suppose that there is rational certainty that an ongoing campaign of terrorism is in fact of the first kind. That is, it is directed to the ending of circumstance of misery, but it will not succeed, because of resistance by the individuals who constitute the executive of the relevant state.

   If the perpetuation of the campaign of violence is wrong, there can be an argument to the conclusion that resistance by the individuals of the state, who also bear proper names, is as wrong as the campaign of terrorism. Without their resistance the circumstance of misery would be ended. There is also another comparison. The campaign of violence is mistaken only because of he resistance of the state. That is, without the resistance the campaign would not be mistaken. On the other hand, it is not true that the governmental resistance is wrong because of the campaign of violence.

    Many will want to resist something here. One inapposite line of resistance has to do with making a moral assessment of the two groups of persons or agents involved. Such an assessment is not the main thing. There are individuals who engage in violence out of non-moral motivation, and there are individuals who oppose them out of equally non-moral motivation, having been corrupted by power, or having become representatives of no more than the self-interest of a group, perhaps vicious self-interest. There are individuals who engage in terrorism, and by so doing show themselves to be of moral motivation, whether or not their judgements as to their actions are correct, and the same is true of some of those in power who oppose them.

    The main thing is not in this way about agents, but about actions. It is about questions of this form: taking an action in itself and for its consequences, ought it to be performed? Of course, as we know the question can be couched in terms of conceivable agents. Characterizing the act in terms of possible motives and beliefs, we may ask if it is an act that would be performed by a certain knowledgeable judge. I do not have in mind what might be called an Ideal Agent, one who has greater sympathy or knowledge than can humanly be had, but something in the line of an actual person although one with some attributes and not others.

    The kind of violence-situation described is one in which violence would be wrong, but where the state's response of violence would also be wrong. Without that response, or rather, with a different response that is a possibility, there would be a changing or ending of the relevant unjust circumstance, perhaps one of misery. Can this be resisted appositely? Can it be shown that there are no such cases? It seems likely that many attempts will involve recourse to a doctrine of political obligation, about that we know, or perhaps to some sort of commitment to moral necessities, of that we know something, or to some other essentially indecisive consideration. What would be decisive would be the proposition that if national states were to end a circumstance of injustice, that would in fact always result in a greater one. It seems to me that this cannot be shown.

    There is also the second comparison, my main one. Suppose that the situation is the more common one where it is not possible to have confidence about one's judgement that the campaign of violence is right or wrong. What is also true of the situation is that the circumstance of misery might be changed or ended by governmental action. Individuals in government have a considerable opportunity to secure this end, without violence. I speak of politicians, very many politicians.
They have considerable opportunity to end misery without thereby causing suffering. That they do not do this, at any rate try to do this in fact, is wrong. This judgement is not like the other in being so open to the possibility of going wrong. Here we have a small asymmetry, but one that throws into sharp definition the historic and continuing practices of sovereign states, or rather the individuals at their heads. It is a settled fact, about that there can be hardly any doubt, that their obligations are great. An increasing perception of this great obligation, and of great failure in it, will be a recommendation of much terrorism. This is my fourth conclusion.

    Certain propositions about political obligations, like others about moral necessities, do not enable us to settle the general moral question of terrorism for humanity. Nor does any other doctrine or commitment. This is so because of certain grim facts of distress in its several forms. All that we can do is attempt to judge between alternatives. This, for the most part, cannot be anything like confident. Relatively few cases are like the Palestinians one. For the most part we cannot escape uncertainty about the overriding question. It is an uncertainty, however, in which certain limited perceptions and responses are possible. The most important of these may be the perception of the wrongfulness of the historic and continuing practices of states, or, more to the point, of the individuals who are the reality of those sovereign states.

    It was said at the beginning of this essay that I wished to say some things in advocacy of a certain response to the question of terrorism for humanity. In finishing, it is worth saying that I do take decent political philosophy not only to have the nature of all decent philosophy, but also to consist in advocacy. It is a kind of analogue to the adversarial system in some systems of law, including the British. Political philosophers are inevitably more like barristers, as distinct from judges, or anyway impartial judges, than is allowed by certain high conceptions of their subject, and it is best to admit it. No doubt they are advocates more or less convinced of the nghtness of their cases, but they are advocates nonetheless.

For excerpts from subsequent books by Ted Honderich on related subjects, go to After the Terror and Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War: Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7....


1. Essay 2.

2. Leviathan (various editions) Chs 26 & 30.

3. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (various editions), Chs 16—19.

4. J.-J. Rousseau, A Discourse on Political Economy (various editions).

5. Essay 4, parts 4-6.

6. Cf. Peter Singer, Democracy and Disobedience (Oxford University Press, 1973).

7. See R. M. Hare, 'Political Obligation', in Ted Honderich (ed.), Social Ends and Political Means (Routledge, 1976).

8. Cf. Singer, op. cit. See also above, Essay 2, part 7.

9.Stuart Hampshire, Morality and Pessimism, the Leslie Stephen Lecture, 1972 (Cambridge University Press, 1972). Hampshire has not written substantially about political violence, but a transcript of a television talk by him came to my attention after this essay was written. (The New Review, March 1967). He says in part: I...suggest the beginnings of a rough criterion for justified killing in very extreme situations in peacetime. Four conditions are necessary: first, that it is a response to a great injustice and oppression, as of a resistance movement against a foreign power ruling by force and terror so that the victim is the reverse of innocent; secondly, that it is certain that no lawful and non-violent means of remedying the injustice and oppression will be given: thirdly, that the political killing will certainly cause far less suffering, and less widespread suffering than the present injustice and cruelty are causing: lastly, that it really is very probable that the killing will end the oppression, and that it will not provoke more violence and more horror; this last condition is very rarely satisfied, but sometimes it may have been. These principles give the outline of a possible morality of political violence, though of course a highly disputable one.

10. Views and problems of this kind are admirably discussed by Jonathan Glover in Causing Death and Saving Lives (Penguin Books, 1977).

11. Cf. James Griffin's excellent inquiry, 'Are there incommensurable values?', Philosophy and Public Affairs, (1977).

12. See Essay 1, part 1.

13. See Essay 1, part 1.

14. See Essay 1, part 1.

15. Edward N. Wolff, 'Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership, 1983-1998', working paper no. 300, Table 2 (Jerome Levy Economics Institute, 2000).

16. The World Guide 2001-2002 (New Internationalist Publications), pp. 24-25, 602-609. 

17. Cf. essay 3, part 1.

18. Robert Coles, Still Hungry in America (Cleveland: 1969) pp. 40-41.

19. The World Guide 2001-2002, pp. 24-25, 602-609.

20. Honderich, After the Terror, pp. 24-29.

21. Cf. p. 4 above.

22. See Essay 5, part 5.

23. Essay 1, part 4.

24. Essay 3, section 6, includes more on these matters, of course.

25. Cf. Paul Wilkinson, Terrorism and the Liberal State (London: 1977), pp.82-3.

26. After the Terror, pp. 24-29, 94, 150-151; 'After the Terror: A Book and Further Thoughts', The Journal of Ethics, 7, 2003, pp. 161-181.

27. For thoughts on the subject, see my Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair?, (Pluto, 2004), and 'Conservatism, Its Distinctions and Its Rationale' in On Political Means and Social Ends (Edinburgh University Press, 2003)

HOME to T.H. website front page
HOME to Det & Free website