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The Philosophy and Psychology of Terrorism - Politixxx Today
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Manila
Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Philosophy and Psychology of Terrorism

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Mike Anyayahan
Mike Anyayahan is a philosophy blogger, activist, and freelance writer. He studied AB Philosophy at PUP Sta. Mesa. He is married with two children. Currently, he lives in Iloilo City.

Terrorism is often defined as the use of force and violence to advance the political or religious cause against the state. However, such a definition is one-sided as there is also state-sponsored terrorism not only in our history but also in our contemporary society.

Nevertheless, the idea behind terrorism is violence that endangers the multitude. It is simply a terror act that is genocidal and brutal.

Whoever initiates and perpetuates terrorism, there is a deep reason behind it. It is not whimsical and capricious. Rather, it is deeply rooted in one’s philosophy and psychological state.

Since time immemorial, human beings believe that there exists an absolute truth that tells them what is right and what is wrong. The idea that there is a battle between the good and the evil has already existed even before the time of Zoroastrians who are said to have propagated such an idea.

People have come to believe that the good must prevail and that the evil must be crushed. However, almost everybody thinks he belongs to the good. Therefore, we all become paranoid about the people who we think are evil.

Such paranoia drives us to do everything at all costs in order to annihilate the supposed enemy even at the expense of the lives of other people. This paranoia teaches us to sacrifice something for the sake of victory.

It seems that virtue ethics and the belief in the knowledge of absolute truth are contributors to terrorist ideologies, but all these philosophies are mere expressions of humanity’s paranoia.

For instance, some people have an irrational fear of snakes while snakes are not really that evil as what they really believe. As a result, these poor animals become victims of violence and hate.

Irrational fear is the result of overthinking. We are used to assuming that something “is” even if it “is not.”

We fear death without realizing that life is more painful. This is why our belief that death is to be feared of makes us think that death is the right punishment for those who do evil. We kill because of fear. If such fear is unusually great, we kill in numbers.

On the other hand, our mind is capable of recognizing whether or not what we perceive is extremely dangerous. Take for instance our knowledge that fire can always burn us. We kill the fire if it becomes a threat to us.

However, we also suffer from incorrect perception if the reality is merely communicated to us. Reality is plain and unbiased while language has color and angles.

We can’t say a word without making a judgment about what a word is. When someone tells us that he saw a tree, we are forced to believe that it was really a tree without suspending our judgment to ascertain what a tree really is. Language is a force that makes us decide that we get exactly what is said even if the exactness is not appropriate.

In a nutshell, terrorism is a by-product of abusive communication that colors our perception and makes us perceive the world as black and white while in fact, it is colorless. This is why we can not radicalize every creature that does not understand us. They are free from paranoia; hence, they do not annihilate their own species the way we do to our own.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. So, this is a very Derridean line of thinking, that falls short of both basic philosophy and basic psychology. Sorry to be academic, but reference to Adorno, Durkheim, and Ellul (and today, Sjöstedt-H, Haidt, Alfano, Scott, Curry, Sahlins, Graeber) might have been useful. Virtue should be arrived at from a position of descriptive nihilism, not nihilism about knowing, but nihilism about deeply held moral truths or imperatives by various people. Terrorism arises from post-truth conditions. This article is unintentionally one of them. Terrorism also arises from dogmatism, which this article tries to counter, with its own brand of dogmatism, on account of its ignorance. One cannot both countenance uncertainty as a fact of life and claim that the search for truth leads to terrorism. Any object of thought ascertained dogmatically, without clear reference to a notion of epistemic depth or coherence, is subject to be defended with fanaticism. This article does what it claims to critique. In that vein, the author is a left-wing counterpart of Fr. Ranhillo. We are not mere animals surviving because of the utility of moral language; we also reason. Nihilism about linguistic terms like this should be balanced with reference to rational thought, empirical observation, and the capacity to update prior observations with posterior ones. This acknowledges our fallibility, but allows for possibility of the coherence of thought of prior sources, rigorous reasoning methods, and sense experience, in tandem and not in isolation. Nihilism without balance is a cultural bludgeon. Incidentally, the notion of “world as colorless” is nihilism about color. There is no universal redness, but it is not the case that there are no universals about color, namely that all color is a variation on light, itself a particle with electromagnetic properties. What is subjective is color perception. The social world is not “black and white” as it is dotted with particulars, synchronic and diachronic, biological and cultural. It is also epiphenomenal to the physical world insofar as culture and social history is concerned. One shouldn’t come to a point of denial of the multifacetedness of social ontology by denying political “color,” just because assertions regarding it can lead some to fundamentalism. Doing so replaces a simplistic worldview with a simplistic worldview purely due to a phobia towards ambiguity. In both cases, the author has allowed Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man to have footing in both Left and Right. Rejecting belief in the capacity to know because of the threat it poses is like being a Luddite, e.g. eliminate technology because it kills and dulls minds. Reject the forging of a knife because a knife can be used to stab, despite it being a useful cooking tool. The article surrenders to the idea that all people are children who cannot be taught (by themselves or any well-meaning human) how to hold a truth-seeking or a virtue-seeking knife, even though many methods exist, with different depths of coherence, but nearly all being quite useful nonetheless. The message should have been to be skeptical of one’s own truth or virtue, as well as those of other’s, and the guide to do so will be tools of thinking in order to identify the coherence between words and ideas and their correspondence with the world, even as this seemingly static world is in continuous flux, (but at various rates, with various — infinitely many — fates).

    • Wow thank you for a comprehensive feedback! We will let the author of the article know your feedback! Thank you very much again.

  2. Tl;dr: attention to language use without sense perception or rational thought is deaf; sense perception without attention to language use or rational thought is gullible (because reality is not plain if there is no pattern to remember, e.g. history repeats but not in the exact same way); rational thought without attention to language use or sense perception is blind & Wittgenstein would say should be mute but is the loudest one. All situations countenance, however, the capacity to know better & learn from errors. You cannot cure a lack of epistemic humility in terroristic thinking by discounting the notion of epistemology altogether. You might be causing more of the same.

  3. What is ironic is your view of terrorism is post-structural and derridean as well, and you use these to critique by way of deconstruction the author’s thesis. And you are trying to conjure an ethical theory from the post-structural maneuver of self-reflexivity. For you, terrorism is a byproduct of dogmatism due to failure of an individual to be self-reflexive or critique his/her own dogmatic beliefs. But this puts so much emphasis on the failure of reason, conscious or unconscious, but without a nuanced understanding of the role of society, power structures, inequality, in short socio-cultural structures that prompt an individual to become a terrorist. But isnt the label “terrorist” is also relative? A mujaheddin or NPA maybe a terrorist for you but not for some people whom they are fighting for. Hence, to argue that terrorism is a failure of reason (epistemology), of self-reflexivity, is highly post-modern notion that privileges individual’s meaning-making but does not take into account or even absolve institutions of power that govern an individual and transform or classify him/her as terrorist. Of course, I can quote here Foucault, or Lacan or Badiou in order to sound academic. But i wont.

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