Chapter

The Ethics of Self-Sacrifice

Margaret Pabst Battin

in Ending Life

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780195140279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199850280 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195140279.003.0012
The Ethics of Self-Sacrifice

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Terrorist attacks have typically involved using young people strapped with explosives, dispatched as ordinary pedestrians to outdoor cafés, buses, seaside resorts, university commons, or anywhere civilians could be killed, on what the West calls suicide bombings but which the militants themselves understood as martyrdom. This chapter explores the deeper conceptual and ethical significance of tactical suicide missions within the context of more general issues about suicide, self-sacrifice, heroism, martyrdom, and other forms of self-caused death. What, exactly, accounts for the heightened moral repugnance with which these missions are viewed, compared to other resistance, military, and guerilla tactics? Is there adequate moral ground for this heightened repugnance dubbed with the particularly pejorative label of “suicide” — or is it merely a matter of ideological prejudice? A number of different reasons may be advanced to show that suicide bombing is immoral, and indeed of heightened or, one might say, aggravated immorality. This chapter also examines the morality and amorality of suicide bombing.

Keywords: suicide bombing; martyrdom; self-sacrifice; suicide; heroism; self-caused death; morality

Chapter.  4070 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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