All this tends to get in the way of sustained rational discussion of the nature and moral standing of terrorism and the best ways of coping with it.
When it first entered public discourse in the West, the word “terrorism” meant the reign of terror the Jacobins imposed in France from the fall of 1793 to the summer of 1794.
Critics of the excesses of the French Revolution had watched its reign with horror from the start.
Terrorism came to be associated with drastic abuse of power and related to the notion of tyranny as rule based on fear, a recurring theme in political philosophy.
The history of terrorism is probably coextensive with the history of political violence.
The term “terrorism”, however, is relatively recent: it has been in use since late 18th century.In the second half of the 19th century, there was a shift in both descriptive and evaluative meaning of the term.Disillusioned with other methods of political struggle, some anarchist and other revolutionary organizations, and subsequently some nationalist groups too, took to political violence.But there are also definitions that sever the conceptual connection of terrorism with violence or with terror.With regard to the moral standing of terrorism, philosophers differ both on how that is to be determined and what the determination is.Articles on the subject in philosophy journals were few and far between; neither of the two major philosophy encyclopedias had an entry.The attacks of September 11 and their aftermath put terrorism on the philosophical agenda: it is now the topic of numerous books, journal articles, special journal issues, and conferences.Before the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, the subject of terrorism did not loom large in philosophical discussion.Philosophical literature in English amounted to a few monographs and a single collection of papers devoted solely, or largely, to questions to do with terrorism.Its ultimate aim was the reshaping of both society and human nature.That was to be achieved by destroying the old regime, suppressing all enemies of the revolutionary government, and inculcating and enforcing civic virtue.