The Gratuitous Suicide by the Sons of Pride: On Honour and Wrath in Terrorist Attacks
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Issue 1:2

Denis Madore

The Gratuitous Suicide by the Sons of Pride: On Honour and Wrath in Terrorist Attacks

In the Western philosophic and literary tradition to be without home or country is a fate that both demands our loathing and pity. As Aristotle characterized it, a man born without a city is either a "beast or a god". Such beings Aristotle maintains, since they cannot properly be called human, have a natural tendency towards war and violence. Aristotle sites Homer in describing such a being as clanless, lawless, and hearthless. "The man who is such by nature at once plunges into a passion for war; he is in the position of a solitary piece in a game of draughts."

Oswald Spengler addresses this issue of such wanderers by appealing to the image of Nietzsche's beasts of prey. "The animal of prey is the highest form of mobile life. It implies a maximum of freedom for self against others, of responsibility to self, of singleness to self, an extreme of necessity where the self can hold its own only by fighting and winning and destroying. It imparts a high dignity to Man, as a type, that he is a beast of prey." The beast of prey that Spengler describes is also much akin to Alexandre Kojeve's conception of the japanized man, a being whom is capable of the highest spiritual undertakings - "the gratuitous suicide". Both mythopoetic and philosophic accounts in the Western tradition attempt to give us an understanding of such men - they are naturally wed to the ways of war, but also hold no particular allegiance to community though they may invoke it in their march towards power.

A great deal of effort in the classical Western cannon is spent rendering and making available a system of education and organization that permits the necessary tethering of such men, so as to not have them unleash their wrath inwards against their fellow citizens or plunge their respective communities into war with others. Such early mythopoetic and philosophic accounts of the warrior's nature also have modern equivalents which, it should, be noted, are not far removed from the classical examinations and judgements of Plato, Aristotle and St Augustine. Thomas Hobbes titled his magnum opus the Leviathan, from the book of Job, because Leviathan "...seeth every high thing below him; and is King of all the sons of pride". This paper aims to survey several of the ancient and modern ontological accounts on the man of war as he relates to the regime. The hope is that such an analysis can bear fruit in showing a manner of understanding the global resurgence of dangerous individuals that can contest states directly by means of terrorism. I wish to stress however that for the most part I will be drawing upon such examples from the Western tradition of political philosophy, and leave it to more competent Islamic scholars to address such issues within Islamic traditions.

2020 - Volume 14 Issue 1