On Terrorism, Philosophy, and Passion

Can and should empathy for terrorists change our response to them?

“Gunmen armed with machine guns and grenades stormed the Westgate mall on Saturday lunchtime, shooting indiscriminately, and killing at least 61 people. A further six security officers died in attempts to rout the militants. During the siege, rescuers evacuated many survivors, but reports suggested hostages were being held by militants. Kenya’s Red Cross says that 71 people are still listed as missing.” 

-The Independent

Militants of Al Shabab, a Somalian offshoot of Al Qaeada, attacked civilians at a Nairobi mall last Saturday, torturing many of their captives before killing them. The images of the attack are surely provocative, but as with our current indifference to the Boston bombings  that occurred a few  months ago, the feelings will likely fade.

And this apathy extends to philosophical discussions in general. Why is it that philosophical discussions often seem so distanced and even useless? There may be a simple answer to this question. That is, we cannot gauge the value of a question or philosophical consideration until its importance and immediacy arises directly in our own lives. For someone hoping to share his or her views with others, this seemingly simplistic conclusion may prove to be extraordinarily important. If we wish to enrich the opinions of others with our own, the basis for our exchange must be shared experience. Even though we do share similar experiences with others - what Montaigne calls the “human condition” - individuals must first become aware and reflect on these experiences.

With that in mind, I sincerely hope that this post will mark the introduction of a series concerning discussions relevant to people of many experiences. Although I am no philosopher, my objective will be to explore a monthly theme with whatever understanding I can gain from both the literary world and from my own  observations. 

The value that Americans place on pursuing one’s passion will be my focus for October.

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