Terror and the Leviathan: Recognition, ordeal and discourse in dispute resolution

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The article surveys the history of "terror" vis a vis the development of international humanitarian and human rights law. During the French Revolution, the word "terror" was coined to describe a deviation from the laws of war, justified by a mixture of ideology and necessity. People who resort to terrorism either suspends or rejects the laws of war (jus in bellum) in the name of an alternative and heightened sense of truth. However, the terrorists' strong sense of probity and mission is also an opening for re-establishing communication, arbitration and mitigation of cruelty and destruction. This paper represents International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as an "abstract Leviathan", submission to which is the contemporary norm of pacification. From the perspective of radical terrorism, it is tyrannical. From other perspectives, it is open to criticism and change. Most importantly, it is on the side of rational arbitration rather than arbitrary ordeal. Even radical terrorism, which refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the abstract Leviathan, seeks to communicate its radical messages rather than to seek victory my means of physical annihilation of its opponents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-472
Number of pages12
JournalPragmatics and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • International humanitarian law (IHL)
  • Non-violence
  • Terrorism
  • Thomas Hobbes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Computer Science
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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