Innocence, Genocide, and Suicide Bombings

  • Laurence M. Thomas


If there are any objective and self-evident moral truths, the claim that genocide is a moral wrong of the most repugnant kind would surely seem to be among them. Nevertheless, it is important, perhaps surprising, to note that it is only in recent history, namely since the Enlightenment, that genocide has had the status of a manifestly self-evident moral wrong. That result is closely connected to the fact that human equality, as we understand it, is a modern idea. That reality, in turn, is one reason why slavery has a very, very long history of which American slavery was the last significant expression. During the Islamic Ottoman Empire, the idea that all human beings are created equal would have simply made no sense.1 The same holds for the Roman Empire. It took the arguments of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, among others, to provide the conceptual framework for a shift in the concept of a human being, according to which all human beings are equal at a most fundamental level. Genocide’s status as a moral wrong is the outgrowth of this new conceptual framework.


Corporeal Punishment Religious Tradition Suicide Bombing Ulterior Motive Moral Analysis 
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  1. 1.
    Shaun E. Marmon, ed., Slavery in the Islamic Middle East (Princeton, NJ: Marcus Weiner Publishers, 1999).Google Scholar
  2. Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See P. F. Strawson, Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays (London: Methuen, 1977).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Laurence Thomas, “Forgiving the Unforgivable,” in Eve Garrard and Geoffrey Scarre, eds, Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Press, 2003).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 1986).Google Scholar

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© Laurence M. Thomas 2005

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  • Laurence M. Thomas

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