Ted Honderich

Ted Honderich

: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Isillitoe at English Wikipedia


* Canadian-born philosopher and professor
* Believes the capitalist system of the West brought poverty to much of the world, and thus inspired the 9/11 attacks
* “Those Palestinians who have resorted to violence have been right.”

Ted Honderich was born on January 30, 1933 in Baden, Canada. He is a
philosopher who became a British subject and spent his career in England. He has been a popular speaker on North American campuses recently because he appeals powerfully to the anti-Semitism that currently infects much of academia. Although his academic specialty is Mind and Logic, Honderich has ventured freely into the field of politics, especially violent politics. In 1980 he published an “ethical” defense of violence and mass murder called Violence for Equality, a title that calls to mind Dickens’ encapsulation (in A Tale of Two Cities) of the Reign of Terror: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.”

Not long after 9/11, Honderich wrote a book called After the Terror. The essence of his argument was that there is no moral distinction between acts of omission and acts of commission. Since the West has failed to eliminate the poverty that its capitalist system brought to the world, he asserted, it was collectively responsible for 9/11. As Honderich rhetorically puts the question: “Is it possible to suppose that the September 11 attacks had nothing at all to do with…Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Sierra Leone?” He stops a hair short of saying that bin Laden and his fellow idealists were justified in murdering thousands of people in order to feed millions. Such an action would have been “irrational” because highly unlikely to achieve its intended noble effect.Honderich was far less cautious about the “moral right” of Palestinian Arabs to blow up Jews, a right he defended vigorously: “Those Palestinians who have resorted to violence have been right…and those who have killed themselves in the cause of their people have indeed sanctified themselves.”

In an interview, Honderich explained the distinction between suicide bombings in Manhattan and in Jerusalem: “The likely justification depends importantly on the fact that the suffering that is caused does have a probability of success.” In other words, if Palestinian terrorists should succeed in their goal of destroying Israel, their practice of mass murder will have been justified; if they fail, it will not.Upon finishing After the Terror, Honderich (a socialist millionaire) offered to donate 5,000 pounds from his advance on royalties to the charity Oxfam. But to his astonishment, Oxfam refused the money, which it viewed as morally tainted by what old-fashioned people call incitement to murder. “Oxfam’s purpose,” said the charity’s spokesman, “is to overcome poverty and suffering. We believe that the lives of all human beings are of equal value. We do not endorse acts of violence.”

But Honderich’s North American audiences have been far less squeamish. Palestinian Arabs, he told a receptive crowd in Toronto in September 2002, have a “moral right” to blow up Jews.

This profile was adapted from the article “Professors for Suicide Bombers,” written by Edward Alexander and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on June 26, 2003.

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