The moralistic way we inquire about things

In a very Nietzschean fashion, Asad deconstruct our quest to understand suicide bombing in this most penetrating passage:

So how unique is suicide bombing? If it is special – and I believe that in a sense it is – this is not because of the motives involved. Intentions may be validly deduced from actions in the sense that they define the primary shape of the action (the agent deliberately kills himself together with others, and that is what makes it a particular kind of action), but motives are to be distinguished from causes, because we speak of motives when we demand an explanation in terms of reasons: “Why did he do it?” Not everything that is done has a motive, by which I mean that we ask for an explanation in terms of motive only when we are suspicious of what the action means. We are not satisfied with “He did it because he wanted to kill others (whom he regards as his enemies) by killing himself.” We ask: Why? – and assume that there is something bizarre about the action. But motives themselves are rarely lucid, always invested with emotions, and their description can be contested. They may not be clear even to the actor. Most important, explanations in terms of motives depend on typologies of action that are conventionally recognized and to which individuation is central: for example, by the judicial system that determines (by using one or other psychological theory) guilt and innocence, or by theologies of salvation that trace the origin and consequence of sin, or by a secular theory of the unconscious that claims to make us understand our perplexed unhappinesses. The uniqueness of suicide bombing resides, I think, elsewhere. It resides, one might say, not in its essence but in its contingent circumstance. (Asad 2007, p63-64, my emphases)


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