This paper outlines and criticises two models of terrorism, the Rational Agent Model (RAM) and the Radicalisation Model (RAD). A different and more plausible conception of the turn to violence is proposed. The proposed account is Moderate Epistemic Particularism (MEP), an approach partly inspired by Karl Jaspers’ distinction between explanation and understanding. On this account there are multiple idiosyncratic pathways to cognitive and behavioural radicalisation, and the actions and motivations of terrorists can only be understood (rather than explained) by engaging with their subjectivity in a way that depends on a degree of empathy. Scepticism is expressed about attempts to model radicalisation and predict political violence. This scepticism is based on reflections concerning the nature of complex particulars. The implications of MEP for counterterrorism are briefly discussed.
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