Helga Varden: The Terrorist Attacks in Norway, July 22nd 2011 – Some Kantian Reflections

This paper provides a Kantian interpretation of core issues involved in the trial following the terrorist attacks that struck Norway on July 22nd 2011. After a sketch of the controversies surrounding the trial itself, a Kantian theory of why the wrongdoer’s mind struck us as so endlessly disturbed is presented. This Kantian theory, I proceed by arguing, also helps us understand why it was so important to respond to the violence through the legal system and to treat the perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, so respectfully before, during, and after the trial. I close by addressing the controversial issue now facing Norway: how capable is the Norwegian legal system to deal with cases involving extreme violence, including as committed by psychologically impaired mass murderers?

Keywords: terrorism, Kant, psychiatry, personality disorders, mental illness, the banality of evil, punishment.