We’ve recently come to understand that someone who was born “male” might declare that he was actually a “woman” or vice versa. We can’t assume that what were once regarded as the most basic words, “man” and “woman”, still mean what they used to. What this shows is that dictionaries, though useful, record only how words have been used historically, and have no authority over their future use. Using old words in new ways is one of the most fundamental forms of creativity, but words are of use in practical situations only if they enable us to agree on courses of action. Whoever wants to use old words in a new way needs to be able to explain what he means by them so that other people can understand well enough to be able to co-ordinate their actions with his and avoid conflict. In this perspective, which I want to explore, logic is a relation not between words, but between speakers who, merely by speaking, commit themselves to making practical sense of their sayings and doings.
Security is ubiquitous, and comes in many forms: economic, social, and national security are a few of the most frequent uses of the term. However, the relationship of security to harm and violence in all three of these cases is unclear, despite an intuitive association between the concepts. To clarify this link, I argue that we need to not only better define the meaning of security and the process by which something becomes a security issue – ‘securitization’ – but also the other side of the equation. Harm and violence are themselves elastic concepts, and have been extended outside the physical realm envisioned by Hobbes in several ways. This talk examines the case study of modern information technologies, where words suggesting harm and violence – such as attack, damage, and weapon – are common in cybersecurity. I compare this inflated language with the apparently inconsequential role played by information technologies in unarguable cases of violence across the world, and conclude that if we take seriously the conceptual relationship between security, harm and violence, this leads to a substantial reprioritization of security issues related to information technologies.