The Bowen H. McCoy Center for Ethics in Society ran a year-long symposium series over the 2010-11 academic year entitled Ethics and War. The symposium series featured philosophers, writers, lawyers, historians, social scientists, human rights activists, and policy makers who have grappled with the hard moral questions raised by war.
The whole of human history includes bloody and brutal wars. Wars inevitably raise not only historical, social scientific andpragmatic questions but also profoundly ethical ones: is war ever justified? Is it ethical to kill non-combatants? When is it legitimate to intervene in another country's affairs? Is a volunteer army morally preferable to a military draft? What does patriotism mean in a time of war? What are the ethics of war reporting? What are the ethics of dealing with counter-insurgencies? Who has responsibility for dealing with the aftermath of war? How should we assess post conflict measures to redress the harms of war?
It is impossible to think of wars without thinking about right and wrong. Nonetheless, the study of the ethical issues raised by wars is rarely dealt with in the college curriculum. To address these questions, especially pressing at a time in which the United States is engaged in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, a number of departments and programs at Stanford are joining together to launch a series on Ethics and War. This series featured philosophers, writers, journalists, historians, social scientists, human rights activists, and policy makers who have grappled with the hard moral questions raised by wars. Our hope is to have stimulated campus wide discussion and reflection, research and engagement, on the ethical considerations involved in the decision to go to war, the conduct of war and the aftermath of war.
Planned events included a panel discussion on the ethics of a volunteer army; a discussion on the proposal to bring ROTC back to campus; a visit by reporter and New Yorker journalist George Packer in conjunction with a performance of his play Betrayed; a film series with faculty led discussions; and a series of high profile talks and other events.
The Ethics and War Series is continuing for the 2011-2012 academic year. For information on 2011-2012 events, please click here.