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Professor Steven P. Lee, Donald R. Harter ‘39 Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, gave a talk recently at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar on “Is the Principle of Discrimination a Mere Convention?” Here is an abstract of his talk:

This paper is a discussion of some issues in jus in bello of just war theory. It takes up the question whether the principle of discrimination reflects a nonconventional moral rule or is instead a mere convention. The concern is whether the morality of fighting in war stands on its own or is derivative from jus ad bellum and from the everyday rules of morality. Jeff McMahan has recently argued that discrimination is a mere convention, partly at odds with everyday morality. I explain the issues involved and McMahan’s view, and I offer a criticism of the latter. I conclude with some speculative remarks about how we should understand the relation between everyday morality and the morality of war fighting, on the view that they are different and partly inconsistent.

Steve is also the H.L.A. Hart Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Ethics and Philosophy of Law, as well as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Changing Character of War Programme at Oxford University.

A version of Steve’s talk can be found here, and he would welcome any comments/suggestions.


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