Laurie Calhoun


Recent international developments have introduced the possibility of war waged on behalf of people unable to defend themselves, and when the attacking parties’ interests appear not to be at stake. Are purely military forms of “humanitarian intervention” sometimes morally required? Can such military missions be reconciled with the widely held belief in the moral distinction between killing and letting die? In exploring these questions, the two dominant paradigms in writing about war are considered: just war theory and utilitarianism. The moral centrality of intentions emerges through an explanation of the distinction often made between natural and man-made catastrophe. Ultimately, the alleged permissibility of the “collateral damage” to which military intervention gives rise implies the permissibility of pacifism, thus invalidating the claim that the resort to deadly force is sometimes morally obligatory.

Author Bio(s)

Laurie Calhoun is the author of Philosophy Unmasked: A Skeptic’s Critique (1997) and many essays and articles on ethics and epistemology. She has made a number of public presentations, including “The Fragility of Trust,” at the University of Florida as well as chairing sessions and serving as a commentator at a number of conferences. Currently she is associated with the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University.


foreign policy, just war, military intervention, state sovereignty, utilitarianism

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