Hale Ethics Series, 2009-10

Sponsored by the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics


Thursday, September 24th, 4-5:30, Carlson Auditorium (76-1125)

Morality and War

Dr. Rick Kaufman (Ithaca College)

War is sometimes seen as the suspension of morality, a condition outside of moral assessment altogether. Yet going to war is a decision, so we must have reasons that justify our actions. Often we appeal to grand moral principles, like self-defense, the necessity to oppose evil, the rescue of innocent victims, the imperative to preserve or promote freedom, and the like. This implies a keen concern to morally justify resorting to war; we want to know that we are doing the right thing by fighting a particular war. Can war ever be morally justified or is war necessarily immoral? If we are ever justified in resorting to war, are there morally acceptable and morally unacceptable ways to fight or does anything go? Who is it morally acceptable to kill during war and who not? Can we rationally ground the answers to these important questions? In this talk we will engage in critical reflection on these and other matters pertaining to war and morality. War and morality is timely and central to our ability to function as good citizens in a democracy.

Thursday, November 12th, 4-5:30, Liberal Arts Auditorium (6-A205)

Civility: First Refuge of the Patriot?

Dr. William Astore (Pennsylvania College of Technology)

Patriotism is love of country, but it must not be blind love, not simply “my country, right or wrong,” but also “my country, if wrong, to be set right.” As citizens, we will always dispute what is right and wrong, and also how best to set our country right when it is wrong. But we must settle our disputes by a process of negotiation, discussion, and debate. Debates may grow heated, especially over incendiary issues, but they should never become uncivil. For as voices rise and insults are tossed, minds slam shut.

A patriot’s first refuge is civility because it’s a reflection of humility. Civility and humility suggest a certain equipoise, a quiet confidence that is not shaken by being exposed to dissident views. Civility informed by humility suggests strength, not weakness.

The civil patriot lacks neither passion nor conviction – but he or she recognizes the potential limits of both. Passion is intoxicating and must be channeled; convictions must never be so strongly held that they’re not open to being examined – if not necessarily changed – by the light of the lamp of knowledge held by one’s fellow citizens.

Our goal must be to reinvigorate civil debate among citizens, else our disputes will continue to be dominated by sound bites and fury, signifying nothing – nothing, that is, except our lack of civility and our impoverished view of citizenship and community.

William Astore currently teaches history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), he served as the associate provost/dean of students at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA (2002-05) and before this as the deputy of international history at the USAF Academy (2000-02). His D.Phil. is in Modern History from the University of Oxford (1996). He has written books and articles on military topics as well as science and religion, and he writes regularly for several web sites, including TomDispatch.com, History News Network, and Nieman Watchdog. He is proud to say that he’s been teaching college students for eleven years.


These presentations are free
and open to all.

If you need interpreting services, contact Cassandra Shellman as early as you can at 585.475.2057 or via e-mail.

Presentations for previous years