The Moral Status of a War

 

As the last of the United States’ armed forces withdraw from their prolonged engagement in Iraq, an observer can pause to reflect and consider the moral status of this conflict. Two recent experiences – incredibly trivial though they may be – inform my analysis. Firstly, I happened to chance upon In the Valley of Elah (a 2007 film whose story aims to highlight some of the terrible psychological effects that can result from throwing young individuals into such a conflict) the other day, and I found it quite compelling. Secondly, in a recent philosophy seminar that I was overseeing, a student attempted to raise the war in Iraq as an example that might offer support for a more general point about the validity of a consequentialist justification in moral reasoning; at the time I didn’t have any knowledge of the numbers involved, so I couldn’t say much about the nature of the example as regards a strictly consequentialist calculation. Due to my role, I felt compelled to stay silent at the time, and it left me frustrated.

 

I shall elaborate upon this second instance first. The war in Iraq was mentioned because – so the student asserted – America’s action was a reaction to 9/11, Continue reading “The Moral Status of a War”

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Eugenics in America

Elaine Riddick is just one of 60,000 Americans who fell foul of a shocking policy of eugenics operative in the United States for the majority of the last century. On June 22 Ms. Riddick will tell, to a task force specially assembled for victims such as her, the story of how in 1968 she was sterilised at the hands of US government at the age of 14.

Ms. Riddick was raped and impregnated when she was 13 years-old by a neighbour in her hometown of Winfall, North Carolina. She was singled out by a social worker to be “feeble-minded”, and after giving birth through Caesarian section, with putative “consent” from her fearful and illiterate grandmother, who signed with an ‘X’ the necessary forms, was subjected to tubal ligation, permanently preventing her from producing any future children. These actions were carried out under a eugenicist movement in the US, beginning in 1907, ending in 1979, and sanctioned by laws in 32 states. (Full report on BBC News website).

The policy of sterilisation reportedly targeted women deemed to be sexual deviants, homosexual men, people on welfare, people who were mentally ill or suffered from epilepsy, criminals, and delinquents. The idea placed emphasis on the attempt to preclude the necessity of supporting those who most likely would be able to support neither themselves nor the rest of society by removing altogether the means for their creation. Speaking to the BBC, Professor Paul Lombardo of Georgia State University, editor of a book on the history of eugenics in America, said:

We have in this country have always been extremely sensitive to notions of public stories of inappropriate sexuality

We exercise that most dramatically when it comes to times in which we think we’re spending individual tax money to support people who violate those social norms. It’s our puritanical background, running up against our sense of individualism.

Continue reading “Eugenics in America”

Virtual Conference Report: Day One (19 Oct, 2009)

by Paula Bowles

NewsstandWelcome to the first day of the 2009 Compass Interdisciplinary Virtual Conference. Regenia Gagnier (University of Exeter) opened the conference by asking: ‘Why Interdisciplinarity?’ As part of her introductory remarks, Professor Gagnier discusses the definitions of Interdisciplinarity, as well as outlining some of the benefits of interdisciplinary research and praxis.

Roger Griffin’s (Oxford Brookes University) keynote paper: ‘The Rainbow Bridge’: Reflections on Interdisciplinarity in the Cybernetic Age’ highlights the opportunities offered by the novel concept of a virtual conference. By reflecting on his own research into fascism, Griffin recognises the need to make cross-disciplinary connections, or as he describes it academics operating ‘flexibly as both splitters and lumpers, according to the situation’.

Two other conference papers have been presented today. The first ‘Communicating about Communication – Multidisciplinary Approaches to Educating Educators about Language Variation’ by Anne H. Charity Hudley (The College of William and Mary) and Christine Mallinson (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and the second
Language and Communication in the Spanish Conquest of America’ by Daniel Wasserman Soler(University of Virginia).

Finally, Professor of Human Geography, Mike Bradshaw (University of Leicester) has contributed a Publishing Workshop entitled ‘Why Write a Review Paper? And how to do it!’. As well as all of these academic gems, conference delegates have also taken the opportunity to meet the speakers in Second Life and cast their votes in the ‘Battle of the Bands’.