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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2004-05 >> abstracts

Tuesday, 16 November 2004
On Weapons (and War) Research
John Forge
Griffith University
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: Weapons research is defined as (scientific) research undertaken with the intention of designing or improving weapons systems. Several remarks are made as to how much is spent on weapons research, how it has transformed war – and whether talking about it is an example of ‘philosophy of science for the twenty-first century’. The paper addresses the issue as to whether scientists should take part in weapons research, and specifically how a case can be made against their taking part. It is assumed that harming is prima facie wrong, and then the ‘means principle’, that providing the means to harm, is defended. It is thus argued that scientists must justify their participation in weapons research. That such a justification can appeal directly to the ‘character’ of certain weapons systems as defensive or deterrent such they can only be used to defend or deter is rejected, and in general all ‘ahistorical’ justifications, justifications that abstract from particular historical and political states of affairs, are rejected. That leaves historical justifications. However, these are called into question, given that weapons research provides the means to make and improve weapons that endure after any particular conflict that the weapons are used for are over. Inter alia comments are made about how to redescribe what scientists are doing when they engage in weapons research and about primary, secondary and derivative purposes of the products of technology. (My intention at this stage is to use PowerPoint, unless I am dissuaded by the audience.)

Revised 3/11/08 - Copyright 2006