3rd Meeting of the Nordic War Network

The Nordic War Network brings together scholars working on the ethics of war and peace within Northern Europe (broadly conceived!) to present and discuss their research. It is open to faculty members and students. We aim to meet at least annually.

Our next meeting will be at Aarhus University in Denmark on the 4th of October. Contact Morten Dige at [email protected] for more information and to reserve a space.


The format is 40-45 min. presentation, 25-30 min. discussion. Lunch 11.50-12.45, coffee/tea during breaks.

9.15-10.25: Leo Stockford (Helsinki).

“Breaking the Cycle – can a theory of punishment be reconciled with a theory of treatment?”

Immanuel Kant claims that within the ‘Strict Law of Retribution’, a criminal must “experience what his deeds are worth” and that the punishment must be equal to the crime committed.  The punishment, he claims, is there to show the citizens of the state that the state is ensuring their freedom(s).  In essence, punishment is required by society.  This is the basis of the cycle of retaliation, in society, and in war. Henry Odera Oruka, however, takes a different route.  He makes the distinction between someone who commits a crime intentionally and unintentionally, and someone who commits a crime that was avoidable, and one that was unavoidable. He also makes the argument that what needs to be treated is not only the criminal, but the criminal forces that caused the criminal to act illegally. My paper will consider whether treatment is at odds with a theory of retribution.  It will discuss both Kant’s theory of punishment, and Oruka’s theory of treatment.  The concept of pain appears to be key to retribution, and it is often (perhaps incorrectly) seen as lacking in the use of treatment.  I will question this, and also whether, if pain is a key component of treatment, is treatment an acceptable form of retaliation.

10.40-11.50: Ezio di Nucci (Copenhagen).

“Drones and the Threshold for Waging War”

I argue that, if drones make waging war easier, the reason why they do so may not be the one commonly assumed within the philosophical debate – namely the promised reduction in casualties on either side – but a more complicated one which has little to do with concern for one’s own soldiers or, for that matter, the enemy; and a lot more to do with the political intricacies of international relations; I use the example of the Obama Administration’s drone policies to illustrate this argument. My point is meant to have wider methodological significance: philosophy can make an important contribution to this and related applied debates; but it is not by artificially – and optimistically – simplifying realities on the ground that philosophers can be of help.

12.45-14.00: Morten Dige (Aarhus).

“Drone killings in principle and in practice”

It is a widely accepted claim that whether a given technology is being justly used in the real world is a separate question from moral issues intrinsic to technology. We should not blame the technology itself for immoral ways it happens to be used. There is obviously some truth to that. But I want to argue that what we see in the real world cases of drone killings is not merely an accidental or contingent use of drone technology. The real life use reflects to a large extent features that are essential to the dominant drone systems that has been developed to date. What is being imagined “in principle” is thus to a large extent drone killings in dreamland. More concretely, I would like to discuss a number of claims often associated with the “don’t blame the technology” position:

  • Overall military policy is one thing, how it is implemented quite another.
  • Collateral killings due to drone strikes are due to human failings not drone technology per se.
  • In principle, drone killings represent a vast improvement over the alternative strategies in terms of combatant protection and civilian casualties.
  • In principle, drone tactics improve our ability to behave justly by being more transparent.

I want to propose that these claims are not well founded and probably false.

14.15-15.25: Lars Christie

“When should foreign fighters be held criminally liable?”

According to Norwegian criminal law foreign fighters who “participate” in a terrorist organization are held criminally liable irrespective of which specific actions he or she undertakes on behalf of the organization. In a recent criminal sentence, two “foreign fighters” were held criminally liable for their humanitarian assistance to ISIS. The Norwegian Red Cross protested against the verdict and claimed that holding individuals criminally liable for humanitarian assistance to a party in an armed conflict represented a violation of international humanitarian law. In my talk, I discuss different ways of defining what constitutes “participating” in a terrorist organization. I review the disagreement surrounding the notion of “direct participation in hostilities” in international humanitarian law and discuss whether “participation”, properly understood, should require that a person causally contributes to the goal of the terrorist group. I argue that it should not and that criminal liability instead should track the intentions and motivations of the participant, not his or her causal contribution. I further discuss whether humanitarian assistance to a terrorist organization ought to be criminalized. I argue that there are indeed good reason for doing so, but only if the humanitarian assistance is exclusively offered to members of the terrorist organizations with the intent to enable fighters to return to the battlefield and in general to boost the morale of the organization. I review the counter arguments offered by Red Cross and consider whether a moral justification can be given for holding humanitarian workers who participate in terrorist organizations criminally liable (under domestic law), while at the same time granting them immunity (under international humanitarian law ) against direct attack during armed conflict.

15.35-16.45: Lisa Hecht

“Creating and Avoiding Risk of Harm to Oneself: An argument to discount disproportionate harm to wrongdoers?”

Wrongdoers who suffer wrongful harm as a consequence of their actions are often regarded with less sympathy than innocent victims who suffer a similar unit of wrongful harm. But unless wrongful harm done to a wrongdoer is different in kind or weight to the harm done to an innocent person, it should ground an equal complaint. We should then grant the wrongdoer a right to self-defend and to claim compensation for the wrongful harm suffered. Some have argued that a wrongdoer has only a diminished or no complaint about wrongful harm because by wrongdoing they voluntarily risked harm to themselves. They could have easily avoided incurring harm. I want to reject the avoidability argument and defend the view that a victim’s complaint about harm strictly tracks liability. I will distinguish two different versions of the avoidability argument and explain why both fail.