The Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace is funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and based in the Philosophy Department at Stockholm University. SCEWP is directed by Helen Frowe, Professor of Practical Philosophy and Knut and Alice Wallenberg Scholar at Stockholm.

SCEWP’s purpose is to explore the ethics of war and mechanisms for peace in the 21st century. Over the years, our research has broadened to include a wide range of philosophical and practical problems connected to war, such as the nature and scope of our duties to rescue, the ethics of immigration, responsibility for war crimes, and the protection of cultural heritage in war, as well as more familiar questions about just causes for war, the ethics of foreign intervention, and the just fighting of war. Our research has a strong theoretical dimension, addressing fundamental questions of rights, duties, authority,  and moral justification. It also has a strong applied dimension, which brings this theoretical research to bear on specific problems both within and outside of war.

Theoretical Approaches to War

SCEWP’s research focuses, in part, on broad theoretical issues concerning the nature of the morality of war. Historically, just war theory has been dominated by strongly collectivist approaches to war that treat war as a morally distinctive relationship between states. Adherents to this traditional view argue that, in at least some respects, war is to be judged by its own moral rules and cannot be judged by the moral rules that apply to individuals in ordinary life. For example, we might think that even when combatants are engaged in an unjustified war and inflicting unjustified harm, the fact that they are following the orders of their state makes their killings importantly morally different from unjustified killings in ordinary, domestic life.

In recent years, a view known as reductivism has challenged this approach to war. Reductivists deny that there are different moral rules for war in favour of the view that morality is ‘all of a piece’. On this view, the rules that prohibit or permit our actions in war are the same rules that prohibit or permit our actions in other spheres of life. Many reductivists also adopt a largely individualist approach to the ethics of war, focusing on the moral rights and duties of individuals rather than those of collectives. This different theoretical approach to the morality of war undermines various central tenets of the traditional collectivist view, including the moral equality of combatants and the moral immunity of non-combatants. Research at SCEWP explores this debate and its implications for the ethics of war.

Practical Issues in War and Peace

SCEWP also carries out philosophically robust research on specific aspects of war and reconciliation, such as:

  • Just causes for war
  • The notion of legitimate authority
  • The ethics of assisting rebellions and revolutions
  • The ethics of immigration
  • Civilian immunity
  • Terrorism
  • The protection of cultural heritage sites in war
  • Responsibility for war crimes
  • The use of UAVs (drones)
  • Humanitarian intervention
  • Force protection and the distribution of risk in war

Through our many conferences, workshops, talks and other events, SCEWP aims to inform and improve philosophical, public and policy debates about the ethics of war and peace.

New Blog!

We are delighted to announce the launch of ‘The Ethical War Blog, which will feature timely and topical articles by specialists in the field, written for a general audience. To check out the latest posts click here!

Published 2nd June 2015