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Talk: The Moral Psychology of War

Event Details

November 13, 2018
4:00 pm-5:00 pm

Commonwealth Honors College

Room: Events Hall

UMass Amherst Campus

Handicap access available

The Psychology of Peace and Violence Program Interdisciplinary Seminar on Conflict and Violence is designed to promote interdisciplinary exchanges among faculty and students interested in the topics of conflict, violence, and peace, from a wide range of departments across campus.

Dr. Hanne M. Watkins is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program at UMass Amherst. Her research examines issues related to the moral psychology of war, including the stereotypes people hold of soldiers (and how these stereotypes relate to moral judgments about soldiers killing and being killed); how moral judgments of harm differ across peace and war contexts; and the effect of war commemorations on people’s perceptions of ingroup sacrifice and support for war. 

Abstract: All’s fair in love and war? Despite the popularity of this aphorism, it is abundantly clear that all is not fair in war. Soldiers abide by strong moral codes; international laws constrain what can and cannot be done in war; and if a soldier oversteps the boundaries of proper behaviour, the public responds with outrage and blame. Clearly, soldiers are judged according to standards of appropriate conduct. But what are these standards? What is judged as morally right and wrong in war, and how are such judgments made? The answer to this question has important political, practical, and theoretical implications.

In this talk Dr. Watkins will outline an approach to studying the moral psychology of war which combines the most prominent moral philosophy of war (just war theory) with contemporary moral psychology. She will briefly review a number of recent studies in moral psychology which use this approach, discuss two other approaches to war and morality in psychological research, and explore the broader implications for moral psychology, the philosophy of war, and our understanding of morality in war.

Refreshments will be served. Open to all.

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