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Villanova University Hosts First Annual Ethics of War Conference April 4-5 in Collaboration with U.S. Military Academy

Open to the public, the conference will explore ethical dilemmas posed by war such as drone and cyber warfare

Ethics of War Conference flyer

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Drone and cyber warfare, Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, surgical strike Special Forces operations, civilians as “collateral damage” – all are hallmarks of modern warfare – and the subject of heated public debate. Ethical dilemmas posed by these and other combat-related issues will be explored at Villanova University’s First Annual Ethics of War Conference April 4-5 in the Driscoll Hall Auditorium on the University’s Main Campus.

The event, co-sponsored by Villanova University’s Ethics Program and the Center for Peace and Justice Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, together with the Villanova College of Nursing, will be held in collaboration with the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point. The conference, which is open to the public, is presented through the generous support of the William T. Dunn, ’55 Ethics Program Endowed Fund.

”We are honored and delighted to inaugurate what we hope will be an ongoing collaboration between Villanova University and the United States Military Academy,” Mark Wilson, an assistant professor in Villanova’s Ethics program said. “My colleague at West Point, Lt. Col. Brian Imiola, and I are deeply committed to fostering conversation between service members and civilians on the ethics of war.”

Wilson added, “At a time when less than one-percent of the population volunteers for military service, it is easy for the rest of us to think that a ribbon and “thank you” suffices for concern and engagement.  My hope is that this conference will serve as an exercise in civic virtue, an opportunity for us to gather as a community and reflect carefully and critically on the moral challenges that war creates and the great sacrifices it demands.  Augustine of Hippo is widely viewed as the founder of the ethics of war.  It seems to me fitting and faithful to Villanova’s Augustinian mission that we are able to host this conference.”           

The program will begin April 4 at 8 a.m. with a welcome by Mark Doorley, Director of Villanova’s Ethics Program. Noted scholars whose expertise bears on the moral principles connected to war and its consequences will speak at four plenary sessions beginning with a presentation on “Preventive War” by David Luban, University professor and professor of law at Georgetown University and  Distinguished Visitor in Ethics Stockdale Center for Ethics, US Naval Academy.

Additional plenary sessions held over the two-day event will feature:

  • Karen Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security, Fordham Law School, speaking about “Peace or Perpetual War?: Thinking Beyond the War on Terror”;
  • Nancy Sherman, University Professor of Philosophy and Faculty Affiliate of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University on “Moral Injury and Moral Repair”;
  • Jeff McMahan, Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University, and David Rodin, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford discussing “The Revisionist School and the Ethics of War: Human Rights and Individual Responsibilities”; 
  • Villanova University faculty participants include Mark Doorley, Director, Ethics Program; Mark Wilson, Assistant Professor, Ethics; Kathryn Getek Soltis, Director, Center for Peace and Justice, Assistant Professor, Christian Ethics;  Sally Scholz, Professor of Philosophy; Brett Wilmot, Associate Director, Ethics Program; Helene Moriarity, Professor, Diane L. & Robert F. Moritz Endowed Chair in Nursing Research, Villanova College of Nursing; Col. Andrew Wilcox, (USMC), Commanding Officer, Professor of Naval Science, Philadelphia Naval Reserve Officer Training Consortium; Peter Busch, Lawrence C. Gallen Fellow, Villanova Center for Liberal Education. 
  • United States Military Academy participants include Richard Schoonhoven, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy; Mjr. Ian Fishback, Academy Instructor; Mjr. Kevin Schieman, Academy Instructor; Lt. Col. Brian Imiola, Ph.D., Academy Professor.

Villanova University and West Point USMA students will also present at the conference.

”At the end of the conference, I hope those who participate will have fresh ideas to ponder on some of the many vexing areas of armed conflict that demand ethical reflection,” Mark Doorley, Director of Villanova’s Ethics Program said.  “An Augustinian approach to the reality of armed conflict in this world is to work for its end, but at the same time to work for a responsible use of force.  It is the latter that this conference represents, and perhaps it can also be a step in the direction of the former.”

A $25 registration fee for members of the public includes all sessions, breakfast, and two lunches. The Conference dinner, to be held at 6 p.m., Friday, April 5 at The Villanova Conference Center, is an additional $25. Registration is required by March 15. To learn more about the conference click here.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others.  There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.