Skip to main content

Villanova University Hosts Third Annual Ethics of War Conference April 8-9 in Collaboration with U.S. Military Academy

Open to the public, the conference will explore ethical dilemmas posed by war such as cyber warfare, torture and “killer robots”

Villanova University Hosts Third Annual Ethics of War Conference April 8-9  in Collaboration with U.S. Military Academy

VILLANOVA, Pa.  –Cyber warfare, the use of torture to obtain intelligence, the fight to defeat global terrorism, “killer robots” (lethal autonomous weapons systems) – all are hallmarks of heated public debate on modern warfare. Ethical dilemmas posed by these and other related issues will be explored at Villanova University’s Third Annual Ethics of War Conference April 8-9 in the Connelly Center on the University’s Main Campus.

The event, sponsored by Villanova University’s Ethics Program, is 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 as well as support from the Center for Peace and Justice Studies and the Office of the President.

”Once again, this conference will be a highlight of my academic year at Villanova. The excitement of our faculty, and especially our students is palpable. This year’s speakers, respondents, and student-presenters are at the forefront of shaping and re-shaping contemporary moral and legal thinking on the ethics of war,” Mark Wilson, an assistant professor in Villanova’s Ethics Program said. Villanova University’s connection to this field of inquiry is foundational, he added. ”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.”

”St. Augustine was the first Christian to think clearly about what we do when we engage in war and how that engagement can be justified in light of the gospel command to love. Creating a space for students and scholars to examine the ethics of war is consistent with the mission of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,” Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, Dean Villanova College of Arts and Sciences said. “It enables us to be more wise and discerning as we approach contemporary dilemmas of war and peace.”

“At this third annual conference, we expect once again for our cadets and faculty to be informed and challenged by some of the most important thinkers in the field of war ethics. Simultaneously, nearly two dozen West Point cadets and Villanova students will present their own work to conference attendees, allowing the sort of rich feedback that you don’t often see in such a concentrated and sustained way between undergraduate students and renowned scholars,” Lt. Colonel Mike Saxon, USMA, Assistant Professor, Department of English and Philosophy, at the United States Military Academy, West Point, and a conference co-creator said.

“This ongoing West-Point-Villanova partnership has yielded dividends in the vital project of bridging the civilian-military divide, as members of both communities have forged relationships that persist over time,” he added.       

The program will begin April 8 at 8:30 a.m. with a welcome by Villanova University President, Fr. Peter Donohue, OSA, PhD. 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 “Contemporary Armed Conflict and the Non-State Actor” by Claire Finkelstein, the Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.  Student presentations will be made on a variety of subjects related to the ethics of war at several breakout sessions from 1:30- 3:30 p.m. on Friday.

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

  • Mark Juergensmeyer, Director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, Professor of Sociology, and Affiliate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara speaking about “How to Fight a Cosmic War”;
  • Frances Kamm, Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy,  the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University speaking about “Torture: Rescue, Prevention, and Punishment”;
  • Dominic Tierney, Associate Professor of Political Science, Swarthmore College, Senior Fellow, The Foreign Policy Research Institute, and a contributing writer for The Atlantic, speaking about “Ethics of an Unwinnable War”; 
  • Villanova University faculty participants include Mark Doorley, Director, Ethics Program; Mark Wilson, Assistant Professor, Ethics; Brett Wilmot, Associate Director, Ethics Program; Graham Parsons, Assistant Professor of Philosophy; Kathryn Getek Soltis, Director, Center for Peace and Justice; Assistant Professor, Christian Ethics;  Sally Scholz, Chair, Department of Philosophy; Eugene McCarraher, Associate Professor of History, Department of Humanities; Carol Weingarten, Associate Professor, Villanova University College of Nursing; Lieutenant William Kamm, Villanova University NROTC; Michelle Dempsey, Associate Dean of Faculty Research and Development; Professor of Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law; Kathleen Grimes, Department of Theology and Religious Studies.
  • United States Military Academy participants include Lt. Colonel Mike Saxon, Assistant Professor, Department of English and Philosophy; Major Tim Leone, Instructor, Department of English and Philosophy; Colonel David M. Barnes, Academy Professor and Acting Deputy Department Head, Department of English and Philosophy. Villanova University and West Point USMA students will also present at the conference.

A $25 registration fee for members of the public includes all sessions. On-site registration can be made in the Connelly Center of Villanova University. 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 six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit