Professor of Philosophy Steven Lee recently testified in Washington, D.C., before a panel of the National Academy of Science, regarding the organization’s current study, “Ethical and Societal Implications of Advances in Militarily Significant Technologies that are Rapidly Changing and Increasingly Globally Accessible.”
“This is a great honor, both for Steven and the institution,” says Dean of Hobart College and Professor of Philosophy Eugen Baer.
As part of a four-person panel set with the task of discussing the non-U.S. perspectives on ethics in science and technology, Lee compared different religious perspectives on armed conflict and war to U.S. perspectives that are largely based on Just War theory.
“It may be that the greatest religious and ethical misunderstanding the West has with other religious cultures regarding matters of war is not due to the differences in religious perspectives, since there is a great commonality in this regard, but rather in our failure to recognize the implications for us of a principle we share with other religious cultures, namely fairness or reciprocity,” explains Lee.
“Specifically, what we don’t recognize is that our ways of fighting, given our military superiority, are perceived by others as unfair, as in the extreme case of riskless war – a war in which our own combatants are not seriously as risk, as in the case of the Kosovo War. The possibilities for riskless war are increasing through emerging military technologies, especially in the areas of information warfare and robotics. Emerging technologies will make this situation more pronounced. This leads other societies to perceive us as fighting unfairly,” he says.
Other members of the panel included Professors of Philosophy Qiu Renzong of the Chinese Academy of Social Science and Frans Brom of Utrecht University in The Netherlands; and Minerva Chair Montgomery McFate from the U.S. Naval War College.
A member of the faculty since 1981, Lee is the Donald R. Harter ’39 Professor in the Humanities. He holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Delaware and a Ph.D. from York University in Toronto. He has written and co-written several books, including his most recent book, “Ethics and War.” The author of more than 50 published articles, he is frequently consulted for his expertise in ethics, nuclear weapons and just war theory. Prior to teaching at HWS, he taught at Bowling Green State University.
In addition, Lee is the editor of “Intervention, Terrorism and Torture: Contemporary Challenges to Just War Theory.” In 2007, he was awarded a visiting fellowship in the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at St. Andrews University in Scotland.