Steven Lee, professor of philosophy, is the editor of the new volume “Intervention, Terrorism and Torture: Contemporary Challenges to Just War Theory,” to be published by Springer in 2007. The book is based on papers submitted at a recent meeting of the American Section of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy.
In recent years, changes in the geopolitical climate and shocking acts of terrorism have challenged the relevance of Just War Theory, a philosophical system of moral evaluation that deals with two types of questions: an understanding of when and if a state can ethically wage war and how the act of war itself should be conducted.
A common example of such a challenge is the “ticking time bomb” scenario. Some ethicists argue that an immediate and grave threat, such as the imminent detonation of a nuclear bomb, justifies the use of torture or other extreme methods to preempt it. “If you allow torture you have to institutionalize it,” said Lee. “Do we really want to be training torturers?”
Lee brings together a number of theorists to debate this problem and others, including the issues of humanitarian and preventive intervention, international law enforcement, terrorism, torture, and the impact of technology on the ethics of war.
On the whole, Lee believes that the book shows a vindication of the Just War paradigm. “Just War Theory comes through pretty well,” he said. “The challenges of the modern age are not unprecedented.”
Lee joined the faculty of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1981, having previously taught at Bowling Green State University. He received his B.A. and M.A. at the University of Delaware and his Ph. D. at York University.