Ethics in the Public Sphere Lecture Series

Ethics in the Public Sphere

Many faculty and graduate students in Philosophy are doing work in ethics and social-political philosophy that engages issues of broad public interest and concern. As part of our mission to contribute to the public's understanding and appreciation of these issues, the department has launched a new symposium series under the banner Ethics in the Public Sphere.

Read more about the series here:
Interview with former Philosophy Department Chair, Donald P. Rutherford

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Photo of speaker Professor Jeremy Waldron“Death Squads and Death Lists: Targeted Killing and the Character of the State”

Professor Jeremy Waldron 

University Professor and Professor of Law, New York University and 
formerly Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford


The intention of this lecture is to urge critical reflection upon current US practices of targeted killing by considering not just whether acts of targeted killing can be legally justified but also what sort of state we are turning into when we organize the use of lethal force in this way – maintaining a list of named enemies of the state who are to be eliminated in this way. I make use of the unpleasant terminology of "death lists" and "death squads" to jolt us into this reflection. Of course, there are differences between the activities of death squads in (say) El Salvador in the early 1980s and the processes by which US special forces, intelligence personnel, and drone operators, kill the individuals named on a list of state enemies, one by one. They are not morally equivalent. But the two sets of phenomena are much closer to one another than we ought to be comfortable with. And we certainly should not be comfortable with a world in which death lists and death squads -- even of the respect able American kind -- become a standard practice and standard operating procedure for all states.

To see our past events and video record of events please visit our Ethics in the Public Sphere archive.