DPhil Seminar (Week 2, MT18)

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Joseph Chappa. Reasons Not to Kill in War. (30min) Abstract: Recent just war literature appropriately focuses on liability. But there has been insufficient focus on the objective badness of death. I argue that the objective moral badness of death obtains even when the person killed is liable to be killed. If this is right, it means that even just soldiers who justifiably target unjust soldiers who are liable to be killed face competing moral reasons. The objective moral badness of death is a reason not to kill even if the good to be obtained in defeating the enemy is a countervailing reason to kill. This tension is at the heart of what it means justifiably to kill in war and helps to define the role of the combatant. Moreover, it might help to explain a puzzle that has arisen in recent moral psychology literature. Psychologists have defined moral injury as a psychological response to the commission or observation of actions that transgress one’s deeply held sense of morality. Yet some just combatants experience moral injury after justifiable acts of killing. How can one suffer moral injury if one has done nothing immoral? The objective badness of death can account for this psychological phenomenon better than those focused solely on liability.

Johannes Fankhauser. Is the world just wavefunction? Determinism and the metaphysics of hidden variables in quantum mechanics. (60min) Abstract: We shall discuss a few ideas concerning determinism in quantum mechanics and the metaphysics of “hidden variables”. Given the assumption that quantum mechanics is true, i.e. the theory predicts the correct statistics for the outcomes of experiments, it turns out that any hidden variable model that determines outcomes exactly cannot be verified by experiment or observation. That is, no realistic theory of quantum mechanics provides a verifiable ontology. As a result, the hidden variables can be arbitrarily chosen and their dynamics is not unique. Since realist variables are inaccessible, any indeterministic model would serve the ontological commitment equally well. Hence, determinism cannot be known to be true and this challenges the idea that realist interpretations advance our current understanding of quantum mechanics.


DPhil Seminar Organisers: Chong Ming Lim and James Matharu

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