Defensive, Deterrent and ‘Humane’ Weapons

  • John Forge
Part of the Research Ethics Forum book series (REFF, volume 1)


I now claim to have established that weapons research is morally wrong. So it is not something that an impartial moral person can engage in without reflection, reflection which should lead to some appropriate response. The reason for this, as we have seen at some length, is that WR provides the means to harm and that harming is morally wrong. But we have also seen that there are two general sorts of responses, types of justification, that weapons researcher S can give to those who ask for an account of what she does and why she should not face blame. In this chapter, I will consider the first of these attempted justifications, namely that S is designing the means to defend, to defend her own country, other friendly non-aggressive states, etc., by designing weapons that can only fulfil this function. So this justification will only work if there are special classes of weapons that only prevent, deter or perhaps reduce harms. If there are, then S can claim that the weapons she was designing when her country, or another friendly state, was under attack, or threat of attack, were defensive, designed to prevent harm to her fellow citizens. But granted that the weapons are ‘inherently defensive’, then she could make this claim at any time or place: the circumstances would not matter, the weapons by their very nature are defensive and hence their only role would be to prevent harm. The type of justification is therefore what I have called ahistorical.


Defensive Role Grand Strategy Cruise Missile Lethal Force Nuclear Deterrence 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Forge
    • 1
  1. 1.History and Philosophy of ScienceThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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