Neuroethics of Warfare

  • Gerald Walther
Reference work entry


International Humanitarian Law was established in the twentieth century to reduce the impact of warfare on civilians as well as to increase the protection of combatants. This chapter critiques its specific focus on the reduction of physical harm, while it does not take into consideration the impact of psychological harm onto civilians and combatants. Advances in neuroscience have shown that psychological well-being is linked with neuroanatomy and thus harm to the psyche is comparable to and even congruent with neurophysiological damage. The effects of stress and fear, which are abundant in modern warfare, are felt by combatants and noncombatants alike and have detrimental long-term effects. In addition, modern military doctrines, such as “Shock and Awe,” used in the Iraqi invasion in 2003, specifically try to inflict fear and anxiety. While it may be argued that this leads to fewer casualties, the long-term effects of this doctrine may have unforeseen future consequences as societies suffer from neurophysiological damage. Neuroethics is uniquely suited to critique current military doctrines and technologies and push for a revision of International Humanitarian Law to take into consideration and apply the insights about the human mind that neuroscience has uncovered.


Prenatal Stress Geneva Convention Military Technology Neurophysiological Effect Acute Stress Disorder 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Peace StudiesUniversity of BradfordBradfordUK

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