Earlier drafts not for circulation are available upon request.

SHOULD WEAPONISED MORAL ENHANCEMENT REPLACE LETHAL AGGRESSION IN WAR?

Invited submission, Israel Law Review
Presented at the 2021 Workshop on Terrorism and Belligerency, University of Haifa (watch here)

Some have proposed the development of technologies that improve our moral behaviour, moral enhancement, in order to address global risks such as pandemics, global warming and nuclear war. I will argue that this technology could be weaponised to manipulate enemy combatants’ moral dispositions. Despite being morally controversial, weaponised moral enhancement would be neither clearly prohibited nor easily prohibitable by international war law. Unlike previous psychochemical weapons, it would be relatively physically harmless. I will argue that when combatants are liable to lethal aggression to achieve an aim of war, they are also liable to weaponised moral enhancement to achieve that same aim. Weaponised moral enhancement will loosen just war requirements in both traditional and revisionist normative just war theories. It will particularly affect revisionist theories’ jus ad bellum requirements for humanitarian and preventive wars. For instance, weaponised moral enhancement could be more proportional and efficacious than lethal aggression to effect institutional changes in preventive and humanitarian wars. I will conclude that despite evading international war laws and loosening normative just war requirements, the intuition that weaponised moral enhancement would gravely harm combatants can be defended by arguing it would severely disrupt personal identity, which could potentially ground future prohibitions.

SOCIAL COMPACTS, PANDEMICS AND DIVISIVE IDEOLOGIES

Submitted

The need for a unified response to a common external threat is one of the most powerful drivers for forming a social compact. The present world affected by a pandemic stands more divided than before, not only precluding an expedient crisis response, but also the development of global and national social compacts that could address future threats. I will argue that a recent increase in intra-social ideological division is a major threat to a democratic social compact. Empirical evidence shows external threats often produce increased social cohesion and strong social institutions. However, the current pandemic has revealed a contrasting situation.  To explain why, I will present evidence of democratic erosion by increased ideological division over the last decade, and assert that democracy’s fragile state has played a significant role in our failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Next, I will introduce a theoretical framework to analyse intra-social ideologies, suggest new technologies play an important role in recent ideological divisiveness and argue current institutions are unfit for dealing with the problem. I will propose two avenues for solutions informed by moral psychology: traditional institutional reform and technological interventions.

THE UNUSUAL COMPLEXITY OF HUMAN MORALITY

Submitted

Many would intuitively agree with the claim that human morality is complex. I will formalise this claim, give three strong reasons for believing in it, address objections and tentatively list consequences of the unusual complexity of human morality. I will argue that a proper account of human moral traits will have an unusually large degree of complexity. I will present as support for this claim the intricate causal history of moral traits, their propensity to paradoxical effects and various epistemic difficulties. The complexity of human morality has bleak consequences for hopes of manipulating our moral traits using biomedical interventions, be it in the treatment of diseases or in the prospect of fixing our moral failings.