LISP 3200: Dual-Use Research and the Ethics of Warfare

Website for 1Q, 2019–2020; last updated on September 5, 2019


Professor: Charles H. Pence
Course Time: (see schedule below!)
Course Details: 5.0 credits, 30.0h

Main Themes

In this course, we will consider the responsibilities of scientific researchers working on technologies of “dual use” – that is, those which have both a military and a civilian purpose. This will naturally touch on themes in the ethics of warfare and research ethics, and we will extend these to consider social epistemology, collective responsibility, and questions about regulation and policy.

Our main text will be the recent book Dual Use Science and Technology, Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction by Seumas Miller, who will visit campus for a journée d’étude in the spring.

Required Readings

The one required reading which you must purchase is the book itself:

Miller, Seumas. 2018. Dual Use Science and Technology, Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

All of the remaining readings will be posted electronically on the course readings website. The password for this website will be distributed via e-mail before the start of the course and in the first class session.

Assignments and Grading

  • Final Paper OR Two Short Papers (50%): Students are free to prepare one of two major final assignments. Either a full research paper (of around a dozen pages) – particularly if you are interested in working more in this area in the future – or two shorter research papers (of around five to seven pages each). You are free to write in English or in French, though if you write in French I will not be able to provide commentary on the style or quality of your academic writing (e.g., if you would like to use this paper for admission to graduate programs).

    If you would like to write a larger paper, I am happy to construct this paper in stages, working with you on an outline and offering comments on a draft version. The hope is to produce high-quality papers, suitable for submission to a graduate journal or a conference.

    Some paper topics will be discussed over the course of the semester, but it will ultimately be your responsibility to select a topic in line with your interests. Students who select a paper topic that they genuinely enjoy almost always earn higher grades. Spend time thinking (and talking to me!) about how to connect our material to your various philosophical interests.

  • Journée d’Étude Presentation (20%): Prof. Miller will be joining us in May to talk about his work, and we will plan around his visit a day of talks and presentations, including presentations from you. Each student will be expected to seriously contribute, whether offering a research paper or a commentary on another student’s talk. We’ll discuss this further over the course of the class.

  • Participation and Attendance (30%): Students are expected to attend every session of the seminar and participate in in-class discussion of our readings and materials. Given the size of the course, I am hoping to foster a hybrid of a lecture and seminar format – only very briefly lecturing to present the material, and opening up to discussion. Our discussions will be where you really learn most of our material. Philosophy is learned by doing, and always best as a conversation. Everyone is thus expected to study the material and come prepared to discuss it.


Schedule and Readings

this list remains incomplete; watch this space

  • October: What is Dual Use?
    Readings:
    • Miller, ch. 1–2
    • Miller, “Moral Responsibility, Collective-Action Problems and the Dual-Use Dilemma in Science and Technology” (2013)
    • Evans, “Dual-Use Decision Making: Relational and Positional Issues” (2014)
    • Ehni, “Dual Use and the Ethical Responsibility of Scientists” (2008)
    • Buchanan and Kelley, “Biodefence and the Production of Knowledge: Rethinking the Problem” (2013)
  • November: Basic and Applied Science
    Readings:
    • Flemish Interuniversity Council, “Guidelines for Researchers on Dual Use and Misuse of Research” (2017)
    • Niiniluoto, “The Aim and Structure of Applied Research” (1993)
    • Roll-Hansen, “A Historical Perspective on the Distinction Between Basic and Applied Science” (2017)
    • Douglas, “Pure Science and the Problem of Progress” (2014)
    • Kitcher, “On the Autonomy of the Sciences” (2004)
  • December: Tools from Ethics and Law
    Readings:
    • Scanlon, “A Theory of Freedom of Expression” (1972)
    • Dworkin, “Paternalism” (1972)
    • Solis, “Law of Armed Conflict’s Four Core Principles” (2010)
  • January: Collective Knowledge and Epistemology
    Readings:
    • Miller, ch. 3
    • Proctor, “Agnotology” (2008)
    • Kitcher, “Public Knowledge and the Difficulties of Democracy” (2006)
  • February: Responsibilities of Scientists
    Readings:
    • Miller, ch. 4
    • Resnik and Elliott, “The Ethical Challenges of Sociallly Responsible Science” (2015)
    • Wenner, “The Social Value Requirement in Research” (2018)
    • Berg, “Reflections on Asilomar 2 at Asilomar 3: Twenty-Five Years Later” (2001)
    • Singer, “What Did the Asilomar Exercise Accomplish, What Did It Leave Undone?” (2001)
    • Evans, “Speak No Evil: Scientists, Responsibility, and the Public Understanding of Science” (2010)
  • March: Applications 1, Nuclear and Cyber
    Readings:
    • Miller, ch. 6–7
    • van den Hoven, “Computer Ethics and Moral Methodology” (1997)
    • Lautenschlager, “Controlling Military Technology” (1985)
  • April: Applications 2, Chemical and Biological
    Readings:
    • Miller, ch. 5, 8
    • Sydnes, “Policy: Update the Chemical Weapons Convention” (2013)
    • Selgelid, “A Tale of Two Studies: Ethics, Bioterrorism, and the Censorship of Science” (2007)
    • Lipsitch and Galvani, “Ethical Alternatives to Experiments with Novel Potential Pandemic Pathogens” (2014)
    • Ledford, “Garage Biotech: Life Hackers” (2010)
  • May: Visit of Seumas Miller for journée d’étude