Berkeley Talks: Tanner Lectures, day 1: Toronto law professor Arthur Ripstein on rules for wrongdoers


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Portrait of Arthur Ripstein

Arthur Ripstein (Tanner Lectures photo)

For the 2019 Tanner Lectures at UC Berkeley, Arthur Ripstein, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Toronto, argues that the very thing that makes war wrongful — the fact which side prevails does not depend on who is in the right — also provides the moral standard for evaluating the conduct of war, both the grounds for going to war and the ways in which wars are fought.

In the first of three days of lectures and discussions, which took place on April 9-11, Ripstein talks about the rules for wrongdoers. He says, “The thing that’s wrong with war is war is the condition in which might makes right. Now, that doesn’t mean that no one could ever be justified in going to war, but it means that war is always morally problematic. It’s morally problematic because who prevails in the war depends on strength and is entirely independent of the merits.” Following the lecture, UC Berkeley law professor Christopher Kutz provides a commentary.

The Tanner Lectures on Human Values is presented annually at nine universities: UC Berkeley, Harvard, Michigan, Princeton, Stanford, Utah, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. This series was founded in 1978 by the American scholar, industrialist and philanthropist, Obert Clark Tanner, who was also a member of the faculty of philosophy at the University of Utah. He was also an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy. Tanner’s goal, in establishing the lectures through the Tanner philanthropies, was to promote the search for a better understanding of human behavior and human values. He hoped that the lectures would advance scholarly and scientific learning in the area of human values, and contribute to the intellectual and moral life of humankind.

Read more about the 2019 Tanner Lectures.

Stay tuned for the second and third installments of the 2019 Tanner Lectures on Berkeley Talks.