Deskilling By Default: Moral Weapons, Moral Hazard And A Case For Moral Education

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    The problem that this paper concerns itself with is that of 'moral weapons': technologically advanced offensive military weapons that have some moral decision coded into them as a central component of their functionality. The main kind considered here is a weapon that only targets legitimate targets, though the concern extends beyond this. The problem, as I see it, arises where the coding in of moral decisions can lead to a moral deskilling such that the moral skills of those involved in the operation of the moral weapon - end user, commander or 'purchaser' - are, by design, reduced. Given the necessarily moral nature of warfare, this reduction in moral skill presents us with a moral hazard. However, rather than simply pointing to problems, the paper enrols moral education as a way of harnessing the value of moral weapons whilst hopefully avoiding a key pitfall arising from moral deskilling. The paper proceeds as follows - I will begin with a brief background of the notion of moral weapons in their current social and military context. I then cover some definitional, conceptual aspects and key assumptions that inform the later discussion. I next look at reasons for and against moral weapons to capture the notion that such weapons are morally ambivalent - though the technologies themselves are not necessarily morally neutral or inert, they are multi-realizable, such that they can be used in good or bad ways. I close off the discussion by raising the notion of moral education as it relates to moral weapons, to present a somewhat optimistic conclusion that moral education plays an important role for military practice generally, and can help us maximise the good of advanced military technologies whilst avoiding the problem of moral deskilling.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    EventInternational Society for Military Ethics in Europe 4th Annual Conference - Germany
    Duration: 1 Jan 2014 → …


    ConferenceInternational Society for Military Ethics in Europe 4th Annual Conference
    Period1/01/14 → …


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