Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace at the Department of Philosophy
Helen Frowe, Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace at the Department of Philosophy

Why are soldiers who kill not brought to trial? What obligations do the victors have when the war is over? How should we relate to the methods used to fight terrorism?  These are examples of central issues for the research at the newly established Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace at the Department of Philosophy. The director of the centre is Helen Frowe, who, just over a year ago, received a prestigious Wallenberg Academy Fellow grant worth SEK 7.5 million over a five-year period to move her research from the University of Kent to Stockholm.

Helen Frowe’s main research focus is on the moral status of non-combatants in wartime and views on killing innocent people in self-defence. However, she has also conducted research in other areas of ethics, such as views on euthanasia. Helen Frowe has worked at distinguished British and American universities, but once it became clear that she was to be appointed a Wallenberg Academy Fellow at Stockholm University, it was difficult to decline.

“You cannot get an offer like this at a British university. And when the funding ends after five years, you can apply for an extension.”

When we met Helen Frowe, her office was virtually empty; she will conduct most of her research in Great Britain and does not have any of her own things in place here yet. Moreover, the postdoc currently being recruited will not be here for another few months, and it will probably take even longer for a doctoral student to start at the centre.
Theories of a ‘just war’ have traditionally focused on states as actors, but the wars and the spread of terrorism in recent decades have changed the view on the relationship between states and individuals in the legal and philosophical models. This new situation raises questions that the new centre will delve into. Many of the questions can also be linked to ongoing conflicts, such as in Syria and Ukraine.

The centre also includes political scientists and legal professionals, and more disciplines at the University may be included in the future. The centre has a clear ambition to collaborate with other authorities and let politicians and other policy-makers share in the research. Contacts have already been established with, for example, the National Defence College. Furthermore, Helen Frowe wants the results of the research to reach a wider audience.
 “The ethics of war is a topic that many people are likely to be interested in and are able to relate to. By creating a popular interest, we hope to be able to contribute to the debate on the topic.”

On 23 May, the first Wallenberg Public Lecture on the Ethics of War and Peace will be held in Stockholm. The open lecture will take place every year and be held by leading researchers. First up is Professor Jeff McMahan from Rutgers University. The international conference The Ethics of War in the 21st Century will take place during the following two days, which is also when the centre will be officially inaugurated.

Coming to Stockholm University has been a positive experience, said Helen Frowe.

“It is a very good research environment. Everything is well organised and I do not have to do all the administrative work on my own. This is the most harmonious department I have ever worked at.”