• CSU
  • University of Melbourne


Technologies Program:

This program deals with risks and responsibilities relating to research into technologies that combine with or add to existing technologies, including ethical issues in bio/nanotechnology, computing and IT.

Health Program:

This program will conduct research in relation to a range of interconnected ethical issues in the public health domain.

Ecology Program:

This program examines a range of issues in environmental ethics, including ethical issues related to existing and potential anthropogenic climate change.

Economy Program:

This program focuses on a number of central ethical issues arising in the economic sphere, including corporate responsibility and economic corruption.

Security Program:

This program focuses on the ethical dimensions of a range of current domestic and international security problems, including ethical issues pertaining to terrorism, crime, and humanitarian intervention.


What's new in CAPPE publications?

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23-24 November 2015

The Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics (University of Oxford) and the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (Charles Sturt University) will host a conference on conscientious objection in medicine and the role of conscience in healthcare practitioners' decision making.

Discover more

Symposium: Rationality, Agency and Responsibility in Social Groups

13 November 2015

More information [pdf]


Human Enhancement: Destiny or Disaster?

The conference talks are now live

Other CAPPE Events

Contact CAPPE for more information.


Dr Alberto Giubilini

Australian Government policy on vaccination exemption and childcare benefits   More

Dr Kylie Bourne

The umbrella revolution  More

The value of foreign aid  More

Professor Seumas Miller

Institutional Corruption and The Capital Markets  More

Fixing the Fix - Benchmark Reform and the Future of Financial Regulation  More

Designing-in-Ethics: A Compulsary Retirement Savings System  More

Dr Stephen Clarke

On Religious Violence, ABC Western Plains 'Mornings', radio interview  More

Past media events

Ethical Issues in Political Violence and State Sovereignty

Program Manager – Associate Professor Igor Primoratz

The understanding and moral restraint of political violence is one of the major problems confronting the world today. This program addresses central philosophical issues raised by political violence in all its forms. It also investigates a range of moral questions to do with politics generally, including the “dirty hands” quandary, lying and deception in politics, torture, patriotism and nationalism, secession, etc.

Core Projects

  • Morality of "Dirty Hands" as an Issue in Political Leadership
  • Ethics, Technology and the "New Wars"

Program Members

Recent Program Highlights

Core Project: The Morality of “Dirty Hands” as an Issue in Political Leadership

Research on this project is carried out on two different levels. One is the fundamental question of the relation between politics and morality and the alleged necessity for politicians to “dirty their hands” when acting on behalf of citizens. Also investigated are specific issues in political ethics, such as the moral responsibilities of democratic citizenship, moral constraints on immigration and refugee policies, lying and deception in politics, etc.

A major publication in this area was Politics and Morality, edited by Igor Primoratz (Palgrave Macmillan). CAPPE authors are Andrew Alexandra (on professional ethics for politicians), Tony Coady (on realism), John Kleinig (on the morality of torture), Neil Levy (on how politicians with “dirty hands” should be treated), Seumas Miller (on “noble cause” corruption in politics), Rob Sparrow (on the moral costs of maintaining state borders), Janna Thompson (on the “many hands” problem), and Jessica Wolfendale (on military obedience).

Coady’s book Messy Morality (under contract with Oxford UP) is undergoing final editing. It discusses the “dirty hands” problem, realism – the view that there is no room for moral considerations in international politics – and the morality of lying and deception in politics.

Core Project – Ethics, Technology, and the “New Wars”

Recent developments in military technology, the tendency of some contemporary warfare to become “privatized”, and the phenomenon of “new wars” – wars that are driven by “identity politics”, blur the distinction between soldier and civilian, and involve large-scale onslaught on civilians, “ethnic cleansing”, and even genocide – pose difficult challenges to attempts at constraining warfare by moral and legal rules.

CAPPE co-sponsored the conference “Private Military Companies, States and Global Civil Society: Ethics, Theory, and Practice”, held in 2005 in Durban, South Africa. A book including the papers presented there and additional contributions and offering a wide-ranging analysis of the ethics and politics of privatising warfare is now in press (Routledge); Andrew Alexandra is co-editor. CAPPE contributions are by Alexandra (“Mars Meets Mammon”) and Wolfendale (“The Military and the Community: Comparing National Military Forces and Private Military Companies”).

Rob Sparrow’s paper “Killer Robots” in the Journal of Applied Philosophy and Suzanne Killmister’s “Remote Weaponry: The Ethical Implications” (see below) also fall within this research project.

Other Program Highlights

In 2007, much work was done on further topics in the ethics of war, and on subjects such as terrorism, torture, patriotism, and secession. Only some of the numerous publications can be mentioned: 

Coady’s Morality and Political Violence (Cambridge UP) explores a wide range of moral questions to do with violence, war, and terrorism: the concept of violence and its moral justification, main tenets of just war theory, weapons of mass destruction, conscientious objection to military service, and the ideal of peace.

Larry May’s War Crimes and Just War (Oxford UP) provides a comprehensive discussion of a range of conceptual and normative questions raised by war crimes.

Civilian Immunity in War, edited by Primoratz (Oxford UP), offers the first philosophical account of all the main aspects of this highly topical subject. CAPPE authors include Coady (on “collateral immunity”), Miller (on civilian immunity and collective responsibility), Primoratz (on the grounds, scope, and stringency of civilian immunity), and Thompson (on civilian property in war).

Jessica Wolfendale’s Torture and the Military Profession (Palgrave Macmillan) investigates the gap between norm and behaviour in relation to torture and how this gap undermines the military’s claim to be a profession.

Creating New States: Theory and Practice of Secession by Aleksandar Pavkovic (Ashgate) examines moral, political, legal, and social aspects of secession.

Simon Keller’s Limits of Loyalty (Cambridge UP) has two chapters on patriotic loyalty.

Authored books in press include Miller’s Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism (Blackwell) and May’s Aggression and Crimes against Peace (Cambridge UP). Also in press are two collections: Military Ethics, edited by Coady and Primoratz (Ashgate), and Patriotism: Philosophical and Political Perspectives, edited by Primoratz and Pavkovic (Ashgate). Both include papers by CAPPE authors: by Coady, Primoratz, Sparrow, and Adrian Walsh, and by Keith Horton, Keller, Kleinig, Pavkovic, Primoratz, Sparrow, and Thompson, respectively. 

A two-day workshop on terrorism and counterterrorism was held at CAPPE Melbourne in August 2007. Some of the papers presented there, together with additional, solicited contributions, are now being prepared for publication in a book edited by Coady.

An indication of CAPPE’s international standing are frequent invitations to its staff to contribute articles to major reference works. In 2007, Primoratz published an article on terrorism in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (online). Coady and Primoratz have now been invited to write the articles on the “dirty hands” problem and on patriotism, respectively, for the same encyclopaedia.

CAPPE has excellent PhD students, and some of them are already publishing articles in scholarly journals. Suzanne Killmister, whose thesis is supervised by Coady, has a paper on “Remote Weaponry: The Ethical Implications” forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Philosophy. Ned Dobos, whose thesis is supervised by Primoratz, has published “Democratic Authorization and Civilian Immunity” in the Philosophical Forum, while his “Rebellion, Humanitarian Intervention, and the Prudential Constraints on War” is forthcoming in the Journal of Military Ethics.