3.(22/6/14) What is Weapons Research?
On my homepage I said that one of my main motivations for setting up this webpage was my belief that weapons research is morally wrong and that I wanted a means to make my reasons for this claim accessible to anyone who wants to know why. I have published a book on the topic. The book is called Designed to Kill: The Case Against Weapons Research – nice modest title – here is a link www.springer.com/social+sciencesapplied+ethics/book/978-94-007-5735-6 The book is quite expensive – but well worth the money of course – and written for an academic audience, so here I will try to explain myself more simply. (I’ve also written academic papers on the subject and am in the process of revising a simpler version of Designed to Kill which I would like to publish as an ebook.)
To start off, here is how I define weapons research:
Weapons research is research carried out with the intention of designing new weapons or improving the design of existing weapons or designing or improving the means for carrying out activities associated with the use of weapons.
Weapons research aims at design, the design of new and improved kinds of weapons, etc. Weapons design differs from weapons manufacture in that it aims to produce knowledge rather than hardware. This is a point of crucial importance. (See the page Defining Weapons Research for lots more.)
I have said that I believe weapons research to be morally wrong. If I can show that this is correct, then this may or may not mean that no moral person ought to engage in weapons research: whether it does or not depends on the moral system one adopts, as indeed does the judgement about the moral wrongness of the activity. I will not reproduce here the material on the page What is Morality? But the system I favour which is discussed there, Common Morality, permits actions that are morally wrong if there is adequate justification. Given that I follow that system, then I need to do two things if I want to persuade moral agents not to undertake weapons research: show that it is morally wrong and establish there is no acceptable justification. Looks hard to do!