Nigel Warburton on... what's wrong with killing?

Updated Tuesday, 25th March 2008
We often lose sight of the human consequences of war. Photographers can play an important role in reminding us.

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In the week when of the great war photographers, Philip Jones Griffiths, died, Richard Norman talks about what is wrong with killing - and in particular killing in war - as part of the podcast Ethics Bites. This isn't an arbitary link: Philip Jones Griffiths, like Richard Norman hated war.

His photographs of the Vietnam war, published in his book Vietnam Inc. showed with compassion and visual power the horrors of war and the human cost on all sides (the text of the book removed any ambiguity about the message).

Griffiths presented the particularised photographic case for pacifism, Norman provides a theoretical underpinning. For both the photographer and the philosopher, respect for human life is paramount.

Richard Norman makes the point that we often lose sight of the human consequences of going to war. He isn't an absolute pacifist. He recognizes that there are justifications for some wars - but not many. The position he defends is known as pacificism (which can easily be misread as 'pacifism' but is subtley different). A photographer like Griffiths can keep this human cost of war in our minds by his memorable documentary images. Philosophers can argue us out of our complacency...if you are prepared to listen and think.


Magnum in Motion ‘Vietnam’ podcast by Philip Jones Griffiths 

Further Reading

Richard Norman Ethics, Killing and War, published by Cambridge University Press



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