Sissela Bok On Morality, War

Governments Must Become Less Violent

Governments must encourage trust, and constrain their use of violence and deceit in order to avoid nuclear war, Sissela Bok said last night at an Institute of Politics Forum.

The associate professor of philosophy at Brandeis also warned against excess "partisanship"--citizens becoming so "intoxicated" by violence that they no longer work for peace.

Bok, the wife of President Derek C. Bok, told the crowd of 225 that it is possible to find a moral perspective on "the collective crisis" of war. Until last year, Bok was a Harvard lecturer and taught a popular Core Curriculum course on the ethics of secrecy.

Quoting her mother, Alva R. Myrdal, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Bok told the group assembled for the Second Annual Erik Erikson Lecture that "it is not worthy of human beings to give up."

She said she rejects the argument that the government's use of "betrayal and deceit" deters a nuclear war.

"All nations and all people stand to lose from the current plethora of what Kant called 'dishonorable strategem,'" said Bok, referring to the increasing use of terrorism on the part of governments.

"It is both corrupting and bruializing even if it doesn't bring about a third world war," she added.

"The excuse of self-defense was entirely beside the point," said Bok of the French sinking of a Green-peace ship off of New Zealand.

Bok will continue her philosophical discussion of war on Wednesday night in Part II of the Erikson series