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The New St Cross Special Ethics Seminars are jointly organised by the Oxford Uehiro Centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities


Since the early years of the 21st century, the causes of war and of acts of terrorism have been strongly identified in the public mind with religion, and especially with the Muslim faith. This identification is in some ways unsurprising, but it relies upon a number of different but mutually reinforcing and long-standing cultural presuppositions. One is that religion itself has an inherent, distinctive, possibly unique tendency to promote violent acts; another is that, whatever about that, many past and present wars and terrorist acts were in fact wholly caused by specific religious commitments; another is that whatever the full story about causes may be, religion inevitably promotes particularly bad features of war and terrorism, such as their ferocity and duration. This talk will offer a critical appraisal of these presuppositions and their influence.

Speaker bio

C. A. J. (TONY) COADY is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Honorary Fellow in the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University, and Honorary Fellow in the Uehiro Centre, Oxford. He has an international reputation for his work in epistemology, ethics and applied philosophy. In 2005 he gave the Uehiro Lectures on Practical Ethics in Oxford on “Messy Morality” and in 2012 the Leverhulme Lectures in Oxford on “Religion and Politics”. His books include Testimony: A Philosophical Study (Oxford University Press, 1992) Morality and Political Violence (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Messy Morality: The Challenge of Politics (Oxford University Press, 2008).