UCLA Joan Palevsky Lecture

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Thursday, April 20, 2017
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI)

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Unmasking the Trauma of War:  Lessons from Ajax and the Philoctetes on Moral Injury and Repair

The notion of moral injury has gained attention in the popular press and research and clinical literature on the psychological wounds of war. And this is all to the good.  For posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, understood as a conditioned fear response to danger and life threat just doesn’t capture the moral dimensions of psychological anguish many service members and veterans experience in and after deployments at home and abroad.  Nor does it capture the weighty sense of personal and moral responsibility so central to military training and its induction of members into a cadre whose ethos is to serve others and causes larger than self.  But by and large, philosophers have not weighed in on the debate.  In this talk I outline a philosophical view of moral injury and the emotions expressive of it and moral repair. They include the familiar “reactive attitudes” of guilt, shame, resentment, and forgiveness, but also, crucially, moral disappointment, hope, and compassionate self-empathy.

This talk draws on my recent book, Afterwar.   Central to the book are the voices and stories of service men and women whom I came to know well through in-depth interviews.  I listen to contemporary voices with an ear always also open to the guidance of the ancients, whether Aristotle, Plato, Seneca, or Sophocles. Here, it is worth remembering that Sophocles was not only a great tragedian, but a Greek general. And plays like Ajax and Philoctetes were homecoming rituals for a nation trying to heal from endless war.

The Joan Palevsky Lecture in Classics honors the late Joan Palevsky for her contributions to the Department of Classics, to UCLA, and to the wider Los Angeles community. The Joan Palevsky Fund has brought leading scholars of ancient Greek and Roman literature as visitors to UCLA for lectures and classes.

Nancy Sherman is a distinguished University Professor and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. She is a faculty affiliate of Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute and teaches on occasion at Georgetown University Law Center. In 1997-1999, she served as the inaugural holder of the Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the United States Naval Academy. She is the author of Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of our Soldiers (Oxford University Press, 2015); The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers (W.W. Norton 2010); Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy Behind the Military Mind (Oxford 2005); Making A Necessity of Virtue: Aristotle and Kant on Virtue (Cambridge 1997); and The Fabric of Character: Aristotle’s Theory of Virtue (Oxford 1989). She is also the editor of Critical Essays on the Classics: Aristotle’s Ethics (Rowman and Littlefield 1999).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

4:00 p.m. Reception

5:00 p.m. Lecture

Kindly RSVP by April 14 to CollegeEvents@support.ucla.edu

Parking is available in Lot 9 for $12 (cash only)

Detailed parking instructions will be provided upon reservation

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