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02nd June 2006 Andrei Brougham

A. C. Grayling speaks at Exeter

On Wednesday the 31st of May the College was visited by the philosopher A C Grayling. Professor Grayling came to speak about his latest book “Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime”. He began his talk by giving a very engaging exposition of the ethical debate taking place in the run-up to the Second World War surrounding the use of air bombing in warfare. Surprisingly, there was much public resistance to a practice so common in contemporary warfare. However, once WWII was under way, the attitudes of many in the military, government and the general public about the use of bombings changed. Professor Grayling argued that bombing raids, though perfectly legitimate in times of war when targeted on industrial, administrative and other strategic sites, should not be used explicitly against the public, as in the case of WWII. In defence of his argument, his poignant historical account of the suffering of the inhabitants of the German cities bombed spoke for itself. Professor Grayling’s talk truly turned tables as he questioned what the constraints of war should be, even on the part of the “good” side.

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