Should War Be Humane?: A Seminar with Samuel Moyn

Should War Be Humane?
A Seminar with Samuel Moyn

March 19, Saturday, 12-2 PM EST
(See time zone converter if you’re in a different location to make sure you get the time right.)

Is it wrong to reform an institution that should be abolished? Leo Tolstoy thought so, and famously opposed efforts by the Red Cross and others to reduce the deadliness of war. Tolstoy sensed what the United States’ so-called forever wars have borne out–that less brutal war might mean more common war.

Conversely, at this very moment, Russian forces are reportedly intensifying the brutality of their war in Ukraine, with the goal of accelerating the war’s end.

How have our efforts to bring more morality to the horrors of armed conflict backfired? Where do we go from here?

In this seminar with Samuel Moyn, author of Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, we will look at the ways peace movements have been distorted into notions of a more “ethical” war that seems to have no end.

Some questions we might ask along the way: How does the military enterprise co-opt our resistance and repulsion to it? Are abolition and reform always at odds? Is there an intensity threshold beneath which war becomes tolerable? Is there a way to accelerate the end of war without increasing brutality?

Facilitator: Samuel Moyn is Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and a Professor of History at Yale University. He has written several books in his fields of European intellectual history and human rights history, including The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010), and edited or coedited a number of others. His most recent books are Christian Human Rights (2015), based on Mellon Distinguished Lectures at the University of Pennsylvania in fall 2014, and Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (2018). His newest book is Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2021). Over the years he has written in venues such as Boston Review, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dissent, The Nation, The New Republic, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

  • $15 – General Admission Ticket
  • $10 – Student/Contingent Scholar/Activist Ticket
  • Solidarity pay-what-you-can tickets are also available for those who cannot afford any of the above tiers. Please email us.


Please register by buying a ticket at our Eventbrite page. We are committed to making all our offerings accessible to those who are eager to learn, regardless of financial means. If you have any questions or concerns, please email

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