In Commonsense Morality and the Ethics of Killing in War, one of the many excellent papers presented at the Seventh Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies (CELS) here at Stanford, the authors set out to determine what it is that ordinary people actually think about whether one or another course of action that might be regulated by an international legal regime is actually the more moral course of action. The paper’s basic approach has been quite the rage over the past decade: experimental philosophers present vignettes to survey respondents and analyze how they respond to the vignettes. When surveying subjects about whether they think a particular action that legal regimes might permit, mandate, or proscribe is morally acceptable or desirable, authors typically advance two sorts of claims that the work they are doing is relevant to policymakers.

 

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