In spite of Plato's efforts in The Republic to show that philosophers are the best people to lead society, philosophy is often seen as an idle ‘armchair' subject. Philosophers make this worse, when they avoid ethical issues and argue that their job is to analyse, not judge or act.
In this philosophical environment, CEP has been set up to be a concrete reminder of how philosophy can help. Philosophy is ethical when it thinks in order to ameliorate harm. Philosophers are ethical when they use their skills to ameliorate harm.
Philosophy is ethical when, before asking like a perpetrator ‘may I do this?' or a bystander ‘how should I judge this?', it asks ‘what do the victims need?'.
Moral philosophy has tended to be biased towards perpetrator and bystander perspectives. With contentious harms like the micro-aggressions of discrimination, perpetrators are seen as normal, their motives understood and accepted. One effect is that the issues are unthinkingly thought from their point of view. At CEP we will explore and criticise the perpetrator perspective, informed by victims' experience and understanding.
With severe blatant harms like torture, identification with perpetrators is less evident. But the bystander position of ‘going along' with evil is common, and arguably even more of a threat to civilised society. The Milgram experiments, in which participants obeyed instructions to administer electric shocks to others, and the Stanford experiments in which students role-playing as prison guards became so sadistic the experiment had to be stopped, both show how naturally bystanding comes to us. CEP will explore and criticise the bystander perspective, informed by victims' experience and understanding.