A portrait of Samuel Moyn

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On Thursday, April 11, 2019, Whitman College welcomes distinguished historian Samuel Moyn as the visiting speaker for the 53rd Sivert O. and Marjorie Allen Skotheim Lecture in History.

Moyn is the 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).

He is currently working on a new book about the origins and significance of humane war. Moyn said the topic of humane war is an attempted departure from his previous study on human rights, although he found the endeavor difficult, if not impossible.

"Human rights turn out to be something it is very hard to leave behind, since some of the most interesting proposals about the future humanization of warfare concern the protection of human rights - including the human rights of combatants," Moyn said.

During the lecture, Moyn will discuss America's war on terror since Sept. 11, 2001 - the "forever war" - and explore ideas around civilian casualties and violence.

"Most people think what is wrong with America's war on terror since 9/11 - if anything is - concerns the violence it has involved, including torture in the early days and widespread attention to civilian casualties since," Moyn said. "I will try to ask during the lecture if this is the right emphasis, especially if it could function to make war more entrenched or harder to end."

Human rights, social justice and equity is a continued area of focus for students at Whitman College. Moyn shared a few thoughts about the topic and what he has learned in a decade of study:

"As one philosopher said, ‘justice is conflict,' so you can't say you are for it without being open to ongoing argument about what it demands, including hard choices among multiple goods in contention. In my own work, I have emphasized that our culture of pursuing human rights has gone along with, and risen during, the same years that the gap between rich and poor within many nations has exploded. What does that tell us about our priorities?

"I think there is always room to ask whether students ought to view their colleges and universities as staging grounds for pursuing social justice — if that means leaving aside schooling in the consuming debates about what big choices there are when it comes to ‘saving the world.'"

Moyn's lecture, titled "Humane: Rethinking the Forever War," is 7-9 p.m. Thursday, April 11, 2019, in the Maxey Auditorium.

The Skotheim Lectureship was established in 1978 by then-president Robert Allen Skotheim and his wife, Nadine. Income from the Sivert O. and Marjorie Allen Skotheim Endowment for Historical Studies provides funds to be used annually to bring a distinguished lecturer to Whitman College.