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Response to ‘On Complicity and Compromise’ by Chiara Lepora and Robert Goodin
  1. Philippe Calain
  1. Correspondence to Dr Philippe Calain, Research Unit on Humanitarian Stakes and Practices (UREPH), Médecins Sans Frontières, Rue de Lausanne 78, 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland; philippe.calain{at}

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Chiara Lepora and Robert Goodin invite us to join their insightful ‘conversation’ on complicity and compromise. Their book makes a dense, utterly precise and rewarding reading, as one proceeds stepwise through the logic of their philosophical arguments. For those unfamiliar with the relatively new discipline of ‘humanitarian ethics’, it might be disconcerting at first to see humanitarian actions brought to illustrate theories on complicity, with the Rwandan refugees crisis of 1994 and the tortured patient taken as two exemplary cases. Actually, this connects with an increasing body of research and reflexions, showing that humanitarian workers face frequent ethical challenges, some of them amounting to a distressful sense of complicity.

Lepora and Goodin carefully elaborate on definitions, arguing that complicity stricto sensu implies both causality with morally wrong actions and knowledge thereof. Nothing else. Perhaps controversially but in any case convincingly, in their strict definition of complicity they leave out of account a ‘shared …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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