Henrik Syse

Research Professor. Editor, Journal of Military Ethics

Henrik Syse
Email: syse@prio.org
Work phone: 22 54 77 13
Mobile phone: 930 62 567
Twitter: @Henrik_Syse

Research Interests

Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) since 1997, Former Head of Corporate Governance (2005-07) at Norges Bank Investment Management. He is Chief Editor of the Journal of Military Ethics and part-time Associate Professor at the Norwegian Defence University College. He has previously been a Fulbright fellow at Boston College, USA (1989-91), a Norwegian Research Council fellow at the University of Oslo (1992-97), a journal editor for the Norwegian political journal Tidens Tegn (1998-2000), member of the secretariat of the Norwegian Government Commission on Human Values (1998-2001), and a post-doc. fellow at the Ethics Program, the University of Oslo (2002-05). He has lectured and published widely on problems within moral philosophy, political philosophy, and the ethics of warfare. He has published a book on just war in Norwegian (Rettferdig krig; Aschehoug, 2003), and he has recently published Natural Law, Religion, and Rights (St. Augustine’s Press, 2007), based on his doctoral dissertation, and a Norwegian monograph on the virtue of moderation (Måtehold; Cappelen Damm, 2009). He is the co-editor, with Gregory Reichberg and Endre Begby, of The Ethics of War: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Blackwell, 2006), and, with Gregory Reichberg, of Ethics, Nationalism, and Just War (Catholic University of America Press, 2007).

At PRIO he works on the ethics of war, historically and systematically, as well as on the relationship between religion and the use of armed force. He is also a lecturer at Bjørknes College, contributing to the Master's degree program jointly undertaken by PRIO, Bjørknes, and the Australian National University.


​​​​​​Languages spoken:
Norwegian, English, German

Working experience:
Head of Corporate Governance, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), 2005 - 2007
Post-doc Research Fellow, University of Oslo, 2002 - 2005.Part-time Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, 2001-2003
Member of the Secretariat of the Norwegian Government Commission on Human Values 1998-2001.
Chief editor of political journal 'Tidens Tegn' 1998-2000. Senior researcher at PRIO since 1997.
Programme leader for the PRIO research program 'Ethics, Norms, and Identities' 1998-2002.

Dr.Art. (equiv. to PhD), University of Oslo, 1997;
Master of Arts, Boston College, 1991;
Cand.Mag. (equiv. to B.A.), University of Oslo, 1989. Fulbright scholar 1989-1991.
Doctoral student under the Ethics Program of the Norwegian Research Council 1992-1996.


PRIO started tracking events online in 2007. This listing is not complete. Past events may be mentioned in our news archive.

All Publications

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Cook, Martin L. & Henrik Syse (2016) Editors' Introduction, Journal of Military Ethics 15(2): 79–80.
Lysaker, Odin & Henrik Syse (2016) The Dignity in Free Speech: Civility Norms in Post-Terror Societies, Nordic Journal of Human Rights 34(2): 104–123.
Syse, Henrik & Odin Lysaker (2015) Å tolerere satire: ytringsfrihetens moralske ansvar [To tolerate satire: freedom of expression's moral responsibility], Sosiologi I Dag 45(4): 38–66.
Reichberg, Gregory M.; Henrik Syse & Endre Begby (2012) The Ethics of War. Part I: Historical Trends, Philosophy Compass 7(5): 316–327.
Begby, Endre; Gregory M. Reichberg & Henrik Syse (2012) The Ethics of War. Part II: Contemporary Authors and Issues, Philosophy Compass 7(5): 328–347.
Syse, Henrik (2012) Rettferdig krig, «polyfoni» og internasjonale operasjoner, Pacem: militært tidsskrift for etisk og teologisk refleksjon 15(1): 21–28.
Syse, Henrik (2010) The Platonic Roots of Just War Doctrine: a Reading of Plato’s Republic , Diametros 7(23): 104–123.
Syse, Henrik (2009) Religious Ethics, Christianity, and War, Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics -- Etikk I Praksis 3(1): 49–58.
Syse, Henrik; & Reichberg, Gregory M. (2000) Protecting the Natural Environment in Wartime: Ethical Considerations from the Just War Tradition , Journal of Peace Research 37(4): 449–468.

Book Chapter

Syse, Henrik (2015) Menneskelivet, in Sigbjørn Ravnåsen, ed., Ånd Og Hånd: Hans Nielsen Hauges Etikk For Liv Og Virke. Oslo: Luther Forlag .
Lidén, Kristoffer & Henrik Syse (2015) The Politics of Peace and Law: Realism, Internationalism and the Cosmopolitan Challenge, in Larsen, Kjetil M. ; & Cecilia Bailliet, eds, Promoting Peace Through International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press (21–42).
Syse, Henrik (2013) Thomas Aquinas – kristentro og fornuft i det politiske samfunn, in Jørgen Pedersen, ed., Politisk Filosofi: Fra Platon Til Hannah Arendt. Oslo: Pax Forlag (179–204).
Syse, Henrik(2012) Why Responsible Investment?, in Alm, Kristian, ed., Responsible Investment In Times of Turmoil. : Springer(211–219).
Syse, Henrik & Helene Christiansen Ingierd (2011) The Moral Responsibility of Shareholders: A Conceptual Map, in Human Rights, Corporate Complicity, and Disinvestment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press (156–182).
Syse, Henrik(2011) Forvaltning over generasjonene -- hva sier etikken? [Caretaking over Generations -- What Does Ethics Say] Finansråd I Utfordrende Tider – Om Forvaltning Og Økonomisk Politikk. Festskrift Til Tore Eriksen. : Finansdepartementet(74–80).
Syse, Henrik; & Richardsen, Tor(2011) Human Beings in the "Metaxy": Dilemmas and Extremes in Henrik Ibsen Voegelinian Readings of Modern Literature. : University of Missouri Press(30–44).
Syse, Henrik(2010) Et etisk perspektiv på mangfold -- refleksjoner om mangfold i Forsvaret [An Ethical Perspective on Plurality -- Reflections on Plurality in the Armed Forces] Uniformitet Og Mangfold. : (313–327).
Syse, Henrik(2010) Forord [Foreword] Marked Og Moral. : (1–6).
Syse, Henrik(2010) Frihet under ansvar [Freedom Under Responsibility] Georgs Bok -- Festskrift Til Georg Apenes. : (45–50).
Syse, Henrik(2009) Forord [Preface] Filosofi For Vår Tid. : (6).
Syse, Henrik (2008) Krigens etikk - bare for menn? [Ethics of War - for Men Only?], in Skjeie, Hege; Inger Skjelsbæk; & Torunn L. Tryggestad, eds, Kjønn, Krig, Konflikt. Oslo: PAX (92–102).
Syse, Henrik (2008) Legitimitet og allianser [Legitimacy and Alliances], in Selvstendig Og Beskyttet - Det Stormaktsgaranterte Norge Fra Krimkrigen Til NATO. (152–161).
Syse, Henrik(2008) Investments, Universal Ownership, and Public Health International Public Health Policy and Ethics. : (175–190).
Syse, Henrik(2008) Investments, Universal Ownership, and Public Health International Public Health Policy and Ethics. : (175–190).
Syse, Henrik (2008) Konservatismen [Conservatism], in Amerikansk Politikk. (265–285).
Reichberg, Gregory M. & Henrik Syse (2004) The Idea of Double Effect – in War and in Business, in Responsibility In World Business: Managing Harmful Side-Effects of Corporate Activity. Tokyo: United Nations University Press (17–38).
Syse, Henrik (2002) Ethics – Seasoning or Ingredient?, in Corporate Communication – a Strategic Approach to Building Reputation. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk (265–276).
Syse, Henrik & Gregory M. Reichberg (1999) Conducting Business Amidst Human Rights Abuses: Some Lessons from the Just War Tradition, in Proceedings of the Tenth Annual Meeting of the International Association For Business and Society. London: SAGE (71–76).

Edited Volume

Reichberg, Gregory M.; & Henrik Syse, eds, (2014) Religion, War, and Ethics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Syse, Henrik; & Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, eds, (2011) Konservatisme [Conservatism]. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. Civita.
Syse, Henrik; & Gregory M. Reichberg, eds, (2007) Ethics, Nationalism, and Just War: Medieval and Contemporary Perspectives. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.
Reichberg, Gregory M.; Henrik Syse; & Endre Begby, eds, (2006) The Ethics of War: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Oxford.

Non-refereed Journal Article

Syse, Henrik (2010) Vår toleranse for krig [Our Tolerance for War] , Minerva 86(2): 40–44.
Syse, Henrik (2009) Finnes det et samfunn? [Is There Such a Thing As "Society"?] , Minerva 85(2): 56–61.
Syse, Henrik (2009) Om å holde ord -- noen filosofiske refleksjoner [Keeping Word -- Some Philosophical Reflections] , Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift 26(1): 60–63.

Popular Article

Syse, Henrik (2015) Fire år etter terroren: De viktige debattene [Four years after the terror: The important debates], VG, 22.07.2015.
Syse, Henrik & Odin Lysaker (2014) Slik får vi en anstendig debatt, Aftenposten, 22. September.
Lysaker, Odin & Henrik Syse (2013) Etikk og ytringsfrihet: Side om side, Aftenposten (Morgenutg. : Trykt Utg.).
Lysaker, Odin & Henrik Syse (2013) Ingen ytringsfrihet uten etikk, Aftenposten (Morgenutg. : Trykt Utg.).
Lysaker, Odin & Henrik Syse (2013) Ingen ytringsfrihet uten etikk [No freedom of speech without ethics], Aftenposten, 29 Mai.
Syse, Henrik; & Fasting, Mathilde (2010) Markedets behov for moral [The Market's Need for Morality], Dagens Næringsliv, 15 March.
Syse, Henrik (2009) Krig kan forsvares [War Can Be Legitimate], Aftenposten, 16 December.
Syse, Henrik & Ingeborg Mongstad-Kvammen (2009) Krigsetikk og "snille våpen" [The Ethics of War and "Good Weapons"], Dagsavisen, 19 November.
Syse, Henrik (2009) En dyd av nødvendighet [The Virtue of Moderation: A Virtual Necessity], Dagbladet, 11 May.
Syse, Henrik (2008) Noen må gjøre noe... [Someone must do something...], Dagens Næringsliv, 25 July.
Syse, Henrik (2008) Etikk og butikk [Ethics and business], Dagens Næringsliv, 15 July.

Conference Paper

Syse, Henrik 2009 Memory and Conflict, presented at Northeastern Political Science Association (NPSA) Annual Meeting, , 19–21 November.
Syse, Henrik 2009 What is Philosophy -- Reflections on Plato and the Strauss-Voegelin Impasse, presented at American Political Science Associaton (APSA) Annual Meeting, , 3–6 September.
Syse, Henrik 2009 The Just War Tradition -- An Ethics of Virtue, Duty, or Casuistry?, presented at Just War in the Catholic Tradition, , 25–27 June.

Blog Posts

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

Posted by Henrik Syse on Thursday, 26 January 2017

Many people are afraid of what faces us with Donald Trump as president. Nonetheless, I recommend keeping a cool head. My area of research should be useful for analyzing and understanding politics, namely political philosophy. This is the branch of philosophy that investigates political ideas and attempts to put them in context. The political philosopher asks questions such as the following, related to our communal life: Where are we going and where do we come from? What is most important? What are the boundaries of politics? What is the role of laws and of the state? What is the value ...

A Word of Warning ahead of 2017

Posted by Henrik Syse on Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Decency, humility, and thoughtfulness are core virtues in a civilized society. Now we need to fight for them. «Political correctness» can be a sinister labeling for common decency «Political correctness» can be a sinister labeling for common decency. A wish to preserve dignity and openness, and to avoid willfully disrespecting others’ beliefs or characteristics, should after all be a natural part of all public communication. In 2016, values such as these are under attack in a way they have not been for a long time. In social media, defense of respect and tolerance is increasingly being labeled as a sign that ...

Moral Readiness – Do We Speak too Little About it?

Posted by Henrik Syse on Friday, 22 July 2016

Five years have passed since the shocking events of 22 July 2011. We still notice how these events have taken hold of us. We notice it all the more when similar terrorist attacks take place elsewhere in the world: in Istanbul, Dallas or Nice. We shed tears in sympathy with the victims. And of course we fear for our own safety. One of the most important debates that follows in the wake of terrorism is the debate about readiness and security. The newspaper Dagbladet deserves credit for its active coverage of Norway’s state of readiness. What have we learnt? What has ...

Receding into the Background?

Posted by Henrik Syse on Wednesday, 20 July 2016

As 22 July 2011 becomes a more distant memory, we are overwhelmed with massacres and terrorist attacks in other parts of the world, including fierce attacks in Turkey, France, and the United States. At the time of writing, the terrorist attack in Nice, France, is the most recent. Many of these attacks seem to be masterminded by the terrorist group ISIS, reflecting an extreme Islamist ideology and a wish to spread fear and terror in as many communities as possible. What does this do to our memory of 22 July? There are at least three possible paths that our thinking ...

How Much Should we Tolerate?

Posted by Henrik Syse on Friday, 27 November 2015

In his New Year’s Eve speech last year, King Harald used the expression “We should say kind words”. Some weeks later, many of us were saying “Je suis Charlie”, expressing solidarity with a periodical that published satire that many people certainly found was not kind at all. Can we reconcile these sentiments? Yes, I believe so. Where we stand in the debate about freedom of expression and the responsibility that comes with that freedom will often depend upon which side of the debate we are arguing from. A person who is fearful that freedom of expression is under attack in ...

We are being Put to the Test

Posted by Henrik Syse on Wednesday, 9 September 2015

We must both take in refugees and preserve our culture and way of living. A flood of migrants is coming to Europe. They are fleeing chaos and war. They are from all levels of society. The vast majority would have remained in their homelands if they had been able. But as a result of violence, political ineptitude and ideological tugs-of-war, combined with Western policy that has basically been a failure, the situation has become hopeless. They see no other option than to flee. Our openness and generosity are being put to the test. Turning our backs or making unrealistic assertions ...

The Important Debates – Four Years Later

Posted by Henrik Syse on Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Four years have passed since the biggest terror attacks on Norwegian soil during peacetime. Once again we are solemnly commemorating the dead and expressing our solidarity. The debate about the potential uses of the actual sites that were affected is also very much alive and continuing. But are there other debates that we also need to have? Our research for the NECORE project focuses on discourses, negotiations, identity and resilience in Norwegian society after the terror attacks of 22 July 2011. In our research, we consider among other things the four important debates described below – and different ways of ...

The Hitler Analogy

Posted by Henrik Syse on Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Hitler analogy – also known as the Munich analogy – is deployed frequently in political debate. In Munich in 1938, the British prime minister made the historic error of failing to comprehend the extent of the evil represented by Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain signed a peace agreement with Hitler that Hitler never honoured and that gave Hitler reason to believe that he would not encounter resistance. As Winston Churchill famously said, “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war.” The point of the Hitler analogy is thus that we must not ...

After Charlie Hebdo: We Must Never Cease to Protect the Rights of People who Provoke and Challenge

Posted by Henrik Syse on Thursday, 15 January 2015

Why do satirists and critics of religion have to be so provocative? Why must they publish images that they know to be offensive to some people’s beliefs and traditions – and that brutal extremists may use as a pretext for terrorist acts? That such questions are asked is understandable. But for many reasons they must be answered with a solid defence of the freedom of expression. In the wake of the terrorist acts in Paris, let us take a moment to remind ourselves of some of the most important reasons why this is so: The backbone of a free society ...

"Double Effect" in Gaza

Posted by Henrik Syse on Thursday, 21 August 2014

Recent weeks have shown us – yet again – how complex and terrible war is. We can all agree that terrorism and brutal fanaticism must be met with robust responses. But it is easy to say that one must do “something” (not to mention that one must do “more”). When we have to specify what that “something” or “more” should be, things immediately become more difficult. Thinkers concerned with the “just war” doctrine have made many attempts to structure this debate, as it relates to use of armed force, and put it on a sound ethical footing. When considering the ...

Has Much Time Gone By?

Posted by Henrik Syse on Friday, 27 June 2014

One of the most famous anecdotes about the passing of time is from the early 1970s, when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was asked what he thought about the French Revolution, to which he replied: ‘It is too early to say’. The fact that the interpreter has later pointed out that Zhou probably thought the question was about the student revolt of just a few years earlier (which in China was talked about as ‘the Revolution in France’) should not blind us to the underlying quandary with which the story presents us: When is it possible, from a historical, sociological, or ...

The Ethics in Free Speech

Posted by Henrik Syse & Odin Lysaker on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

”This is moralism‘, we were told after having published an op-ed in one of the largest Norwegian newspapers, Aftenposten, in June 2013. This reaction made us even more curious about whether ethics is of any relevance to citizens’ freedom of expression. In our view, the critique is due to the confusion between what is normally understood as the ‘ethical’ and the ‘moral’. If so addressed, our claim is that the practice of the Norwegian free speech law should be supplemented by ethics, which we take to be rather the opposite of ‘moralism’. Nevertheless, in order to find out more about ...

Leading the Charge Against Injustice

Posted by Henrik Syse on Thursday, 29 September 2011

Abraham Lincoln once said: ‘It is hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.’ It takes belief and faith, it takes self-confidence and persistence, to lead a cavalry charge against injustice – and John Lewis has displayed all of those qualities. He has led many charges. I have for a long time been intensely interested in American politics, the civil rights struggle, and the rise of an incredibly strong field of African-American politicians and activists – from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Jesse Jackson, Jr.; from Andrew Young to Barack Obama to, indeed, ...

Related pages