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.
Norwegian, English, German
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.
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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, ...
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 ...
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 ...