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The University of Southampton
PhilosophyPart of Humanities

The 7th Annual Ethical Challenges Lecture Event

Helen Frowe
18:00 - 19:00
8 February 2018
Avenue Campus, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this event, please email Tracy Storey at .

Event details

This event is part of the Faculty of Humanities annual series of lectures.

‘No Harm in Looking? How Observation Can Connect us to Other People’s Wrongdoing’ 

The internet, along with the development of mobile phone technology, has made the observation of others both easy and widespread. Much of this observation is benign, such as the consensual sharing of videos and photographs between friends. But some of it is malicious. Whilst viewing depictions of some types of wrongdoing, such as images of child abuse, is widely condemned and criminal, these reactions and sanctions have not extended to viewing other types of wrongdoing. For example, many people will have viewed terrorist propaganda videos of beheadings without attracting moral criticism, and typically without incurring legal sanctions, even though these videos depict serious moral wrongdoing. Some images and recordings do not depict wrongdoing, but rather are wrongfully obtained or shared, such as those uploaded onto so-called ‘revenge porn’ websites. Recent studies suggest that six percent of internet-active American women between the ages of 18 – 29 have been victims of revenge porn. If these figures are anything like representative, they suggest that there are millions of victims of these wrongs. But whilst it is uncontroversial that someone acts wrongly in posting such images, little has been said about the moral status of someone who views (but does not upload or circulate) those images. This widespread silence suggests that many people do not consider looking at these images to be wrong, or at least not seriously wrong. In this talk, I will argue that this is a mistake. Voluntary observation of another’s wrongdoing, or voluntary observation that enables another’s wrongdoing, can normatively connect the observer to that primary wrong. Observers can thus render themselves liable to ex ante and ex post costs imposed for the sake of the victim of the primary wrong. (Co-authored with Jonathan Parry.)


The Ethical Challenges Lecture is organised in collaboration with the Southampton Ethics Centre and with the support of The Royal Institute of Philosophy.

Event information

RSVP by Monday 5 February 2018.  The event is free however you must register to attend and receive joining instructions.

Speaker Information

Helen Frowe is Professor of Practical Philosophy and Wallenberg Academy Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Stockholm University, where she is also the Director of the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace.

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