SUNY Oswego to host 'Experience of War' discussions


March 13, 2017

OSWEGO -- College and community members are invited to hear from a series of speakers through SUNY Oswego in "The Experience of War: Moral Transformation, Injury and Repair."

The next installment, "The Good Life Before and After War," will feature a Skype discussion with author Nancy Sherman from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, hosted locally in Room 223 of Marano Campus Center. The session will feature a discussion of Sherman's book "Afterwar" and of Aristotle's "Ethics." Subsequent sessions April 25 and May 2 will continue the series.

A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities supports the series hosted by the City University of New York's Hunter College in New York City. While the broadcasts in the series will originate at Roosevelt House, Mark Zelcer of SUNY Oswego's philosophy department will coordinate interactions and questions locally via Skype.

"A year or so ago I heard that a philosopher, Christa Acampora, of Hunter College, CUNY, got an NEH Grant to study war and moral injury," Zelcer explained. "As a veteran and philosopher who has written on military ethics, I emailed and offered any assistance I could provide with the project. I ended up participating in the project, which involved training a diverse group of academics and university professionals to lead discussion groups about classical and contemporary humanities texts relating to war and moral injury."

Zelcer said this series provides an opportunity to try to help veterans and the public understand the complicated issue of moral injuries.

"Moral injury is still a somewhat nebulous concept, but philosophers and psychologists are just getting a grip on what it is," he said. "It is surprisingly able to explain the mental condition of many returning soldiers who do not have PTSD but feel that there is nonetheless something amiss. It is something that accompanies soldiers who may have participated in, witnessed, or failed to be able to prevent something they consider bad."

Speaker schedule

The series began last month with authors Jonathan Shay and David Wood offering "a fantastic panel discussion, which we watched in Park Hall," Zelcer said. "We expect that the next three talks will be great as well."

On March 28, Sherman will discuss her book and her ongoing work to address the nearly 2.6 million soldiers returning home from wars. She employs in-depth interviews with servicemen and women to explore the moral and psychological aftermath.

On April 25, "Morality in Relief" will feature Phil Klay discussing his book "Redeployment," a National Book Award-winning collection of short stories about returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The event will simulcast from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Room 211 of Marano Campus Center.

Another 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. session in Room 211 of Marano Campus Center will take place May 2, as "Moral Transformation and War" features a discussion by neuroscientist and philosopher Jesse Prinz and psychologist Brett Litz on their published articles on moral emotions, as well as conversation on Friedrich Nietzsche's "Genealogy of Morals."

"Those watching can expect to come out appreciating that the humanities can teach us much about the experience of war and also learn what moral injury is and how it is reflected in both literature and the lives of real people," Zelcer said. "The speakers are all interesting and well-respected in their respective fields. It is great hearing them speak so passionately about something so important to the veteran community, to psychologists who work with veterans and to philosophers who are concerned to make sense of the nature of war's ethics."

Free copies of the book are available through Zelcer. For questions or copies of the books, email

For more information about  "The Experience of War: Moral Transformation, Injury and Repair," visit