Violence and the Scientific Vocation

Theory, Culture and Society 21 (3):59-84 (2004)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This article examines the implications for the notion of scientific vocation of the modern intersection between science and violence, realized most powerfully in the atomic bomb. Tracing the career and political trajectory of atomic physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and drawing on the theories of Max Weber, Julien Benda and Michel Foucault, the article addresses ethical ambiguities and tensions in the modern scientific vocation. I argue that Oppenheimer’s moral and political struggles in relation to nuclear weapons were attempts to come to terms with the collapse of legitimacy of the role of ‘universal intellectual’ and with the limitations of the more contemporary role of ‘specific intellectual’. Oppenheimer was faced with the problem of handling the relationship between scientific expertise and moral and political responsibility. His struggles demonstrate the continuing relevance of Weber’s conception of political responsibility for conceptualizing the ethical dilemmas inherent in the modern relationship between science, the state and violence.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 74,466

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The Priestly Vocation.Thomas B. Dozeman - 2005 - Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 59 (2):117-128.
Vocation.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1987 - Faith and Philosophy 4 (4):448-462.
Experimental Wounds: Science and Violence in Mid-Century America.Susan Lindee - 2011 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 39 (1):8-20.
Violence and the Subject.Michel Wieviorka - 2003 - Thesis Eleven 73 (1):42-50.
A Western Perspective on the Problem of Violence.Robert L. Holmes - 2001 - The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 11:193-205.
Deciding on Violence.Bevan Catley & Campbell Jones - 2002 - Philosophy of Management 2 (1):25-34.
The Teacher’s Vocation: Ontology of Response.Ann Game & Andrew Metcalfe - 2008 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 27 (6):461-473.


Added to PP

14 (#725,419)

6 months
1 (#417,474)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?