Panel Explores the Moral and Ethical Aspects of the Refugee Crisis, the Dehumanization of Refugees, and the Role of Propaganda

The large turnout at the public panel on "Philosophy, the refugee crisis, and how to help in Hungary," hosted by CEU’s Department of Philosophy on September 22, indicated a keen interest across CEU in helping refugees and migrants, as well as in philosophical analysis of political debates about migration policy.

In his opening remarks Professor Hanoch Ben-Yami, head of the Department of Philosophy at CEU, refuted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's claim that the refugee crisis has led to an "identity crisis" of liberalism, and argued that Orban's policies or rhetoric have nothing to do with Christian morality, political or other.

Professior Katalin Farkas informed the audience about some of the activities of the CEU community in organizing aid for refugees, and the change in circumstances after the completion of the fence on Hungary's border with Serbia.

Zoltan Miklosi, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, rejected the alleged "identity crisis" of liberalism, and argued that although territorial rights of states are grounded in individual rights to live autonomously, this cannot give states the right to dictate the composition of residents within their borders by excluding refugees, particularly when the latter would be unable to live autonomously themselves due to the persecution or failings of their own governments.

Our duties to migrants stem from justice, and justice requires the community of states to respond, said Janos Kis, university professor in the Department of Philosophy. Ethicist Simon Rippon, assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, analyzed the ways in which propaganda has influenced the public debate, and raised the question whether there can be such a thing as good propaganda.

Maria Kronfeldner, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, described how we dehumanize refugees, and noted the important roles that volunteers, protesters, rational reflection and research on implicit attitudes play in not only helping but humanizing refugees.
The Department's work on these issues is set to continue, including hosting an international conference on dehumanization in April 2016.