PHIL/POLI/PWAD 272.001 – The Ethics of Peace, War, and Defense

Text:
Increase font size
Decrease font size

Instructor: Douglas MacLean. This course meets MW 9:05 – 9:55 a.m. in AR 121 with a recitation on Fridays.

Humans are social animals, and warfare has been a feature of human societies throughout history.  Wars exhibit both the depravity to which humans and societies can sink and extraordinary nobility and courage of which humans and societies, at their best, are capable.  This course examines the ethical issues related to war.  We will begin with a brief examination of the attitudes toward war in the history of Western civilization.  We will discuss: realism, the view that it is inappropriate to apply moral standards to the conduct of war; pacifism, the view that morality prohibits war and military violence; and just war theory, the view that war is sometimes morally permissible or even morally obligatory and that moral standards apply to decisions to go to war as well as to wars are to be conducted.  Because just war theory is the background for applying moral standards to the conduct of war, we will devote much of the semester to an examination of the details of this doctrine.  Later in the semester, we will examine features of contemporary military conflicts that challenge or require the extension of just war doctrines to current issues.  These include: terrorism, torture, the use of drones, restoring peace, and ethical issues relating to the social and psychological effects of war.