PHIL/POLI/PWAD 272.002 – The Ethics of Peace, War, and Defense

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Instructor: Samantha Wakil. This course meets MWF 8:00 – 8:50 a.m. in CW 105.

Course Description and Goals:

This is an introductory course in the ethics of peace, war, and defense. It presupposes no prior background in the subject matter or philosophy more generally. Some questions and topics that we will address include:

(1) Is going to war ever morally justified? If so, under what conditions?
(2) Are there moral rules when engaged in war or does anything go?
(3) Self-defense and patriotism.
(4) Nuclear warfare, drones, and other technology.
(5) Terrorism and torture.
(6) What, exactly, is peace? Is it merely the absence of war?
(7) What would a peaceful-society look like?
(8) Are peace and violence mutually exclusive?
(9) Cooperation and coevolution.
(10) Obstacles to peace — and reasons to be hopeful?

Assignments will include 2 papers, 3 pop quizzes, and several homework assignments. No tests or student presentations will be required.

Approach to the course and a warning:

1. The approach: I’m an ardent supporter of interdisciplinary work. As such, this course will draw heavily on research outside of philosophy (think evolutionary biology, political science, history, economics, and psychology.) Throughout the course we will be investigating what, if any, implications research in these other disciplines have for our philosophizing about the ethics of peace and war. Remember what Darwin said: “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

2. The warning: This course is text-centered and will require weekly readings (2-3 per week) that you are expected to complete before class. The topics we’ll be wrestling with are complex and very challenging. You will not do well unless you attend class and keep up with the readings. Like smoking and cancer, your performance and your effort (attendance, participation, reading comprehension, etc.) are highly positively correlated.