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

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Instructor: Eric Sampson. This course meets TR 8:00 – 9:15 a.m. in CW 105.

“War is hell”, William Tecumseh Sherman famously said. Many acquainted with war enthusiastically agree. After all, war often involves the shooting, burning, maiming, imprisoning, and perhaps torturing of thousands, even millions, of people on either side. This course considers a range of ethical questions associated with war and armed conflict. Among them are these: If war is hell, is it ever morally OK to go to war? If so, under what conditions? Once we’re in a war, are there any techniques that are morally off limits (e.g., torturing prisoners to extract crucial information, bombing civilians to compel governments to surrender, using drones to assassinate terrorists without a trial, starving the enemy by siege)? If one side is using child soldiers, should the other side fight back? What (if anything) is owed to war refugees, and who is responsible for providing it? Should we intervene to protect citizens of other countries whose governments are killing them, or is that none of our business? Finally, does morality even apply in wartime, or is the old saying correct that “All’s fair in love and war”?