PHIL/POLI/PWAD 272.003 – The Ethics of Peace, War, and Defense

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Instructor: Alex Marcoci. This course meets MWF 2:40 – 3:30 p.m. via remote only instruction.

Can it ever be right to engage in war? Those who care about international relations must grapple with this question, which is focused on our hopes for peace, our reasons to take up arms, our responsibilities to our citizens and soldiers, and the harms that might befall the innocent in a conflict. In this course, students will engage with such ethical issues surrounding peace, war, and defense. After a brief survey of the classics in realism and just war theory, students will focus on the following question as a guide to their discussions: Can a liberal state ever trade the freedom of its citizens for their security? In discussing this question, they will engage with contemporary national security policy debates by analysing the normative questions about morality and justice underlying them. Students will debate the moral distinctiveness of terrorism and the principles governing a state’s response to it; they will engage with key issues such as the morality of torture, mass surveillance, whistleblowing, hate speech, civil disobedience, the right to privacy, and racial profiling; and they will come to understand how different kinds of war practices and war itself are used to create, maintain, and change social, economic, and political inequalities. By the end of the course students will attain a clear grasp of key philosophical considerations related to how liberal states can respond to threats to their security and learn how to analyse national security debates.