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

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Instructor: Douglas MacLean. This course meets MW 9:05 – 9:55 a.m. in GS G200, 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 individuals and societies can sink and the extraordinary nobility and courage of which individuals and societies, at their best, are capable.

This course examines the ethical issues related to waging war and securing peace.  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 all wars and the deliberate killing of any human being; 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 how wars may be conducted.  Because just war theory is the background for applying moral standards to the conduct of war, we will devote much attention to the details of this doctrine.  But we will also examine features of contemporary military conflicts that challenge the assumptions or require the extension of just war doctrines to our contemporary world.  These include: terrorism, torture, the use of drones, restoring peace, and ethical issues relating to the social and psychological effects of war.