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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Patrick T. Smith
PHIL 241
Seattle Campus

Topics in Ethics

Introduction to ethics through in-depth study of one or more selected topics (e.g., limits of moral community, animal rights, moral education, and freedom). Topics vary.

Class description

The Just War Tradition has long been the dominant application of ethical theorizing to warfare. This tradition lays out moral principles that answer the following questions: when should one go to war, how should one behave when fighting a war, and how should one make peace? Yet, while this tradition has become deeply embedded in both international law and military practice, it has increasingly come under criticism that it is outdated and unresponsive to new forms of military conflict. According to critics, just war theory is obsolete in a world where states usually do not fight states. We now live in a world of insurgencies, counterinsurgencies, private militaries, drones, lawfare, humanitarian intervention, and transnational terrorism. The purpose of this class is to evaluate the extent to which these forms of military conflict put pressure on us to revise, or even reject completely, the just war tradition. In the process, we will discuss the moral issues surrounding recent military events: the NATO intervention in Libya, the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, and the targeted killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen. We will also explore less mainstream views of morality of warfare, including realism and pacifism. The educational objectives of this class are: 1) To provide students with sufficient vocabulary and background knowledge such that they can competently follow discussions of military action and military ethics in the popular media 2) To familiarize students with classical just war theory, as well as recent theoretical criticisms of that tradition 3) To enable student to apply both the theory and to assess the criticisms in light of both historical and contemporary examples of warfare 4) To assist in the development of students reasoning and writing abilities such that they will be able to write a thesis-driven, argumentative paper about ethics in warfare TEXT: Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer, as well as required readings available electronically.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Annette R. Bernier
Date: 04/27/2012