Postgraduate Course: War and Morality (PLIT11011)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||The course addresses the following kinds of critical question. Under what conditions, if any, is a country morally entitled to go to war? Only to defend itself against aggression by others, or to further some of the legitimate goals of a nationally self-determining country? Is humanitarian intervention merely permissible or, in some cases, mandatory as well?
Under what conditions, if any, is a country morally entitled to go to war? Only to defend itself against aggression by others, or to further some of the legitimate goals of a nationally self-determining country? Is humanitarian intervention merely permissible or, in some cases, mandatory as well? Once a country is engaged in a just war, can its leaders do whatever it takes to shorten the war, or are they constrained by moral rules, most notably pertaining to the killing of civilians? If it is sometimes permissible to kill civilians, is it permissible to do so however one wishes, or is the use of certain kinds of weapons, i.e. weapons of mass destruction, morally ruled out? Is it indeed the case that there can be no possible justification for terrorism? Finally, once the war is over, how should the parties behave towards each other? We constantly have to reflect upon these questions: as citizens of countries which are engaged in wars we deem just, and as witnesses of wars waged by other countries. This course will enable students to examine them from the standpoint of moral and political philosophy.
The following outline summarizes the themes covered by the course. The precise order of weekly topics might change from year to year, so please check the course handbook for the correct and up-to-date information.
Theme 1: Introduction
This session will introduce students to the main themes of the course. We will also cover formal aspects regarding successful course completion and substantive introductory ideas that will run through the semester.
Theme 2: A Short History of Just War Theory
In this session we will rehearse the history of Just War theory, from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century. We shall look in particular at the changes Just War theory went through during the early modern period.
Theme 3: Pacifism
Is pacifism a tenable position? If not, why not? How can pacifists conclude that non-violent resistance is preferable to war and organised, collective violence? This session deals with the complex histories, ideologies and philosophies of non-violence and pacifism.
Theme 4: A Feminist Approach to Just War Theory
Is Just War Theory based on a gender bias? This final session assesses the feminist critique of the whole Just War tradition and serves as an opportunity to critically reflect on the course as a whole.
Theme 5: Just ad Bellum I: National Self-Defence
Traditionally, national self-defence has been thought as the primary example of a just cause for war. When one state is attacked, it has a right to fight back. This is the position assumed by traditional just war theory and by international law. Recently, however, that position has been questioned. Why think that a state has a right to fight back if those attacking it are only presenting a conditional threat? Would it not be better to surrender and thereby avoid unnecessary deaths? But could traditional just war theory and international law really be wrong on such a core assumption?
Theme 6: Jus ad Bellum II: Humanitarian Intervention
On what grounds, if any, is a country entitled to wage a war of intervention? Could humanitarian intervention ever be morally mandatory? This session grapples with the morality of intervening in another state┐s affairs for the purpose of defending human rights.
Theme 7: Jus in Bello I: Non-Combatant Immunity
In international law and traditional just war theory, a sharp distinction is made between combatants and non-combatants. What, if anything, justifies this distinction? Is it really the case that all combatants, including just combatants, are liable to harm? Is it really the case that all non-combatants, including those responsible for unjust wars, are non-liable? What do you make of the claim that what is important is not whether or not someone is a combatant, but whether she is responsible for posing an unjust threat to others?
Week 8: Jus in Bello II: Terrorism
What is terrorism? Can it ever be justified? Suppose that resorting to terrorism, in breach of the principle of non-combatant immunity, is the only way to further a just cause. Is that a permissible course of action? Is there something morally distinctive about terrorism?
Week 9 Jus post Bellum I: Retributive Justice
How can justice best be achieved after the fighting has stopped? Can/should soldiers be held morally responsible for crimes committed during war? Or is it more appropriate to hold their leaders to account? Do justifications for a "just" war extend to the aftermath of such a war? Should the pursuit of justice be emphasised over achieving peace? This session will explore these questions in the context of international and domestic trials for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide
Week 10: Jus post Bellum II: Restorative Justice
This session will highlight a different approach to justice in the aftermath of mass atrocities: truth and reconciliation commissions. The focus will be on new forms of restorative justice, their potential to heal the wounds after conflict, and their inherent problems.
The course is taught in a weekly two-hour seminar. Among the formats we shall use to structure the seminar are:
- student presentations
- class debates;
- interpretive exercises.
Indicative readings are provided in the course guide. In preparation of each session, you are expected to do at least the core reading and strongly encouraged to do more. It will be essential that you study the additional material for your essay/presentation topics, at the very least. You are also encouraged to pursue independent reading in those areas that are of particular interest to you.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Not being delivered|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Read and analyse major texts and articles in just war theory.
- Use analytical tools and concepts which are crucial both to evaluating the ethics of war and to moral and political philosophy more generally.
- Learn to use historical, factual examples in support of normative, philosophical claims.
|Each week has specific readings, but there is a number of fundamental texts that are crucial for this course.|
Core Texts in Just War Theory
1. A. J. Coates, The Ethics of War (Manchester University Press, 1997).
2. Mark Evans, Just War Theory: A Reappraisal (Edinburgh: EUP, 2005).
3. CÚcile Fabre, Cosmopolitan War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
4. Cian O┐Driscoll, The Renegotiation of the Just War Tradition and the Right to War in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
5. Nicholas Rengger, Just War and International Order: The Uncivil Condition in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
6. Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, (New York: Basic Books, 2006, 4th edition) [This book is essential for the course and it is strongly suggested you buy it.]
Just War in Classical Political Thought
1. Alex J. Bellamy, Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006).
2. Michael W. Brough, John W. Lango, and Harry Van der Linden, eds., Rethinking the Just War Tradition, SUNY Series, Ethics and the Military Profession (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007).
3. Karma Nabulsi, Traditions of War: Occupation, Resistance and the Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
4. Richard Tuck, Rights of War and Peace: Political Thought and the International Order from Grotius to Kant (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
Book-Lengths Treatments of the Ethics of War
There is a voluminous literature on the ethics of war. The following are good, useful book-length treatments, which cover some or most of the relevant issues.
1. Alex Bellamy, Just Wars (Polity Press, 2006).
2. Ian Clark, Waging War: A Philosophical Introduction (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).
3. James Turner Johnson, Morality and Contemporary Warfare (Yale University Press, 1999).
4. Terry Nardin, ed., The Ethics of War and Peace: Religious and Secular Perspectives (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).
5. Richard Norman, Ethics, Killing and War (Cambridge University Press, 1995).
6. Charles Reed and David Ryall, eds., The Price of Peace: Just War in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
7. Paul Robinson, ed., Just War in Comparative Perspective (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003).
8. David Rodin, War and Self-Defense (Oxford University Press, 2002).
9. Michael Walzer, Arguing about War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).
Key concepts and issues in political theory (with a focus on international issues):
1. Chris Brown, Sovereignty, Rights, and Justice: International Political Theory Today (Cambridge: Polity, 2002).
2. CÚcile Fabre, Justice in a Changing World (Cambridge: Polity, 2007).
3. Kimberly Hutchings, International Political Theory (London: Sage, 1999).
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Additional Class Delivery Information
||The course will be taught in a weekly two-hour seminar.
Among the formats we will use to structure the seminar are:
- student presentations
- class debates
- interpretive exercises
|Keywords||Just War theory,humanitarian intervention,proportionality,transitional justice.
|Course organiser||Dr Mathias Thaler
Tel: (0131 6)51 5769
|Course secretary||Mrs Gillian MacDonald
Tel: (0131 6)51 3244