Lectures and seminars by: Paul Bowman, Romy Eskens, and Helen Frowe

Course description

Can we apply the same ethical principles to situations of war and situations of peace? Is there a sharp dividing line between civilians and soldiers in war, given that the former contribute taxes and other resources to the war effort? And are humanitarian interventions justified given that we could save more lives by using our resources differently, e.g. through poverty alleviation? 

This course includes a general introduction to the theoretical approaches to the ethics of war, focusing on the differences between the so-called ‘traditionalist’ and ‘reductivist’, and how these different approaches bear on the moral status of combatants and civilians. 

A related topic is the permissibility, or impermissibility, of armed humanitarian interventions. We will look at traditional challenges to the permissibility of humanitarian interventions, namely those appealing to ideas of national sovereignty, the necessity of consent from civilians, and the often questionable intentions of interveners. We also zoom in on a new challenge: That humanitarian interventions are impermissible because many more lives could be saved by spending the resources reserved for war on humanitarian aid (e.g. poverty alleviation) instead.

We will also cover the role of technology in the ethics of war – specifically, the use of nuclear weapons, cyber war, and drones. The course ends with a ‘students meet the author’ seminar with Helen Frowe on her book The Ethics of War and Peace, which is also the course literature. 

This is a pre-read course. Students are expected to have read all the material before the lectures and seminars begin. The course will take place between the 7th and 11th of October. 

Course Schedule

Course Literature: The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction by Helen Frowe and articles selected by the teachers.