• PHIL 20628: Ethics of Emerging Weapons Technologies

    PHIL 20628: Ethics of Emerging Weapons Technologies

    Course Description:   The landscape of the twenty-first century battlefield is rapidly changing. Contemporary warfare is often far removed from the clash of large, standing armies on the open battlefield.  From the United States’ use of “targeted killings” via unmanned drone in Pakistan and Yemen to the deployment of the Stuxnet computer virus designed to target Iran’s nuclear weapons’ program, we already see examples of this new kind of warfare.   The future promises that ever more remote possibilities will become reality—entirely autonomous robotic weapon systems are already under deployment in Iraq and Korea, non-lethal electromagnetic and sound-based weapons are under development, and research continues actively on automated, armed vehicles and biologically or robotically enhanced soldiers.  The increasing pace of weapons research, however, has been matched by many ethical worries, raised by military leaders, scholars, legislators, journalists, and non-profit and humanitarian groups.  This course will begin by exploring the foundations of just war theory—including challenges posed by terrorism—and then explore particular weapons technologies and their associated ethical implications.

    @ University of Notre Dame.  Course Syllabus (Spring 2017, Fall 2018 [PHIL 20422:  Just War Theory])

  • Phil 5700:  Ethics of War

    Phil 5700:  Ethics of War

    Course Description:  There has been a long, intellectual tradition in thinking about the moral justification of war, ranging at least from Thomas Aquinas’s writings in the 13th century to Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars to contemporary work by Jeff McMahan and others.  The tradition draws distinctions between the justice of war itself (jus ad bellum), restrictions on our conduct within war (jus in bello), and our obligations following the conclusion of war (jus post bellum).  The contemporary advent of terrorism arguably challenges central tenets of this just war tradition, replacing the doctrine of preemption with that of prevention, blurring the distinction between civilians and combatants, accelerating both the speed and potential damage of attacks, and so on.  How, if at all, should these features of terrorism lead to a revision of just war principles?

    Course Syllabus (Spring 2014)

    @ University of Michigan [Phil 430:  Topics in Ethics:  Ethics of War].  Course Syllabus (Fall 2010)

    @ University of Wyoming [Pols 4710].  Course Syllabus (Fall 2016)

  • Phil 6000: War, Terrorism, and Torture

    Phil 6000: War, Terrorism, and Torture

    Course Description: There has been a long, intellectual tradition in thinking about the moral justification of war, ranging at least from Thomas Aquinas’s writings in the 13th century to Michael Walzer’s contemporary classic, Just and Unjust Wars. The contemporary advent of terrorism arguably challenges central tenets of the just war tradition, replacing the doctrine of preemption with that of prevention, blurring the distinction between civilians and combatants, accelerating both the speed and potential damage of attacks, and so on.  How, if at all, should these features of terrorism lead to a revision of just war principles?

    In the war on terror, much controversy has emerged over the use of torture.  The Third Geneva Convention protects prisoners of war against torture, but there are at least two ways around this convention:  either by denying that it applies or else conceiving of torture in such a way  that hostile measures nevertheless fall short of it.  Should it apply?  And what is torture?  Independently of the historical and legal status of torture, we can ask whether it could be morally justified.  In particular, imagine that the torture of a terrorist will reveal actionable intelligence that is necessary for the protection of innocents.  If so, is torture permissible?  Regardless, are such scenarios anything other than philosophical fiction?

    Course Syllabus (Spring 2009)