Accueil > The ethics of war

AAFF 1700A - Ethics of War (The)

Type d'enseignement : Lecture and tutorials

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 48

Language of tuition : English


There are no prerequisites for this course, whose goal is to bring students to develop their own thinking. However, some basic knowledge of either moral/political philosophy, international law or political science can be a plus for those students willing to take this course.

Course Description

This course will discuss one very traditional and classical issue for international relations - the ethics of war - in a field where there have recently been numerous and substantial developments. It will exemplify the role of norms in warfare and discuss the major dilemmas that face those armies committed to following the basic codes of war. Its focus is mainly interdisciplinary. It will bring examples from history, explain certain phenomena – such as why states go or do not go to war and how they fight – from a political science perspective and ultimately will discuss legally and morally the coherence of certain rationales that aim at justifying the use of force. The purpose of this course is to bring to light among the major issues Western democracies are confronted to in international politics and one of the major political, moral and legal questions sovereigns, military forces, lawyers and ethicists have to face: authorize the use of force and therefore authorize killing. This course aims at giving the students the tools they need to build their own normative argument.


  • FEREY, Amélie J. (Doctorante)
  • GUILLAUME, Marine C. (Chargé de mission, Ministère des affaires étrangères)

Pedagogical format

This course is a lecture. However, participation will be encouraged and I will leave a Q&A time period at the end of each session. When attending the "conférence de méthode", students will be asked to make oral presentations and write papers.

Course validation

A final written exam : 50% of the grade ; Conférence de méthode : 50% of the grade.

Required reading

Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, New York, Basic Books, 1992 (1st ed., 1977)

Additional required reading

  • Ariel Colonomos, The Gamble of War – Is it Possible to Justify Preventive War?, New York, Routledge, 2013
  • Yoram Dinstein, The Conduct of Hostilities under the Law of International Armed Conflict, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • Tim Dunne and N. Wheeler, eds., Human Rights in Global Politics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001
  • Jonathan Glover, Humanity a Moral History of the Twentieth Century, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1999
  • J. Goldsmith, S. D. Krasner, “The Limits of Idealism”, Daedalus, winter 2003, vol. 132 n. 1, p.47-63
  • Michael Gross, Moral Dilemmas of Modern War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009
  • Anthony Hartle, Moral Issues in Military Decision Making, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004
  • Pierre Hassner (ed.), Justifying War? From Humanitarian Intervention to Counterterrorism, New York, Palgrave, 2009
  • Robert Holmes, War and Morality, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1989
  • Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil Political Ethics in the Age of Terror, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2004
  • Michael Ignatieff, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2001
  • Joseph Nye, Nuclear Ethics, New York, Free Press, 1986
  • Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature Why Violence Has Declined, London, Penguin, 2012
  • Ward Thomas, The Ethics of Destruction Norms and Force in International Relations, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2002

Senior lecturers

  • AUDINET, Maxime (PhD student)
  • DIGNAT, Etienne C. (Doctorant)
  • FEREY, Amélie J. (Doctorante)
  • TAILLANDIER, Apolline (Teaching Assistant, Phd Student)