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KINT 5125 - Ethics of War

Type d'enseignement : Lecture alone

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


Background in philosophy, international law or international relations is a plus, but not an absolute requirement. What matters most is motivation.

Course Description

This course will discuss one very traditional and classical issue in international politics - the ethics of war - in a field where there have recently been numerous and substantial developments. Ethics acts as a constraint and a limit to the excesses of the use of force. Yet, it is also used as a justification to the pursuit of warfare. This class 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 as it brings together moral and political philosophy, international law and international relations. The ethics of war is both an expanding academic field and an increasingly important field of practice. This course will fully address both dimensions. 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. Among the themes we will discuss are the following: jus ad bellum and self-defense, jus in bello and proportionality, protecting civilians in times of war, the legal status of combatants, preventive war, targeted killings, hostage-taking. This course aims at giving the students the tools they need to build their own normative argument. The course will include different formats. A few sessions – notably in the introductory phase of the course – will be mostly lectures (with a 30' with a Q & A time period at the end the class). Most sessions will be interactive, as they will also include debates between different groups of students. Readings are found on Google Sciences Po's website unless they are already accessible electronically through the library website. Videos – documentaries, fictions – will be shown as short illustrations during some of the classes.


  • COLONOMOS, Ariel (Directeur de recherche à Sciences Po, CERI)
  • MITRANI, Yoel (Doctorant)

Pedagogical format

This class will combine different formats, as it will include both lectures and debates between students.

Course validation

The course validation will combine different kinds of grades both individual (essays and class participation) and collective (debates, simulations).

Required reading

Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars – A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, New York, Basic Books, (numerous re-editions)