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PAIR3042 Ethics of War

Module Overview

This module provides an overview of ethical challenges associated with the use of force for political purposes. Drawing on historical and contemporary ideas and information, we consider whether, how and why ethical principles influence strategic and tactical decisions. The module is informed by ongoing research in the Department of Politics and International Relations (PAIR), and it complements other modules that explore global governance, global ethics, foreign and security policy, and military strategy.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- to introduce students to the central ethical debates surrounding the resort to and use of force in international relations - to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to examine critically the moral arguments and categories invoked in these debates - to analyse how these arguments and categories might be affected by the changing character of war - to relate such an examination to contemporary and historical examples of political violence.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and explain relationships between ethical principles and the use of force
  • Distinguish between, and engage in, deontological and consequentialist modes of ethical reasoning
  • Identify, analyse and critique the ethical assumptions underpinning political communities’ military policies and practices
  • Critically assess the applicability of Just War principles to past and present conflicts
  • Evaluate and generate ideas for responding ethically to the challenges of potential and ongoing wars
  • Demonstrate empirical knowledge and ethical awareness of a range of military practices and technologies


Drawing on ideas and information from within and beyond the discipline of International Relations, Ethics of War explores three overlapping dimensions of ‘just war’ thinking: ad bellum (going to war), in bello (the conduct of war) and post bellum (the aftermath of war). A series of interactive lectures and group-based tutorials addresses key themes including: moral philosophy and ethical reasoning, pacifist ethics, Just War theory, international law and the use of force, self-defense, humanitarian interventions, non-combatant immunity, nuclear weapons, inhumane and 'non-lethal' weapons, military medical ethics, intelligence-gathering and counter terrorism, torture, post-war justice, drones and robots, space-based war, and military virtue.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Student learning will be achieved through a combination of interactive lectures, group-based tutorial discussions and debates, and independent study. Learning activities and assessment tasks are designed to encourage critical thinking, intellectual autonomy, and evidence-based argument.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Background textbooks.  Alex J. Bellamy, Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006. Ian Clark, Waging War: A Philosophical Introduction, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. C. A. J. Coady, Morality and Political Violence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Jean Bethke Elshtain, Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, New York: Basic Books, 2003. Christian Enemark, Armed Drones and the Ethics of War: Military Virtue in a Post-Heroic Age, London: Routledge, 2014. David Fisher, Morality and War: Can War be Just in the Twenty-First Century?, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Colin S. Gray, ‘Moral Advantage, Strategic Advantage?’, Journal of Strategic Studies 33, no. 3 (2010): 333-65. Steven P. Lee, Ethics and War: An Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Brian Orend, The Morality of War, Peterborough: Broadview, 2006. Brian Rappert, Non-Lethal Weapons as Legitimizing Forces? Technology, Politics and the Management of Conflict, London: Frank Cass, 2003. Torbjörn Tännsjö, Understanding Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Theory, 2nd ed., Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: a Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, 4th ed., New York: Basic Books, 2006.



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  ( words) 50%
Essay proposal  ( words) 10%
Reflective Journal  ( words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  ( words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: PAIR1001


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Students are responsible for meeting the cost of any essential textbooks, and of producing such essays and/or other assignments as are required to fulfill the academic requirements for their programme of study.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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