Ethics of War, Stoic Ethics, History of Philosophy–February 2016 Class Times!


Earlier this month I announced two new classes I’m launching. One on the Ethics of War and the other on Stoic Ethics. I am also going to offer a History of Philosophy class by request as well. Now, based on interested prospective students’ feedback on convenient times to run the classes, I have scheduled them for the following times. First time students in my classes get a free session, so if you’re on the fence, try a class with no risk.

You will be able to study Ethics of War on Thursdays at either 2pm-4pm Eastern or 8:30pm-10:30pm Eastern, or Mondays 10pm-12am Eastern. Classes begin the week of Monday February 1, 2016 and run indefinitely, until students are interested in moving on (usually 4-6 months). See the large list of vitally important and deeply interesting questions the class covers below. If you can’t attend at any of these times, don’t hesitate to write me at and I will schedule another section around you and others who are also only contacting me now.

You will be able to study Stoic Ethics on Tuesdays at either 3pm-5pm Eastern or 8pm-10pm Eastern. Class begins Tuesday February 2, 2016 and runs through February 23, 2016. See the course description below. If you can’t attend at any of these times, don’t hesitate to write me at and I will schedule another section around you and others who are also only contacting me now.

The Stoic Ethics will run for the month of February and then be replaced by another special topic in the month of March. Students will be able to continue on with that topic or sit it out. This is the inauguration of my new class called simply “Philosophy”, in which I will feature a new topic every month that interested students can hop into studying with us, with no prior background in philosophy or previous months’ covered material. Students can jump in and out for different months as different topics interest them and as their schedule makes them more or less available to fit in a class, etc. Here are the full details on how “Philosophy” will work for students interested in learning more. Write me at to let me know you want to be on the roughly bi-weekly e-mail list that announces topics and times for each upcoming month’s classes.

Finally, I intend to run History of Philosophy, Fridays at 12pm-2pm Eastern. See the class description here. Class begins February 5, 2016.

If you want to study other topics in philosophy with me, I offer a wide range. Please just e-mail me at with your interests and your schedule and I will happily schedule a new class for you and advertise it to draw in classmates for you.

While I have a PhD in Philosophy and over 90 classes teaching experience at the university level, my online courses provide no college credit whatsoever. They are live, interactive classes held on Google Hangouts (which is easy to download). They replicate the small classroom feel and are tailored to students’ interests and responses to the material. There is no homework required; rather we frequently read and critically analyze texts together. For many more general details on how these courses work, see here.

Ethics of War

As with all of my classes The Ethics of War will be a live, dynamic, interactive small group class held using Google’s videoconference technology (the easy to install and use service called Google Hangout), and it will be responsive to student’s interests in the material as class vigorous, rigorous, and potentially wide-ranging discussions grow out of close readings of screenshared philosophical texts. In this class specifically we will explore numerous questions related to morality and war, including but not limited to:

*Is “all fair in love and war” or can there intelligibly be an ethics of war?
*Are specifically moral psychological mechanisms and tendencies actually the dominant causeof wars?
*Is pacifism morally required, morally permissible, or morally condemnable?
*What are the ethics of conscientious objection?
*What should be the ideal criteria for a just war?
*Can one wage an unjust war justly?
*Do aggressors in war bear all the responsibilities for the consequences of a war?
*When is it a crime to commit war?
*How should we conceive of war crimes as morally distinct from other forms of violence in war?
*What is terrorism, can it ever be morally justified, and is there any principled way to distinguish terrorists from revolutionaries?
*By what moral criteria should we judge whether military interventions in other countries’ civil wars is morally required or permissible (or not)?
*Is preemptive war ever permissible?

*Is torture’s rightness or wrongness to be determined in strategic or moral terms, and if it is a moral question is it one to be resolved in a consequentialist, deontological, or virtue ethics way (or some other way, or through some combination of considerations from each of these)? What is torture’s effectiveness (and for what ends is it supposed to be effective or not?) and what is the relevance of this to whether or when it is morally requirable or permissible in war?

*What makes someone count as a “civilian” or “noncombatant”? When are unintended but foreseeable civilian casualties morally acceptable to risk or not? Are their levels of complicity with a war effort (that it expresses the populace’s democratic will, that a civilian works in a munitions factory, etc.) that make civilians less than entirely “innocent” and morally immune from the consequences of war? Is it ever morally requirable or permissible to directly target civilians as the US did in its attacks on Hiroshim and Nagasake?

*What is the morality of neutrality during time of war?
*What are the extents and limits of individual soldiers’ moral responsibilities when obeying orders?
*Are assassinations ever morally requirable or permissible? And if so, under what circumstances and why?
*Is the protection of human rights a moral justification for intervening militarily in another country? And if so, under what circumstances and why?
*How does war’s effects on the psychologies and moral characters of individual soldiers relate to our ethical assessment of it?
*What are the ethics of guerrilla war?
*What are the ethics of siege warfare?
*Under what conditions might war of secession be morally justified?
*Do those repelling aggressors have greater moral latitude in war than aggressors do?

*What are the natures and limits of civilian immunities and liabilities during war?
*How important is maintaining “the balance of power” in figuring out what is just or unjust with respect to war?
*What moral principles help decide questions related to whether war over disputed territories is okay?
*What is proportionality, why does it morally matter, and how do we assess it?
*What are the moral rights of victors and those who surrender?
*What are the ethics of taking prisoners of war?
*When are otherwise immoral acts excusable due to war?
*What are the insights that the various major normative schools of ethics (deontology, consequentialism, virtue ethics, etc.) have for making sense of the morality of war?
*How can ethical theory play a therapeutic role in helping soldiers or veterans recover form the “moral injuries” they suffer in wartime?
*What is the relationship of religion to war?
*What principles should guide the ethics of drone warfare?

*Since propaganda plays such a pivotal role in war, what is it, how does it work, and is it ever morally justified?
*What should be the extent of the reparations for military destruction? Should they be different for the winner and for the loser? Shoul they be paid to governments or to local people and organizations?
*When, if ever, should mandatory military service be employed? Is it morally necessary to make sure that the burdens of war do not fall disproportionately only on the most vulnerable classes and so that those who consider initiating wars are likely to have personal family members at stake so that they are not rash? Is it morally necessary as a matter of paying back a debt to society? Or is it morally wrong for any of a number of reasons?
*Is it morally problematic to support a war you will not yourself fight in?
*How can we ethically assess recent and ongoing conflicts around the globe that concern us in 2016?

To explore these issues, we will engage cutting edge contemporary philosophers work and familiarize ourselves with the contributions of great historical thinkers like Thucydides, Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Kant, Clausewitz, Nietzsche and Russell. Primarily we will carefully read together in class, usingGoogle Hangout’s extremely convenient screen share capabilities so that you do not have to purchase anything, numerous passages from Michael Walzer’s 1977 classic Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations and Jeff McMahan’s recent and much discussed Killing in WarWhile we will consider a range of positions beyond those of these two thinkers and sometimes directly read other contemporary or historical philosophers, these texts will be our most common, opinionated and insightful, guides to the issues at stake. Based on our readings of texts or summaries of varied positions that I offer, we will have openended discussions about our own views that are driven by your interests.

For more classes and more on how classes operate, see here.

Stoic Ethics

Stoicism was one of the most influential Hellenistic schools of philosophy. The Stoics’ ideas about ethics, in particular, have endured for centuries and had a profound impact not only on numerous philosophers but also upon countless ordinary people. This is in no small part because their wise writings are so focused on questions that concern all of us. Questions about how we can live rationally, harmoniously with nature and with each other, and come to terms with loss, conflict, frustration, and a whole host of emotions and desires that threaten to undo us if they overwhelm us. The Stoics want us to learn self-mastery and self-reliance, to keep our focus on what is genuinely good, to live by reason, and to resign ourselves to whatever is beyond our control to change.

After spending years reading and teaching students about the Stoic Marcus Aurelius and about Nietzsche (who has some decidedly stoic dimensions to his thought), I found my own philosophical reflections and writing and advice to others to be increasingly stoic. And this has not just been a contained, intellectual disposition. Stoic ways of thinking have had a life-changing impact on me that makes a difference in how I think, feel, and respond to my circumstances every single day, countless times a day. But, for all of this, I share some strong disagreements with aspects of the classical Stoic writings. And I also think that what they got right deserves to be expanded greatly and integrated with a host of other insights about morality and psychology available to us today. So I am going to devote this class on Stoic Ethics to reading the Stoics with you, wrestling with their texts on their own terms with you, and working out for ourselves a stoicism that can have the most positive impact on our own lives that we can manage.

For more classes click any of the banners below. For more on how classes operate, see here.

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