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PHILOS 3P03 Philos-War&Peace

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Matthew Taylor


Office: University Hall 314A

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

This course will critically examine the central competing theories concerning the ethics of war: realism, pacifism, and just war theory. Students will become familiar with the main tenants of each theory, and will critically assess the theories and their claims. Because just war theory is currently the dominant theory, it will form the primary focus of the course. The course will evaluate the rights and obligations of states, civilians, and soldiers, and will discuss such issues as conscription, conscientious objection, terrorism, pre-emptive attacks, and humanitarian intervention. The course will also examine competing conceptions of peace.


In this course, students will develop and refine their abilities to read, analyse, and reconstruct philosophical arguments, and to critically evaluate those arguments. Students will develop a basic grasp of the role that deontological, prudential, consequentialist, and virtue-ethics arguments play in each of the dominant theories concerning the ethics of war. Students will develop an advanced understanding of the principles of just war theory, and the ability to apply those principles to real-world examples and dilemmas.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Brian Orend. The Morality of War (Second Edition). Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2013.

Further readings will be posted on Avenue to Learn.


Method of Assessment:

Reading Response Papers       10%

Essay 1                                    30%

Essay 2                                    30%

Final Exam                              30%


Reading Response Papers: Students are required to submit 8 reading response papers worth 1.25% each. The response papers are to be 300 words each (approximately 1 page double-spaced), and are due at the start of class. Students may choose for which 8 of the 12 classes they will submit reading responses. In the reading response papers, students are to focus on one argument presented in the readings for the week, succinctly reconstruct the argument, and critically evaluate the argument. To critically evaluate an argument, students can, for instance, identify suppressed assumptions or ambiguities in the argument, diagnose fallacies in the argument, consider implications of the argument, attempt to strengthen the argument, or otherwise object to the argument.


Essays: Students will submit two essays of approximately 2000 words each (approximately 6.5 pages double-spaced). The first essay is due on the 9th of October at the start of class. Students must submit the first essay. For the second essay, students may choose between two essay assignments, the first of which is due on the 6th of November, and the second of which is due on the 4th of December. Students are permitted to submit all three essays, in which case the two essays with the highest grades will count toward their final grade for the course. Essay assignments will be distributed at least two weeks before the essays are due.


Final Exam: Date and format to be determined. Students will be notified of the format before the end of classes.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Other Course Information:

Policies on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar “Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work”. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015.

Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous, and Spiritual Observances will also be provided in accordance with McMaster’s Policy on Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous, and Spiritual Observances.

Because students have some discretion over the assignments that they choose to submit in the course – and the responsibility to exercise that discretion wisely – the instructor reserves the right to refuse all late work or accommodations that do not fall under either of the two aforementioned policies.


Course Modification


The instructor and the University reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term.  The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances.  If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes.  It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.

In this course we will be using a web-based service ( to reveal plagiarism. Students will be expected to submit their work electronically to via Avenue to Learn. Students who do not wish to submit their work to must notify the instructor for permission to submit a hard copy instead. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to

Avenue to Learn

In this course we will be using Avenue to Learn. Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.



The scale used by the Registrar's Office will be used to convert number grades to final letter grades.