Military Ethics

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The program curriculum is interdisciplinary, with a foundation in moral and political philosophy and international relations. Each student will complete a minimum of 30 credit hours, including a six-credit “capstone course” to presumably be completed during the summer term following a full academic year of coursework.

Over a 12-15 month program of study (designed to facilitate the enrollment of military personnel on educational assignment and the academic student looking for an intensive program), students will study foundational topics in moral and political philosophy, together with advanced core and elective topics in military and professional ethics, military medical ethics, military law, ethical leadership, and other related subjects (including optional supplemental electives in areas such as religious studies, history, literature, journalism, political science, classics, and the arts).

Required Courses

  • PHIL 405: Ethics: This course will build on an existing background in ethical theory and its application. Students will become familiar with major schools of thought and contemporary scholars.
  • PHIL 417: War and Morality: The aim of this course is to explore a wide range of ethical issues relating to the decision to take a nation to war, how wars are conducted, and efforts to establish order in the wake of a conflict. This course is presented in a seminar format with lively discussions centering on contemporary readings in military ethics from texts and journals.
  • PHIL 436: Military Conflicts, the Military Profession, and International Law: The aim of this course is to provide a foundational understanding of international law as it relates to war and to explore the relationship between international law and war ethics. This hybrid course will feature video lectures by international experts in the field of military ethics and online assignments, as well as discussion sections led by the Visiting Inamori Scholar.
  • PHIL 484: Ethics and Public Policy: This course focuses on evaluation of ethical arguments in contemporary public policy-making discourse. That is, approaches to evaluating not only the efficiency of policy (Will this policy achieve its end for the least cost?) but also the ethics of policy (Are a policy’s intended ends ethically justified or “good,” and are our means to achieve those ends moral or “just”?).


When students begin the program, the program director will work with each student to develop initial concepts for their individual concentrations of study and capstones. The capstone/culminating project required involves both academic research and fieldwork, and is integrated with the degree-candidate’s professional experience or interest. PHIL 501: Ethics Capstone will feature a summative project designed to integrate their common studies, but tailored to their individual future interests in teaching, further graduate study, or employment in public policy or foreign affairs, and may produce outcomes other than a traditional paper/thesis (such as the detailed and well defended design of a military ethics training/education curriculum).

The outline of the project must be presented and defended by the spring recess of the candidate’s second resident semester, and the project itself completed over the following summer term, for graduation in August the year following matriculation. If special circumstances prevent a student from completing the program in the intended time frame, the academic advisor will work with them to create an alternative schedule to allow completion of the degree at a pace aligned with the student’s schedule.


Students will take a minimum of four elective courses. The selection of topic for the capstone project will dictate the selection of relevant elective courses by each student (in consultation with program faculty) to create an appropriate concentration of study. Electives may be in military and professional ethics, military medical ethics, military law, ethical leadership, or in optional supplemental areas such as religious studies, history, literature, journalism, and the arts.

Elective courses from the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Law include:

  • ARTH 436: Issues in Ancient Art: The Art of War in Ancient Rome
  • CLSC 420: Alexander the Great: Materials and Methods
  • CLSC 416: Greek Tragedy in English Translation
  • LAWS 4101: International Law
  • LAWS 4105: Fundamentals of International Law
  • LAWS 5110: Contemporary Issues in International and Comparative Law: IP/Human Rights
  • LAWS 5111: Admiralty Law
  • LAWS 5113: National Security Law 2: Counterterrorism
  • LAWS 5116: International Human Rights
  • LAWS 5118: War Crimes Research Lab
  • LAWS 5136: International Humanitarian Law
  • PHIL 416: African Political Thought
  • PHIL 422: The Science of Happiness
  • PHIL 430: Special Topics in Ethics
  • PHIL 434: Political and Social Philosophy
  • PHIL 411: Neuroethics
  • POSC 460: Revolts and Revolutions in Global Perspective
  • POSC 464: Dictatorship and Democracy in Modern Latin America
  • POSC 470H: China’s Foreign Policy
  • POSC 473: Politics of the European Union
  • POSC 476: United States Foreign Policy
  • POSC 479: Introduction to Middle East Politics
  • RLGN 453: Hindu and Jain Bioethics
  • RLGN 450: Jewish Ethics

Additional elective courses will continue to be added.

Page last modified: January 11, 2018