Bleg-Readings for a Morality of War Course

Hi everyone.  I’m conducting an advanced undergraduate course on the morality of war next erm and would be very appreciative if anyone has any suggestions on which books or articles to assign.  Obviously, I know Walzer’s book is a classic, and there’s McMahan’s book Killing in War — but I’m not a specialist, so I could really use some help.  Many thanks in advance to everyone who posts a suggestion!

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3 Responses to Bleg-Readings for a Morality of War Course

  1. Eric Rovie says:


    If you are looking for a textbook, there are a couple of good ones out there. I co-edited on called “The Morality of War-Classical and Contemporary Readings” which covers both the historical development of Just War Theory as well as more recent issues in war theory (terrorism, humanitarian intervention, jus post bellum).

    A more historically oriented, but excellent, anthology called “The Ethics of War” (Blackwell) was edited by Reichberg, Syse, and Begby, and it’s very rich with historical figures that are often left out of intro course (Cajetan, Erasmus, Molina). But it doesn’t tackle many of the ‘current issues’ that students find interesting.

    In the past, I have used my textbook for the first 2/3 of the course, and then ended with either another full text (I’ve used Walzer) or a collection of recent articles on a topic (terrorism, torture, genocide) to round out the course. These were mid-to-upper level undergraduate courses.

    Several good recent articles that come to mind (top of my head) include Robert Bass’s “Jus Post Bellum”, Lionel McPherson’s “Is Terrorism Distinctively Wrong”, and Jeff McMahan’s “On The Moral Liability of Combatants.” (Side note: McMahan has most of his recent papers, all excellent, available for download at his website:

    If you are looking for an authored survey on the ethics of war, the standard still has to be The Ethics of War and Peace by Paul Christopher (Pearson). I have a newer introduction (The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction) by Helen Frowe, and it looks promising, but I haven’t read it yet.

    One last recent book that I used in an upper-level course, which I thought worked well, was C.A.J. Coady’ “Morality and Political Violence” (Cambridge, 2008). Clear, but rigorous and well-argued.

    If you are interested, I’m happy to send you copies of my syllabi for my past courses on the topic. My email is

  2. If you can find an English translation of Aron’s “Penser la guerre. Clausewitz” (Gallimard), that might add some international and historical depth to the course. Foucault has also long worked on the relation between politics and war, but that will probably be out of scope.

    More “classical”: Kant has written on the morality in/of war in his “Prolegomena” and “Perpetual Peace”.

  3. Tim Lacy says:

    You might consider George Cotkin’s *Morality’s Muddy Waters* (2010). He discusses a great many moral issues surrounding war in the post-WWII era, particularly in relation to the United States. Here’s a review I wrote on the book: – TL

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