PHL 325: Special Topics: War and Terrorism



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"Combat de Chevaliers dans la Campagne", c.1855 by Eugene Delacroix


Steven W. Patterson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religious Studies Dept., Marygrove College

Contact Information

Office Phone: 313-927-1539
Departmental Phone: 313-927-1556
e-mail: Note: The best way to reach me is via e-mail. Remove the underscores before and after the '@' or just use this Contact form.
Office:346 Madame Cadillac Hall
Office Hours: Mondays-Thursdays, 10:00-10:30 AM & 12:30-1:00 PM If you need to see me it is recommended that you schedule an appointment.

Course Information

Meeting Times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30-11:45 PM in LA 240
Credit Hours: 3, Satisfies Philosophy Major and Minor Requirements
Prerequisites: LS 105, ENG 108 and any one of PHL 126, 156, or 276

Course Objectives

A student who successfully completes the course requirements will achieve a basic working understanding of contemporary just war theory and its application to the problem of terrorism.

An understanding of how theory and practice interconnect in a specific context like responding to terrorism is very helpful for deepening one’s conception of social justice and one’s awareness of one’s own social and political context. Hence a secondary objective of this course is the cultivation of a greater capacity to understand how principles of social justice inform, apply to, and are shaped by actual political debate.

Also integral to leadership is the ability to read, write, and think critically and carefully about difficult problems that resist easy solution. Hence the third objective of this course is the enhancement of students’ critical thinking abilities through the exercise of the analytical and imaginative skills that form the core of the philosophical method. Because they are so widely applicable to concrete problems, development of the sort of critical thinking skills that make up the philosophical method is an essential part of general education, and one of the chief benefits of a course of this nature.

Finally, this course has been specifically designed to assist students in developing consistent routines and good habits for intellectual work. A student who completes the requirements, in doing so, will have cultivated not only these good work habits, but his or her intellectual discipline as well. Thus this course has the fourth objective of helping students become more effective, self-motivated and self-disciplined life-long learners.

Core Questions

  1. Do claims of self-defense always provide a justification for engaging in warfare? What moral limits might there be to warfare engaged in on such grounds?
  2. How credible is the claim that wars such as those in which the US is currently engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan are justified as acts of self-defense against terrorists?
  3. What moral limits, if any, ought to constrain the range of responses to terrorist threats (as those threats are currently understood)?
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