Ethics and Warfare - TESP 159 (Religious Studies)

Dr. David L. Perry
Santa Clara University
Spring 2003, MWF 9:15-10:20 a.m.

Course Description

Every human society has no doubt prescribed some moral rules against killing other human beings. But it seems reasonable to suppose that most human societies have also permitted killing under certain conditions, e.g., in self-defense, in defense of family or community, or as punishment for particular offenses. War is a peculiar human activity, in that it can bring out some of our best traits (e.g., courage and self-sacrifice) yet also elicit tremendous cruelty and suffering. It's therefore a prime candidate for ethical scrutiny.

This course examines theories about why human beings engage in mass killing, the history of moral deliberation about war in major religious traditions, and modern philosophical analyses of the diverse and sometimes conflicting moral principles that those traditions have bequeathed to us. Students will develop an appreciation for the richness of religious thinking about war, and enhance their skills in applying moral philosophical reasoning to contemporary wars.

This course will satisfy the Ethics core requirement and the third-level Religious Studies core requirement (if you've already taken first- and second-level RS courses). Enrollment is restricted to students with Junior status or higher.

Course Requirements

Your final grade in the course will be largely determined by averaging the letter grades of three essay exams and a 6-7-page paper. Regular attendance as well as informed and courteous participation in class discussions are also essential. (If you need to miss all or part of a class session, try to inform me beforehand.) During the essay exams you won't be allowed to use any notes or books, with the exception of translation dictionaries (in print form, not pocket computers) for students whose primary language is not English. You'll need to obtain an unused "bluebook" from the bookstore for each exam. Please write your exams in non-erasable ink. Remember that cheating on exams and plagiarism on papers are serious breaches of academic ethics, and can lead not only to your flunking the course but also to other disciplinary actions, including expulsion from SCU. See also the section below on "Writing with Integrity."

Required Readings

1) Miscellaneous articles that I've posted on the web via Orradre Library's Electronic Reserves (ERes), which you'll need to download and print. You might end up paying SCU for the cost of printing if you use university equipment.
2) Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, Four Hours in My Lai.
3) Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority.
4) Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence.
5) William Shakespeare, Henry V.

Course Schedule

March 31 - Introduction to the course and some ethical questions pertinent to warfare.

April 2 - Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, Four Hours in My Lai, chapters 1-3.

April 4 - Bilton and Sim, chs. 4-5. View film, “Remember My Lai.”

April 7 - Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority, chs. 1-3. View a portion of Milgram’s film.

April 9 - Milgram, chs. 4-7, 9 and 15.

April 11 - Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence, chs. 1 and 4. View an excerpt from the film, “People of the Forest.”

Have you identified some possible topics for your paper? Have you begun researching them carefully? Do you need my advice on how to proceed?

April 14 - Wrangham and Peterson, chs. 6, 9, 11 and 12.

April 16 - Examination #1

April 18 - No class (Good Friday).

April 21 - Selections from Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics, on ERes (under “Buddhism”).

April 23 - Perry, ed., “The Hebrew Bible on Ethics and Warfare”; Broyde, “Fighting the War and the Peace”; “Ethical Code of the Israel Defense Forces”; Menuchin, “Saying No to Israel’s Occupation”; and Alon, “Why Israel’s Mission Must Continue”; all on ERes (under “Judaism”).

April 25 - Perry, ed., “Islamic Texts on Ethics and Warfare”; Hashmi, “Interpreting the Islamic Ethics of War and Peace”; Brooks, “The Culture of Martyrdom”; Davis, “Many Muslims Doubt Bombings Are Moral”; all on ERes (under “Islam”).

April 28 - Perry, ed., “Christian Texts on Ethics and Warfare,” pp. 1-10, on ERes (under “Christianity”). (We’ll discuss the rest of that document on May 2.)

April 30 - Verkamp, The Moral Treatment of Returning Warriors in Early Medieval and Modern Times, chapters 1-2, on ERes.

May 2 - Perry, ed., “Christian Texts on Ethics and Warfare,” pp. 10-16, on ERes.

Note that the quarter is now half over. How is your paper coming along? Are you pleased with what your research has turned up? Are you developing a tightly reasoned essay?

May 5 - Francisco de Vitoria, "On the Law of War" (1539), on ERes.

May 7 - Examination #2

May 9 - View excerpts from two film versions of Shakespeare’s Henry V. (I recommend reading the background information on pp. v-xli, 147-149 and 153-154 of the Oxford School Shakespeare edition.)

Are you nearly ready to turn in a carefully written draft paper to me? Have you checked it for clarity, grammar, and spelling? Have you sought advice from writing tutors? Does your draft satisfy the Guidelines explained at the end of this syllabus?

May 12 - Discuss Shakespeare’s Henry V, Prologue and most of Acts 1-3. (The following sections are recommended but not required: 2.1, 2.3, 3.3, 3.5, 3.8.)

May 14 - Discuss Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act 4. (The following sections are recommended but not required: 4.8 and Act 5.)

May 16 - Articles on ERes (under “Conscientious Objection”) on the 1931 Supreme Court decision in the case of Douglas Macintosh and some contemporary CO policies.

May 19 - View film, “Conscience and the Constitution,” about Japanese-Americans interned by the U.S. during WWII who refused to be drafted into the armed forces until their civil rights were restored.

May 21 - John Ford, S.J., "The Morality of Obliteration Bombing" (1944), on ERes.

May 23 – View excerpts from “The World at War” films on the atomic bombings of Japan.
This is the last day I’ll accept draft papers for comment. Submitting a draft of your paper is recommended, but not mandatory.

May 26 - No class (Memorial Day).

May 28 - Excerpts from U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare, on ERes (under “Law of Land Warfare”).

May 30 - Carl Cuelemans, “The Military Response of the U.S.-Led Coalition to the September 11 Attacks,” on ERes (under “Afghanistan”).

June 2 - David Luban, “The War on Terrorism and the End of Human Rights,” and Dana Priest and Barton Gellman, “U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations,” on ERes (under “Prisoners”).

June 4 - Chris Brown, “Self-Defense in an Imperfect World,” Michael Byers, “Letting the Exception Prove the Rule,” Thomas Nichols, “Just War, Not Prevention,” Michael Walzer, “What a Little War in Iraq Could Do,” and President Bush, “’This Is Not a Question of Authority; It Is a Question of Will,’” on ERes (under “Iraq 1”).

June 6 - Jim Puzzanghera, “Confronting Saddam: Civilian Casualties: Tech to Help Avoid Unintended Victims,” Peter Maass, “’Good Kills,’” and Kenneth Anderson, “Who Owns the Rules of War?” on ERes (under “Iraq 2”).
The final version of your paper (hard copy) is due in my office or in-box by 4:30 p.m. An electronic version must be submitted to

June 12 (Thursday), 1:30-4:30 p.m. - Examination #3

You may pick up your graded paper and final exam on or after June 19. Or if you would rather that I mail them to you, give me a 9x12 envelope with your name, address, and 3 oz. postage.

A Note regarding

On or before June 6, you’ll need to give me a hard copy of the final version of your paper, and also send an electronic version of your paper to an organization on the web called That organization will compare the text of your paper with various websites and thousands of other student papers in its database, and indicate to me any evidence of plagiarism. I regret having to resort to this, but unfortunately almost every quarter at least one of my students tries to submit a plagiarized paper as if it were his/her own work. To those of you who would never even think of doing that, please don’t consider this an insult to your integrity, but rather as an effort on my part to prevent less scrupulous students from fraudulently obtaining an equal or better grade than yours on this assignment.

Guidelines for Your Paper

Topics and Sources - The paper must deal in some way with ethics and warfare, and incorporate ideas from at least two sources outside of the assigned course readings. (You may use assigned readings, but you aren't required to do so.) Newspaper or magazine articles may be cited, but your main sources should be scholarly. Since the paper is to be fairly short (6-7 pages), it's important to focus your topic narrowly in order to do it justice. I strongly recommend that you elicit feedback from me on your paper topic soon, so that I can steer you away from inappropriate subjects and toward useful research sources.

Orradre Library has some useful research tools, including Religion Index and Philosopher's Index. Also, I've listed some web sites on my personal web page:

You may use the paper to argue in support of one side of an ethical issue. If so, then you should not only find substantial arguments in support of that position, but also tackle substantial arguments against that position. In other words, try to show that your position successfully withstands strong criticism. Alternatively, you might want to explore an ethical issue without taking a firm stance on either side. In that case also, find substantial arguments that produce conflicting conclusions, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. For this paper, you should not choose an issue where there's only one credible moral position: e.g., don't write your paper on why the My Lai massacre was immoral.

Format - Your paper should be typed and double-spaced, have one-inch margins on all sides, and employ a 12-point font in a style like Times Roman (not Courier). Do not add covers or a title page; simply provide your name and the title at the top of the first page of the body of your essay, and staple the pages together in the upper left corner.  Recall that you'll need to submit a hard copy of your paper to me, and an electronic version to

Editing - I am willing to comment on a draft of your paper at least three weeks prior to the due date for the final product. Check carefully to eliminate all errors in spelling and grammar, even in your draft. My energies should be spent analyzing the quality of your arguments rather than cor-recting mistakes that you could easily have caught yourself. The Drahmann Advising and Learning Center can help to improve the quality of your essay before you turn it in to me. Make appoint-ments with their staff well before the date your paper is due, though, to avoid the rush.

Writing with Integrity - Hugo Bedau wrote in Thinking and Writing about Philosophy, p. 141: "Writers plagiarize when they use another's words or ideas without suitable acknowledgement. Plagiarism amounts to theft--theft of language and thought. Plagiarism also involves deception. . . . [Plagiarism] wrongs the person from whom the words or thoughts were taken and to whom no credit was given; and it wrongs the reader by fraudulently misrepresenting the words or thoughts as though they are the writer's own." I would add that plagiarism is often unfair to your fellow students, since in contrast to their honest and hard work, it involves almost no effort to steal another author's words.

Finally, although it sounds like a cliche, when you plagiarize you also cheat yourself: first, by not developing the discipline and diligence to research, write and edit well; second, because taking credit for other people's ideas will induce outrage and resentment against you; and third, because the practice of plagiarism can end your career and destroy your reputation--witness what happened to the prominent historians Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin when substantial parts of their books were revealed to have been plagiarized.

To avoid plagiarism, you must cite your sources everywhere in your paper where you use their ideas, and not only when you quote them directly, but also where you paraphrase their points in your own words. In general, you should only use direct quotes when you find the authors' wording to be especially effective. But your paraphrasing or summaries of authors' points should be thorough: it's not fair to an author to change only a couple of words in a paragraph of his or hers, and then imply (by not using direct quotes) that the paragraph is entirely your own prose. (It might help to imagine the author reading over your shoulder.)

Some additional practices are unethical for similar reasons:

1) You may not submit a paper that you did not write yourself, whether given to you by a sympathetic friend, purchased on the web, or written by a paid "tutor." Although (unlike plagiarism) this would not represent a case of theft, it would nonetheless be unfair to your peers, and would also perpetrate a fraud on your professor.

2) You may not submit a paper to me that is substantially similar to one that you wrote for another class, since both I and your fellow students rightly assume that you will be doing new research for this course.

List full references alphabetically at the end of your paper, using the following format:

    1) Book (non-anthology): author's name, book title (publisher, date). An example: Hugo Bedau, Thinking and Writing about Philosophy (Boston: St. Martin's Press, 1996).

    2) Article in an anthology: name of the article's author, "article title," name of the editor of the anthology, book title (publisher, date), pages. An example: Robert Arrington, "Advertising and Behavior Control," in William Shaw and Vincent Barry, Moral Issues in Business, seventh edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1998), pp. 503-509.

    3) Periodical article: author, "article title," periodical title volume/issue (date): pages. An example: Karen Musalo, "When Rights and Cultures Collide," Issues in Ethics 8/3 (Summer 1997): 2-5.

    4) Web page: author, "title of page or article" (organization name, date), URL. An example: Alex Moseley, "Just War Theory" (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1998),

Within your text, e.g., at the end of a paragraph or a direct quote, you may refer to a source simply as (author, pages). An example: (Bedau 141).

The syllabus, lectures and discussion questions for this course are copyrighted by David L. Perry, and may not be sold or distributed without his explicit permission. For an explanation of copyright laws in relation to lecture notes, etc., see Mathieu Deflem, "Teaching Laws: The Legal Protection of Education and Its Relevance for Online Notes Companies," 5 November 1999, on the web at

Go to Dr. Perry's CV.