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Morality and Modern Warfare - POL00052H

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  • Department: Politics and International Relations
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sara Van Goozen
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

This module looks at ethical issues relating to and deriving from modern warfare and armed conflict. It looks at topics including (counter) insurgency, new technologies, and much more and will benefit those interested in ethics, international relations, armed conflict and security studies.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

Can there be just wars? Should we be worried about the resurgence of mercenaries? Do we need to be afraid of killer robots? This module will introduce students to some of the most important debates about how moral norms apply in war, conflict, and contemporary international relations more generally. We will critically analyse key issues in the contemporary ethics of warfare, and consider the current practice of states, major non-state and inter-governmental actors, and even individuals in the context of war and (armed) conflict.

Some of the topics that will be covered include: just causes for war, ethical issues relating to new actors in war (such as mercenaries), the ethics of (counter)insurgency, the ethics of alternatives to war, and ethical issues relating to new military technologies.

Module learning outcomes

An understanding of how to apply moral theories and moral reasoning strategies to current events in international politics and developments in modern warfare.

An ability to analyse and assess different tactics and developments from an ethical perspective.

A broad perspective on some of the most active debates in research on the ethics of war, international humanitarian law, and international relations

Greater insight into important security issues, from both a practical and a philosophical perspective.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 25 working days; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Finlay, Christopher. 2017. Terrorism and the Right to Resist. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Frowe, Helen. 2022. The Ethics of War and Peace, 3rd ed. Abingdon: Routledge.

Gross, Michael L. 2015. The Ethics of Insurgency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Strawser, B.J. (Ed.) 2013. Killing by Remote Control. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Walzer, Michael. 1977. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. New York: Basic Books.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.