The Field 

Military ethics is a broadly interdisciplinary study, incorporating concerns about the conduct of war, decisions on how and when to engage in military operations, and issues relating to the moral psychology and care of those who serve and of veterans of military service. Traditional just war theory also plays a key role in international relations (political and moral philosophy governing when the use of military force is justified for the resolution of international conflicts) and international law (including Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and international humanitarian law).

Military ethics focuses on the core values and moral principles that collectively govern the men and women serving in the military forces of nations around the world, as members of what is sometimes termed the “military profession” or “the profession of arms.” The ethical foundations that define the profession of arms have developed over millennia from the shared values and experiences, unique role responsibilities, and reflections of members of the profession on their own practices – eventually coming to serve as the basis for various warrior codes and the LOAC.

The Program

The program has been thoughtfully designed to educate students on and guide their research into vital global issues in military ethics. These issues include (but are not limited to) modern applications of classical just war theory and traditional warrior’s codes, the principle of noncombatant immunity, human rights, international humanitarian law, humanitarian intervention, the ethical use of emerging military technologies, civil-military relations and society’s obligations to troops and veterans, transitional justice, and the moral foundations of sustainable peace.

The study of military ethics supports long term humanitarian goals, such as preventing unjust wars, decreasing incidents of war crimes, genocide, human rights abuses, and other atrocities produced by the dehumanizing effects of armed conflict, supporting the mental health and successful transitions of military service members and combat veterans, and fostering a lasting peace founded in justice.

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).

Curriculum Details

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 for Fall 2019 from the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Law include:

  • ARTH 436 - Representations of War in Ancient Rome 
  • CLSC 419 - Greek Tragedy: Plays and Performance in Ancient Athens 
  • CLSC 436 - Representations of War in Ancient Rome 
  • PHIL 425 - Philosophy of Feminism
  • PHIL 499 - Independent Study 
  • PHIL 501 - Capstone
  • POSC 453 - Political Thought and Political Change in China
  • POSC 455 - Modern Political Ideologies
  • POSC 456 - Transitions to Democracy and Dictatorship
  • POSC 460 - Revolts and Revolutions in Global Perspective 
  • POSC 476 - United States Foreign Policy 
  • POSC 479 - Introduction to Middle East Politics 
  • POSC 486 - Making Public Policy
  • THTR 419 - Greek Tragedy: Plays and Performance in Ancient Athens 
  • WLIT 419 - Greek Tragedy
  • LAWS 4101 International Law
  • LAWS 5110 - Contemporary Issues in International and Comparative Law: IP/Human Rights
  • LAWS 5118 - International Law Research Lab
  • LAWS 5121 - International Criminal Law Procedure
  • LAWS 6051 -Civil Rights, Human Rights, and Immigration Clinic


Elective courses for Spring 2020 from the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Law include:

  • BETH 453 - Hindu and Jain Bioethics 

  • CLSC 420 - Alexander the Great: Materials and Methods 

  • HSTY 420 - Alexander the Great

  • PHIL 499 - Independent Study

  • PHIL 501 - Capstone

  • POSC 473 - Politics of the European Union 
  • POSC 477 - Politics of Russia
  • POSC 488 - Politics, Policy, and Global Environment
  • RLGN 453 - Hindu and Jain Bioethics 
  • LAWS 5116 - International Human Rights
  • LAWS 5118 - International Law Research Lab
  • LAWS 5136 - International Humanitarian Law
  • LAWS 5745 - Foreign Affairs Law
  • LAWS 6051 - Civil Rights, Human Rights, and Immigration Clinic

Additional elective courses will continue to be added.