Philosophy and the Ethics of Political Violence: Peace, War and Terrorism


Course Objective

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the main
philosophical and ethical concepts on violence and non-violence, war and
peace (-building), and the current phenomenon of terrorism – in the
context of a globalized world. Special attention will be given to
religiously motivated violence and the potential role of religion in
Learning Objectives

When finalizing the course, students will have knowledge and
understanding of
- The prospects and problems of the main political-philosophical and
ethical concepts of war and peace;
- The prospects and problems of violent and non-violent peacebuilding
- The historical, cultural and economic contexts in which certain
approaches concerning war and peace have emerged and have been applied;
- The prospects and problems of religion as one of the main contributors
to violence (terrorism) as well as to non-violent peace (-building) in a
globalized world.

Course Content

For centuries, in the Western World the concepts of war and peace have
been developed and discussed in the field of philosophy linked to
theology, due to the fact of the corpus christianum (the medieval
concept of a unity of church and state). The just-war-theory is the
predominant model of reasoning in this tradition, challenged only by
some religious minorities who pronounced non-violence as the moral
obligation within Christian ethics.
During the Enlightenment period, this societal unity of political and
religious powers begins to fall apart, due to new ways of thinking and
reasoning. This has lead the (European) societies into violent
(freedom-) struggles within, resulting in a clear separation of “church
and state”. This paved the way to secular states on the one hand and
religious plurality on the other. Nevertheless, current phenomena like
some forms of terrorism, “New Wars” as well as the “Renaissance of the
Just War theory” demonstrate, that moral reasoning of religious
communities still plays a major role in orienting people of faith – and
implicitly also people of no faith – in their ethical judgements. This
is not only true for some ethical dilemmas (such as collective
self-defense, emergency assistance for populations at risk or violent
struggles for political liberty and independence) but also for concepts
of non-violent resistance, peace-building, and reconciliation (see
Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, World Council of
Churches etc.). – In times of economic globalization, cultural
diversity, and religious plurality the discourse on war, (non-) violence
and peace (-building) finds itself in rapidly changing contexts – and
new forums of analysis and engagement.

Teaching Methods

Seminar-style with presentations and discussions
Attendance mandatory (80%)

Method of Assessment

Two written assignment


The Ashgate Research Companion to Religion and Conflict Resolution, ed.
By Lee Marsden (2012)

Additional articles

Target Audience

2nd year bachelor students in the minor Peace and Conflict Studies.
The course is also open as an elective course

General Information

Course Code S_PEV
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 200
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator prof. dr. F. Enns
Examiner prof. dr. G.J. Buijs
Teaching Staff prof. dr. G.J. Buijs

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

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