Dr Daniel Fincke Online Philosophy Class Ethics


*The inaugural sections of The Ethics of War will start the first week of February, 2016. You can choose to join the Monday 10pm-12am Eastern Time class, or the Thursday 2pm-4pm Eastern Time class, or the Thursday 8:30-10:30pm Eastern Time class. Write me at to sign up!

*If those times don’t work for you, write me and I can schedule another around you.  

*Newcomers to my classes can attend their first session free.

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As with all of my classes The Ethics of War will be a live, dynamic, interactive small group class held using Google’s videoconference technology (the easy to install and use service called Google Hangout), and it will be responsive to student’s interests in the material as class vigorous, rigorous, and potentially wide-ranging discussions grow out of close readings of screenshared philosophical texts. In this class specifically we will explore numerous questions related to morality and war, including but not limited to:

*Is “all fair in love and war” or can there intelligibly be an ethics of war?
*Are specifically moral psychological mechanisms and tendencies actually the dominant cause of wars?
*Is pacifism morally required, morally permissible, or morally condemnable?
*What are the ethics of conscientious objection?
*What should be the ideal criteria for a just war?
*Can one wage an unjust war justly?
*Do aggressors in war bear all the responsibilities for the consequences of a war?
*When is it a crime to commit war?
*How should we conceive of war crimes as morally distinct from other forms of violence in war?
*What is terrorism, can it ever be morally justified, and is there any principled way to distinguish terrorists from revolutionaries?
*By what moral criteria should we judge whether military interventions in other countries’ civil wars is morally required or permissible (or not)?
*Is preemptive war ever permissible?
*Is torture’s rightness or wrongness to be determined in strategic or moral terms, and if it is a moral question is it one to be resolved in a consequentialist, deontological, or virtue ethics way (or some other way, or through some combination of considerations from each of these)? What is torture’s effectiveness (and for what ends is it supposed to be effective or not?) and what is the relevance of this to whether or when it is morally requirable or permissible in war?
*What are the natures and limits of civilian immunities and liabilities during war? What makes someone count as a “civilian” or “noncombatant”? When are unintended but foreseeable civilian casualties morally acceptable to risk or not? Are their levels of complicity with a war effort (that it expresses the populace’s democratic will, that a civilian works in a munitions factory, etc.) that make civilians less than entirely “innocent” and morally immune from the consequences of war? Is it ever morally requirable or permissible to directly target civilians as the US did in its attacks on Hiroshim and Nagasake?
*What is the morality of neutrality during time of war?
*What are the extents and limits of individual soldiers’ moral responsibilities when obeying orders?
*Are assassinations ever morally requirable or permissible? And if so, under what circumstances and why?
*Is the protection of human rights a moral justification for intervening militarily in another country? And if so, under what circumstances and why?
*How does war’s effects on the psychologies and moral characters of individual soldiers relate to our ethical assessment of it?
*What are the ethics of guerrilla war?
*What are the ethics of siege warfare?
*Under what conditions might war of secession be morally justified?
*Do those repelling aggressors have greater moral latitude in war than aggressors do?
*How important is maintaining “the balance of power” in figuring out what is just or unjust with respect to war?
*What moral principles help decide questions related to whether war over disputed territories is okay?
*What is proportionality, why does it morally matter, and how do we assess it?
*What are the moral rights of victors and those who surrender?
*What are the ethics of taking prisoners of war?
*When are otherwise immoral acts excusable due to war?
*What are the insights that the various major normative schools of ethics (deontology, consequentialism, virtue ethics, etc.) have for making sense of the morality of war?
*How can ethical theory play a therapeutic role in helping soldiers or veterans recover form the “moral injuries” they suffer in wartime?
*What is the relationship of religion to war?
*What principles should guide the ethics of drone warfare?
*Since propaganda plays such a pivotal role in war, what is it, how does it work, and is it ever morally justified?
*What should be the extent of the reparations for military destruction? Should they be different for the winner and for the loser? Shoul they be paid to governments or to local people and organizations?
*When, if ever, should mandatory military service be employed? Is it morally necessary to make sure that the burdens of war do not fall disproportionately only on the most vulnerable classes and so that those who consider initiating wars are likely to have personal family members at stake so that they are not rash? Is it morally necessary as a matter of paying back a debt to society? Or is it morally wrong for any of a number of reasons?
*Is it morally problematic to support a war you will not yourself fight in?
*How can we ethically assess recent and ongoing conflicts around the globe that concern us in 2016?

To explore these issues, we will engage cutting edge contemporary philosophers work and familiarize ourselves with the contributions of great historical thinkers like Thucydides, Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Kant, Clausewitz, Nietzsche and Russell. Primarily we will carefully read together in class, usingGoogle Hangout’s extremely convenient screen share capabilities so that you do not have to purchase anything, numerous passages from Michael Walzer’s 1977 classic Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations and Jeff McMahan’s recent and much discussed Killing in WarWhile we will consider a range of positions beyond those of these two thinkers and sometimes directly read other contemporary or historical philosophers, these texts will be our most common, opinionated and insightful, guides to the issues at stake. Based on our readings of texts or summaries of varied positions that I offer, we will have openended discussions about our own views that are driven by your interests.

No outside reading will be expected or required. We will go thoroughly enough through texts in class using a screen share so that these classes do not have to cause you any undue stress throughout the rest of your busy week by giving you homework to worry about. I want my classes to be experienced as relaxing and recuperative ones wherein we can be focused on discovering and studying texts together, vigorously thinking aloud in conversation as we go.

The first session is a FREE TRIAL for newcomers who have never attended one of my class sessions before. There is no university credit for attending these class sessions. For more about me, see this page. Write me at now to express your interest in this class and give me your availabilities so that I can plan it around accommodating you. Below you will find more detailed information answering frequently asked questions about how my classes work.

Scheduling Details:

Class times will be built around the actual students signing up. Once I have all the regular time availabilities of the interested students, I will create a schedule that puts as many students together with classmates as possible and meets as often as necessary to accommodate everyone. I will also happily run 1-on-1 classes at the (cheaper) group class rate when the only time that works for a given student is a time that works for only that one student.

Make ups, Recordings, and Refunds:

If you can’t make your regular class session in a given week, you can either request a recording of the missed session, sit in with another section of the class, set up a one on one make up time with me at your convenience, or request a no questions asked refund. Some busy prospective students worry that they will either inconvenience me or not keep up with the material if they have inconsistent attendance in their regular time slot. Fear of inconsistent attendance should never be the reason for not signing up to my classes. From both a pedagogical and, frankly, a business standpoint, it’s always in my own interest to make up the class time, to give you a recording (so long as you honor its copyright and my confidentiality and that of your fellow students and never redistribute it), or to give you a refund so that you are getting value from your money and will continue paying me and being a part of the class when you can attend. As long as a student is available at some time during the week, day or night, I will prioritize making myself available if at all possible. And if there is simply no time for a student to make up time in a given week or later in a month, then that’s okay too. My motto is “the year is long”. We are not under any institutional time pressures to get classes completed in specific timeframes. So if the class takes more weeks or months than are typical to complete because students need a number of weeks off, that doesn’t negatively affect me. If some students feel finished running through the material earlier than the others and I do some more weeks or months with other students who want to cover more or make up topics they missed, then that’s great too. Classes will run until every single student has gotten every single thing he or she wants out of it. And since I strive to make my philosophical discussions with me and your classmates such a highly valued part of your weekly ritual that you continue to participate in classes with me year round, I look at this from a long term perspective and fully expect that it will be inevitable and healthy that eventually you will have some other weeks away (sometimes consecutively even), that you will attend to important occasions that arise, go on vacations, deal with illness, or just plain need to save money sometimes. My goal is to be accommodating so that whenever it works for you to join in my classes, you feel welcome and feel no guilt over the times you cannot.

Sometimes I am also now offering enrolled students the option to accept an exclusive, non-distributable, and confidential recording of their missed regular weekly session in lieu of a make up session or a refund. Whether a paying student prefers a make up session, a recording, or a refund for any given missed session will always be entirely the students’ choice.

Prices, Billing, and Refunds for Students on Weekly Subscriptions:

Most students pay for class using a weekly subscription.  Once you subscribe, you’re self-enrolled in the class and PayPal will automatically deduct $39.99 weekly until whenever you want to cancel. Each payment must occur on or before the day of attendance and each payment grants a student a weekly 2 hour live and interactive class session, led by me directly (which is half the rate per hour of a guaranteed 1-on-1 class, even if the group class winds up only being 1-on-1 after all, either for any given week’s session or routinely). Any time you request a refund for unused time you will receive it. Unlike with your gym membership, you will never get stuck paying for time you don’t use. If for any reason whatsoever a student is absent and declines a make up session or to take a recording of the class, the student will be refunded with no questions asked, within three weeks (but usually within just a few days).

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Weekly Subscription Cancellations (Temporary and Permanent):

You may at any time self-cancel your subscription directly through PayPal. There is no obligation to attend any minimum numbers of weeks before canceling future payments. If you intend to at some point come back to my classes, I request you ask me to suspend your subscription instead of directly canceling yourself. I will do so immediately, so that you’re not charged for any unused time, and I will refund any payments for class time that you have not used, unless you request to be credited for the time in the future or plan to immediately attend one last pre-paid session before pausing. Of course you can still come back later even if you self-cancel, but it is logistically easier for both of us if I merely suspend your account and can reactivate it at the touch of a button upon your return. Subscriptions are transferable to any of the classes I teach, so if you switch classes you don’t need to sign back up afresh if you haven’t outright cancelled your last subscription completely.

Yearly Subscriptions:

While students who intend to attend year round can still attend on a week to week payment basis as per usual, I am now offering a new Yearly Subscription for students who (a) feel sure they want to attend for an entire year, (b) have the money available to pay upfront, and (c) who want to help support my efforts even if they wind up unable to attend as frequently as they initially expect, are now welcome to purchase Yearly Subscriptions at a 25% discount of the full price for 50 weeks of class. For $1,499, the price of 37.5 two-hour group class sessions or one-hour guaranteed 1-on-1 sessions, you can attend for all 50 weeks of the year that I am not on vacation on a Yearly Subscription. That’s a rate of only $29.98/week. Students on Yearly Subscriptions can attend any classes they like, even attending more than once a week, up to 50 sessions within a calendar year of either a two-hour group class format or a guaranteed 1-on-1 format. Yearly Subscriptions are neither fully nor partially refundable on account of the student’s failure to attend class. If you have a personal hardship that requires you to suspend participation for anywhere from 1-12 months, I guarantee that I will extend the subscription’s period for fulfillment for the same number of consecutive months and weeks that you are unable to attend. I may even be able to extend longer, but cannot guarantee it. Yearly Subscription time that winds up unused and undeferred will be converted into scholarship funding for students with financial hardship. Refunds of Yearly Subscriptions will only be available if I neglect to offer or show up for 50 two-hour group class sessions or one-hour guaranteed1-on-1 sessions that can accommodate the subscribers’ schedule (including through proposed make ups when necessary), within 52 weeks. In such cases, I will owe the student a partial refund of $29.98 per unfulfilled two-hour group or guaranteed 1-on-1 session. Yearly Subscriptions last for exactly one year. Shortly after a student sets up his or her Yearly Subscription and makes his or her yearly payment therewith, I will suspend the subscription within PayPal’s automatic billing system so that the student will not be automatically charged the following year. I will wait for explicit confirmation from the student that they want to renew it during the weeks before its renewal is coming due, in order to reactivate the subscription. At such time the student will be automatically billed again with nothing further required from the student. And again the subscription will be suspended indefinitely awaiting explicit confirmation of intention to renew.


Occasionally there are full or partial scholarships available so subscribe to the e-mails (see the top left of this page) even if you cannot yet afford the classes. All paying students are welcome to have their partner, roommate, friends, or others share their computer screen and participate in class with them for no extra charge on what’s called “The Shared Screen Discount”. If you want to regularly support students with financial hardships, please use the subscribe button below to commit to make automatically deducted PayPal donations on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. Scholarship subscriptions are self-cancelable at any time.

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