Ethics of Conflit Resolutions

6 credits

Teacher responsible: Prof Emanuela Ceva

This course investigates issues of justice that emerge out of international conflict scenarios. By reference to such prominent examples of conflict as that between Israelis and Palestinians as well as to such divided communities as that of Cyprus, we shall analyze and discuss the right ways, in a moral sense, to address the different demands of justice that emerge in these circumstances.

The course aims at first to introduce students to the normative approach to the ethics of conflict resolution. We shall distinguish the dimensions of justice (as differentiated from those of legitimacy) implied in conflict scenarios, with special reference to the distinction between the commitment to realizing justice in the outcomes or in the procedures of international cooperation. Subsequently, we shall focus on the forms of injustice that may affect the qualities of international relations when cooperative dynamics are disrupted by conflicts. In particular, we will discuss different theories and practices of conflict resolution, conflict containment, and conflict management in view of their capacity of realizing different demands of justice and peace.

Relevant questions include:

  • Are the demands of global justice distinguishable from those of international legitimacy?

  • Are procedures of international cooperation valuable in themselves or just as instruments to bring about certain desirable outcomes?

  • What demands of justice arise out of conflict scenarios in the international arena? And should we prioritize seeking justice or peace in such scenarios?

  • What is a just transition from antagonism to cooperation in the dynamics of a conflict?

  • What are the moral limits to the acceptability of compromises to tame international conflicts?

The course includes a mixture of lectures, seminars, and case-based discussion. In particular, we shall discuss the questions above with the help of a selection of readings and case studies apt to illustrate the different demands of justice in conflict scenarios at the global level. Students are encouraged to adopt an active and critical approach to these readings and to the case studies.

Preparatory readings:

Students who are unfamiliar with contemporary debates in political philosophy should read in preparation for the course Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy. An Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4 (the book is available on restricted loan (consultazione) from the departmental library).

More specific preparatory reading concerning normative approaches to dealing with conflicts can include some or all of the following: Adams, Robert M. ‘Conflict.’ Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 83, 1(2009): 115–32; Ceva, Emanuela, Interactive Justice, New York: Routledge, Chapters 1 and 2; Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. ‘Moral Conflict and Political Consensus.’ Ethics 101, 1(1990): 64–88; Luban, David. ‘Bargaining and Compromise: Recent Work on Negotiation and Informal Justice.’ Philosophy & Public Affairs 14, 4 (1985): 397–416; Rehg, William. ‘Intractable Conflicts and Moral Objectivity: A Dialogical, Problem-Based Approach.’ Inquiry 42, 2 (1999): 229–57.

Course syllabus

N.B. Prospective students can view the full syllabus for this course by signing up to receive the WPIR syllabus package.