Justice, Violence and the State - PHIL6210

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Under what circumstances might it be permissible to use violence to further political goals? What distinguishes different sorts of political violence? Ought the state to have a monopoly on political violence? Are there some methods that should never be used to further political goals? In this course, we will look at the various forms of political violence, and consider how political and legal theorists have tried to regulate violent interaction between states and within states. We will examine the conceptual difficulties that arise when postulating international laws, and consider the role of the United Nations as international mediator and law enforcer. We will also look at the rights of self-determination amongst sub-national groups, and at the obligations of the international community to intervene to prevent humanitarian abuses.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40
Private Study Hours: 260
Total Study Hours: 300


Also available under PL620 (Level 5)

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay (2,500 words) – 50%
Written Assignment (1,000 words total) – 30%
Group Presentation (20 minutes) – 10%
Seminar Performance – 10%

Reassessment methods:
Reassessment Instrument: 100% Coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Altman, A. and Wellman, C.H. (2009). A Liberal Theory of International Justice, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Coady, C.A.J. (2008). Morality and Political Violence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Held, V. (2008). How Terrorism is Wrong, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Walzer, M. (1977). Just and Unjust Wars, New York: Basic Books

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of a number of philosophical topics, such as: different forms of political violence, including terrorism, revolution and war; possible justifications of the use violence for political ends; the role of institutions like nation states, the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in regulating the use of political violence;
2 Demonstrate the ability to read philosophy in a way that helps them conceive original ideas, and then develop and refine those ideas;
3 Write and discuss whilst paying attention to primary and secondary sources (articles, books and ideas), commensurate with advanced undergraduate study.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate their confident and professional skills in critical analysis and argument through an engagement with the relevant issues, both through their reading and through listening to others;
2 Communicate complex ideas clearly and accurately to both specialist and non-specialist audiences;
3 Demonstrate their ability to work autonomously and to take responsibility for their learning whilst identifying areas for future development and research.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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