PHIL 196 - First Year Seminar
Winter 2018, Section 001 - Nuke Weapons and Ethics of Apocalypse
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Experts agree the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used in battle is now greater than it's been since the Cold War. A nuclear war between major powers would bring about an apocalyptic world, possibly bringing civilization or even the human species to an untimely end. Or supposing we avoid such a war, an apocalyptic world could still result from environmental catastrophe or a major epidemic.

In this course, we will confront the ethical and political questions raised by the possibility of apocalypse, with a particular focus on nuclear weapons.

In the first part of the course, we'll look at the worst-case scenario: what if this actually happens? We will examine the possible effects of apocalyptic war—the world after apocalypse—with an eye to the following questions:

  • How do nuclear weapons work, and how might a nuclear war actually happen?
  • How should people live in an apocalyptic world of collapse and scarcity?
  • What are the ethics of "doomsday prepping"? Are we obliged to share resources following a catastrophe, or should we protect our own families and friends?
  • Does the possibility of an apocalyptic future undermine any of our present-day ethical ideals?
  • What can we learn about the meaning of human life by considering how an apocalypse would change us?

Then, in the second part of the course, we will ask how a nuclear apocalypse may be averted:

  • What are the best and most ethical strategies for preventing nuclear war?
  • Is reducing nuclear arsenals a worthwhile goal, or do nuclear weapons actually make us safer by deterring war?
  • When, if ever, might the use of nuclear weapons be ethically justified?
  • How do the rules of warfare and the ideals of just war theory apply to nuclear war?

    Intended Audience:

    First-year students only

    Class Format:

    Three hours of seminar per week


PHIL 196 - First Year Seminar
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM

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