Fall 2023 - HUM 360 B100

Special Topics: Great Themes in the Humanistic Tradition (4)

Theories of War

Class Number: 4604

Delivery Method: Blended


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Mon, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

    Oct 10, 2023: Tue, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



An interdisciplinary study of a selected theme that has made a lasting contribution to the humanistic tradition in more than one field of endeavour(e.g. philosophy, politics, literature,economics, religion). This course may be repeated once for credit. Students who have credit for a course with this content under another Humanities course may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.


HUM 360: Thinking about War

“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”
– Leon Trotsky 
Leon Trotsky, journalist and eventually one of the key leaders of the Russian Revolution and commander of the Red Army, summarized many individuals' complicated relationship with the topic. War, by its nature, is something most humans find abhorrent. Yet, despite our best efforts to escape or limit the phenomenon, it remains omnipresent in the world today, with ongoing conflicts in Russia-Ukraine, Myanmar, and Ethiopia just representing a fraction of the conflict in the world today. If most humans detest war, why is it still occurring with alarming regularity? 

This class examines how individuals have conceived of war to assess humanity’s relationship with the phenomenon. In order to do so, it will examine the writings of several of the major theoreticians on war and subject them to critical analysis using both historical and contemporary examples.
Just some of the questions the class will consider include:
  • Why do people engage in war?
  • Has warfare fundamentally changed in the modern era?
  • What is the role of technology in war?
  • What is conventional war? Unconventional?
  • Will it ever be possible to end war?
Answering these questions will help us better understand the phenomenon of war and its relationship with humanity.


At the end of the course, students will be able to demonstrate their proficiency in the following activities: 

  • Read and analyse Humanities texts to academic standards.
  • Place texts in their historical and cultural context.
  • Gain an understanding of the phenomenon of war and its relationship to humanity
  • Understand war both in its historical as well as contemporary contexts


  • Paper Proposal 10%
  • Participation 20%
  • Two quizzes (15% each) 30%
  • Final Paper 40%



All readings will either be provided by the instructor or available online at the SFU Library.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.