Steve Viner

Associate Professor of Philosophy

 Mondays 11:05-12:05, Wednesdays 9:00-10:00 and 11:05-12:05, and by appointment
 Twilight Hall 313

Steve Viner earned his PhD in philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis.He also has a JD from William Mitchell College of Law, an MA from Marquette University and a BA from St. John’s University.Before going to graduate school to get his PhD, he practiced law in both the private and public sectors.

Professor Viner’s primary area of research concerns moral issues pertaining to the law, including international laws and conflicts.He is the editor of a book titled The Morality of War: Classical and Contemporary Readings (Pearson Prentice Hall 2006).Currently, he is working on projects concerning the moral legitimacy of a State, the moral rights and norms applicable to armed humanitarian intervention, and the punishment of combatants who fight on the unjust side of a war.

He teaches classes in ethics, social and political philosophy and legal philosophy.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1317 / PHIL 0207 - The Philosophy of Human Rights      

The Philosophy of Human Rights
What are human rights? What duties, if any, flow from them, and who is morally obligated to bear those duties? In this course, we will investigate the philosophical origins and development of the concept of human rights. We will critically analyze both historical and contemporary moral perspectives on the existence and nature of human rights. What does it mean to say that one possesses a human right? In addition to examining the existence and nature of human rights, we will take a closer look at the issue of human rights related to world poverty and humanitarian intervention. 3 hrs. sem. CW PHL

Spring 2014, Fall 2015

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INTD 1126 - Philanthropy Ethics Practice      

Philanthropy: Ethics and Practice
In this course we will explore important philosophical, political, and practical questions concerning philanthropy. We will ask philosophical questions about altruism, justice, and the ethics of giving. We will examine organizations within the American charitable sector and the political, material, and cultural forces that shape them. We will combine these two perspectives—philosophical and structural—to gain a better understanding of what philanthropy is or means today. We will then put these perspectives into action. Using what we have learned, in a final group project students will evaluate different charitable organizations and present their findings to the class. PHL WTR

Winter 2013, Winter 2015

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PHIL 0206 - Contemporary Moral Issues      

Contemporary Moral Issues
We will examine a selection of pressing moral problems of our day, seeking to understand the substance of the issues and learning how moral arguments work. We will focus on developing our analytical skills, which we can then use to present and criticize arguments on difficult moral issues. Selected topics may include world poverty, animal rights, abortion, euthanasia, human rights, just and unjust wars, capital punishment, and racial and gender issues. You will be encouraged to question your own beliefs on these issues, and in the process to explore the limit and extent to which ethical theory can play a role in everyday ethical decision making. 2 hrs.lect./1 hr. disc. PHL

Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015

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PHIL 0208 - Morality & War      

Morality & War
Are there any Just Wars? What would make a war a Just War? In the first part of this course we will investigate the historical origins of Just War Theory. In the second part, we will analyze contemporary moral perspectives on whether war can be morally justified and if so, what actions in war are morally justified or prohibited. In the final part, we will read articles concerning war and humanitarian intervention and on what actions, e.g. punishment, are morally permissible or demanded after war. Authors will include Augustine, Grotius, Nagel, Walzer, Luban. 3 hrs. lect. PHL

Spring 2013, Fall 2014

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PHIL 0209 - Philosophy of Law      

Philosophy of Law
In this course, we shall consider a number of questions concerning law and its institution in human society. What is the origin and authority of law? What is legal obligation? What is the connection between law and coercion, between law and morality, and law and rights? Are laws merely conventions or is there a law of nature? What is the role of law in judicial decisions and the effect of these on the law? We shall also consider and evaluate various theories of law: natural law theories, utilitarian theories, analytical philosophy of law, critical legal studies, feminist theories. 3 hrs. lect. PHL

Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2016

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PHIL 0322 - Liberalism and Its Critics      

Liberalism and Its Critics
Liberal political thought is widely touted and accepted in Western societies. In this course, we will take a close look at what liberalism is by investigating the origins of liberalism in the writings of John Locke and John Stuart Mill and by evaluating the thought of contemporary liberal political philosophers, e.g. John Rawls and Will Kymlicka. We will also analyze the arguments of those like Michael Sandel and Yael Tamir who have criticized liberalism as misguided or incomplete. We seek to gain an understanding of the political and moral principles that give priority to liberty and related values or concepts like toleration, autonomy, and fairness. (One course in philosophy or waiver) 3hrs. PHL

Fall 2013, Spring 2016

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PHIL 0408 - Global Justice      

Global Justice
In this course, we will investigate questions of justice that arise in
global affairs. We will inquire into whether there are moral principles that
constrain the actions of states and how these principles support a
conception of global justice. Also, we will seek to understand what global
responsibilities are entailed by global justice. Specific topics that will
be considered include global distributive justice, world poverty, human
rights, humanitarian intervention, and the relationship between global
justice and nationalistic moral concerns. Authors will include Beitz,
Nussbaum, O'Neill, Pogge, Rawls, Singer, Miller, and Walzer. 3 hrs. sem. PHL

Spring 2013, Spring 2015

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PHIL 0500 - Resrch In Philosophy      

Research in Philosophy
Supervised independent research in philosophy. (Approval requiredl.

Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016

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PHIL 0700 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016

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Select Publications

The Morality of War: Classical and Contemporary Readings, co-editor, with Larry May and Eric Rovie, Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2006.

“State Self-Defense and Guantánamo Bay” in International Criminal Law and Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, October 2009, pp. 153-180.








“Fuller’s Concept of Law and Its Cosmopolitan Aims,” Law and Philosophy, Vol. 26, No.1 (Jan. 2007), pp. 1-30.

Select Presentations

“Self-Defense, Punishing Combatants and Justice in War,” XXIV World Congress of Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, Beijing, China, September 2009.

“Was Hobbes a Realist?” Pacific Division Conference – American Philosophical Association, International Hobbes Association, San Francisco, CA, Spring 2007.

“Recognizing State Rights: A Reply to Buchanan and Naticchia,” St. Louis University, Philosophy Department, and Central States Philosophical Association, Memphis, TN, Spring 2006 & 2007.

“On State Self-Defense and Guantánamo Bay,” Central Division Conference – American Philosophical Association, Chicago, IL, Spring 2006.



Department of Philosophy

Twilight Hall
50 Franklin Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

802.443.2077 fax