The Morality of Participation in an Unjust War

Jeff McMahan

in Killing in War

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780199548668
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191721045 | DOI:

Series: Uehiro Series in Practical Ethics

The Morality of Participation in an Unjust War

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This chapter analyzes and criticizes the currently orthodox theory of the just war, according to which it is permissible for combatants on both sides in a war to fight, irrespective of whether their war is just or unjust, provided that they obey the rules governing the conduct of war. The argument of the chapter is that the traditional view — that all combatants are legitimate targets while no civilians are — has no coherent moral foundation. It argues that it is impossible for acts of war by combatants who lack a just cause to satisfy the requirement of proportionality. It concludes by advancing a revisionist criterion of moral liability to attack in war.

Keywords: moral equality; liability; just combatants; unjust combatants; narrow proportionality; wide proportionality; moral responsibility; self-defense; jus ad bellum; jus in bello

Chapter.  16755 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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