Liability and the Limits of Self‐Defense

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

Liability and the Limits of Self‐Defense

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This chapter distinguishes among a variety of morally different types of threatening individual — for example, those who are culpable, those who are excused, those who are partially excused, those who are justified, and so on. It argues that the moral basis of liability to defensive violence is moral responsibility for a threat of wrongful harm and claims that on this criterion virtually all who fight in wars that lack a just cause are liable to military attack. It then considers whether these combatants are also liable to punishment in the aftermath of war and discusses whether the excuses available to them may impose a requirement of restraint in fighting against them. It concludes by discussing the moral status of child soldiers.

Keywords: culpable threat; partially excused threat; excused threat; innocent threat; nonresponsible threat; unjust combatants; punishment; excuse; child soldiers

Chapter.  21406 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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