Phillip Montague

in Targeted Killings

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646470
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738975 | DOI:

Show Summary Details


The moral status of targeted killings is problematic for analogous reasons. Ordinary moral principles permit homicide only when necessary to prevent the loss of life or comparably serious harms. This restriction does seem to be relaxed in various ways for killings within wars. In particular, combatants on opposing sides can be morally permitted to kill each other even when, in doing so, they are not responding to imminent threats of serious harm. However, this relaxation of ordinary morality's prohibition against homicide would seem to require the existence of a special set of moral norms that — like the laws of war — apply only to wars strictly so-called; that is, these moral norms of war would apply only to conflicts between the military forces of political communities. Accordingly, a ‘morality of war’ would not apply to the targeted killing of terrorists, and would provide no better basis than ordinary morality for establishing the permissibility of these killings. This chapter argues, however, that this explanation of the moral status of targeted killing is mistaken because of what it assumes about the implications of ordinary morality. Specifically, it argues that targeted killings can be morally permissible according to ordinary moral principles of self-defence.

Keywords: targeted killings; morality; war; terrorists; self-defence

Chapter.  7751 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.