The ethics of killing in war

Philosophia 34 (1):693-733 (2006)

Abstract

This paper argues that certain central tenets of the traditional theory of the just war cannot be correct. It then advances an alternative account grounded in the same considerations of justice that govern self-defense at the individual level. The implications of this account are unorthodox. It implies that, with few exceptions, combatants who fight for an unjust cause act impermissibly when they attack enemy combatants, and that combatants who fight in a just war may, in certain circumstances, legitimately target noncombatants who bear a significant degree of moral responsibility for a wrong, when the prevention or rectification of that wrong constitutes a just cause for war.

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Jeff McMahan
Oxford University

References found in this work

Killing the Innocent in Self-Defense.Michael Otsuka - 1994 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 23 (1):74-94.
The Basis of Moral Liability to Defensive Killing.Jeff McMahan - 2005 - Philosophical Issues 15 (1):386–405.
War and Self-Defense.David Rodin - 2004 - Ethics and International Affairs 18 (1):63–68.

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Citations of this work

The Responsibility Dilemma for Killing in War: A Review Essay.Seth Lazar - 2010 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 38 (2):180-213.
On Following Orders in an Unjust War.David Estlund - 2007 - Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (2):213–234.
Just Cause for War.Jeff McMahan - 2005 - Ethics and International Affairs 19 (3):1-21.

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