Self-Defense as Claim Right, Liberty, and Act-Specific Agent-Relative Prerogative

Law and Philosophy 35 (2):193-209 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This paper is not so much concerned with the question under which circumstances self-defense is justified, but rather with other normative features of self-defense as well as with the source of the self-defense justification. I will argue that the aggressor’s rights-forfeiture alone – and hence the liberty-right of the defender to defend himself – cannot explain the intuitively obvious fact that a prohibition on self-defense would wrong victims of attack. This can only be explained by conceiving of self-defense also as a claim-right. However, I will also argue that a claim-right cannot ground the self-defense justification either. Rather, what grounds the self-defense justification and its particular strength and scope is the fact that self-defense is an act-specific agent-relative prerogative: a defender is allowed to give particularly grave weight to his interest in engaging in self-defense, which distinguishes self-defense from most other acts. This is not the same as saying that he has a right or a liberty to engage in self-defense. Thus, self-defense, understood as a normative concept, is a claim-right, a liberty-right, and an act-specific agent-relative prerogative


Added to PP

425 (#26,195)

6 months
80 (#12,643)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Uwe Steinhoff
University of Hong Kong

Citations of this work

The Liability of Justified Attackers.Uwe Steinhoff - 2016 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (4):1016-1030.
Proportionality in Self-Defense.Uwe Steinhoff - 2017 - The Journal of Ethics 21 (3):263-289.
When May Soldiers Participate in War?Uwe Steinhoff - 2016 - International Theory 8 (2):262-296.

Add more citations

References found in this work

A right to do wrong.Jeremy Waldron - 1981 - Ethics 92 (1):21-39.
Killing in self‐defense.Jonathan Quong - 2009 - Ethics 119 (3):507-537.
Defending the Right To Do Wrong.Ori J. Herstein - 2012 - Law and Philosophy 31 (3):343-365.
Punishment and self-defense.George P. Fletcher - 1989 - Law and Philosophy 8 (2):201 - 215.

Add more references