Philosophical Studies 165 (1):177-195 (2013)

Saba Bazargan-Forward
University of California, San Diego
Jeff McMahan has argued against the moral equivalence of combatants (MEC) by developing a liability-based account of killing in warfare. On this account, a combatant is morally liable to be killed only if doing so is an effective means of reducing or eliminating an unjust threat to which that combatant is contributing. Since combatants fighting for a just cause generally do not contribute to unjust threats, they are not morally liable to be killed; thus MEC is mistaken. The problem, however, is that many unjust combatants contribute very little to the war in which they participate—often no more than the typical civilian. Thus either the typical civilian is morally liable to be killed, or many unjust combatants are not morally liable to be killed. That is, the liability based account seems to force us to choose between a version of pacifism, and total war. Seth Lazar has called this “The Responsibility Dilemma”. But I will argue that we can salvage a liability-based account of war—one which rejects MEC—by grounding the moral liability of unjust combatants not only in their individual contributions but also in their complicit participation in that war. On this view, all enlistees, regardless of the degree to which they contribute to an unjust war, are complicitously liable to be killed if it is necessary to avert an unjust threat posed by their side. This collectivized liability based account I develop avoids the Responsibility Dilemma unlike individualized liability-based accounts of the sort developed by McMahan
Keywords Just war theory  Liability  Collective responsibility  Moral equality of combatants  Complicity
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-012-9927-2
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References found in this work BETA

Killing in War.Jeff McMahan - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
The Responsibility Dilemma for Killing in War: A Review Essay.Seth Lazar - 2010 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 38 (2):180-213.
Complicity: Ethics and Law for a Collective Age.Larry May - 2002 - Philosophical Review 111 (3):483-486.

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Citations of this work BETA

Unethical Consumption & Obligations to Signal.Holly Lawford-Smith - 2015 - Ethics and International Affairs 29 (3):315-330.
Just War Theory: Revisionists Vs Traditionalists.Seth Lazar - 2017 - Annual Review of Political Science 20:37-54.
War.Brian Orend - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Moral Coercion.Saba Bazargan - 2014 - Philosophers' Imprint 14.

View all 15 citations / Add more citations

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