Philosophia 43 (3):869-876 (2015)

Jonathan Quong Ethics, 119, 507–537 has recently argued that the permissibility of killing innocent threats turns on a distinction between eliminative and opportunistic agency. When we kill bystanders we view them under the guise of opportunism by using them as mere survival tools, but when we kill threats we simply eliminate them. According to Quong, the distinction between opportunistic and eliminative agency reveals that there are two different ways of killing someone as a means to save your own life. Call this the Means Distinction. In this note, I argue that although the Means Distinction seems prima facie plausible it is not a sufficient explanation for the permissibility of killing threats. My argument against the Means Distinction is two-fold. Most non-consequentialists accept that the Means Distinction carries some moral significance, but I argue that this is a mistake: we do not have any reason to believe that opportunistic killings are, in general, worse than eliminative killings. Following this, I argue that even if we accept the Means Distinction, there are threat-type scenarios in which there is no intuitive difference between killing a threat opportunistically and killing a threat eliminatively
Keywords Self-defense  Threats  Innocents  Intentions  Means
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11406-015-9599-1
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,078
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Killing in War.Jeff McMahan - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
Morality and Action.Warren Quinn - 1993 - Cambridge University Press.
Killing in Self‐Defense.Jonathan Quong - 2009 - Ethics 119 (3):507-537.

View all 8 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Equating Innocent Threats and Bystanders.Helen Frowe - 2008 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (4):277-290.
The Moral Status of Nonresponsible Threats.Jason Hanna - 2012 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 29 (1):19-32.
Against Substitutive Harm.Daniel Schwartz - 2016 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 33 (4):411-424.
Internecine War Killings.Cécile Fabre - 2012 - Utilitas 24 (2):214-236.
Self-Defence and the Principle of Non-Combatant Immunity.Helen Frowe - 2011 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 8 (4):530-546.
Just-War Theory and the Role of the Police Sniper.R. J. Connelly - 2000 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 14 (2):175-189.
On the Moral Relevance of the Distinction Between Killing and Letting Die.Young-mo Koo - 1997 - Dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara
On the Moral Acceptability of Killing Animals.Hugh Lehman - 1988 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 1 (2):155-162.
Killing, Letting Die and Euthanasia.D. N. Husak - 1979 - Journal of Medical Ethics 5 (4):200-202.


Added to PP index

Total views
63 ( #179,525 of 2,498,934 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #170,045 of 2,498,934 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes