Self-Defense, Punishing Unjust Combatants and Justice in War

Criminal Law and Philosophy 4 (3):297-319 (2010)
Some contemporary Just War theorists, like Jeff McMahan, have recently built upon an individual right of self-defense to articulate moral rules of war that are at odds with commonly accepted views. For instance, they argue that in principle combatants who fight on the unjust side ought to be liable to punishment on that basis alone. Also, they reject the conclusion that combatants fighting on both sides are morally equal. In this paper, I argue that these theorists overextend their self-defense analysis when it comes to the punishment of unjust combatants, and I show how in an important sense just and unjust combatants are morally equal. I contend that the individualistic and quid pro quo perspective of the self-defense analysis fails to consider properly how the international community, morally speaking, ought to treat combatants, and I set forth four elements of justice applicable to war, which, together, support the conclusion that in principle the international community should not take on the activity of punishing combatants solely for fighting on the unjust side.
Keywords McMahan  Just War  Combatants  The moral equality of soldiers  Self-defense  Punishment  Moral luck
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11572-010-9102-9
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,422
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
Thomas Nagel (1979). Mortal Questions. Cambridge University Press.
Jeff McMahan (2009). Killing in War. Oxford University Press.

View all 23 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

41 ( #118,002 of 1,924,955 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

8 ( #107,540 of 1,924,955 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.