Proportionality is widely accepted as a necessary condition of justified self-defense. What gives rise to this particular condition and what role it plays in the justification of self-defense seldom receive focused critical attention. In this paper I address the standard of proportionality applicable to personal self-defense and the role that proportionality plays in justifying the use of harmful force in self-defense. I argue against an equivalent harm view of proportionality in self-defense, and in favor of a standard of proportionality in (...) self-defense that requires comparable seriousness and takes into account the wrong, as opposed simply to the harm that the victim is fending off. I distinguish the standard of proportionality in self-defense from proportionality in circumstances of necessity, and I discuss whether proportionality is an internal or an external constraint on the right of self-defense. (shrink)
Should a legal plea of self- or third-party defence include an ‘awareness component’ that requires that the actor was aware of the justificatory facts at the time of action? Some theorists argue that in cases of so-called unknowing defence, where an actor in fact averts an otherwise unavoidable danger to himself or another person although unaware at the time of action that this is what he is doing, the objective facts alone should allow a plea of self- or third-party defence. (...) Cases of unknowing defence raise issues that are highly significant to the nature of justification and liability. In this article I reject some common approaches to this issue and I offer an account of why acts of unknowing defence are appropriately subject to criminal liability for the complete offence. (shrink)
Do individuals have a positive right of self-defence? And if so, what are the limits of this right? Under what conditions does this use of force extend to the defence of others? These are some of the issues explored by Dr Uniacke in this comprehensive 1994 philosophical discussion of the principles relevant to self-defence as a moral and legal justification of homicide. She establishes a unitary right of self-defence and the defence of others, one which grounds the permissibility of the (...) use of necessary and proportionate defensive force against culpable and non-culpable, active and passive, unjust threats. Particular topics discussed include: the nature of moral and legal justification and excuse; natural law justifications of homicide in self-defence; the Principle of Double Effect and the claim that homicide in self-defence is justified as unintended killing; and the question of self-preferential killing. This is a lucid and sophisticated account of the complex notion of justification, revolving around a critical discussion of trends in the law of self-defence. (shrink)
This article discusses the nature of euthanasia, and the way in which redevelopment of the concept of euthanasia in some influential recent philosophical writing has led to morally less discriminating killing/letting die/not saving being misdescribed as euthanasia. Peter Singer's defence of non-voluntary ‘euthanasia’of defective infants in his influential book Practical Ethics is critically evaluated. We argue that Singer's pseudo-euthanasia arguments in Practical Ethics are unsatisfactory as approaches to determining the legitimacy of killing, and that these arguments present a total utilitarian (...) improvement policy—not a case for non-voluntary euthanasia. (shrink)
The value of applied philosophy is often taken to consist in its contribution to our understanding of practical issues with which applied philosophy engages and in its contribution to their satisfactory resolution. This chapter examines the relationship between the nature of applied philosophy and its value. It regards the value of applied philosophy as dependent both on its philosophical quality and on its contribution to the understanding and (potential) resolution of practical issues with which it engages. These dual points of (...) reference are difficult simultaneously to fulfill and arguably sometimes in tension with one another. The chapter takes issue with the idea that the value of applied philosophy consists, or ought to consist, in its direct impact on actual policy or practice. (shrink)
Preference utilitarianism is widely considered a significant advance on classical utilitarianism when it comes to explaining why it is wrong to kill people. This paper focuses attention on the nature of the preference utilitarian 'direct' objection to killing a person and on the related claim that a person's preferences are non-replaceable. I argue that the preference utilitarian case against killing people is overstated and overrated. My concluding remarks indicate the relevance of this discussion to deeper issues in normative moral theory.
The Just War principle of jus ad bellum explicitly requires a reasonable prospect of success; the prevailing view about personal self-defence is that it can be justified even if the prospect of success is low. This chapter defends the existence of this distinction and goes on to explore the normative basis of this difference between defensive war and self-defence and its implications. In particular, the chapter highlights the rationale of the ‘success condition’ within Just War thinking and argues that this (...) condition is grounded in assumptions about the nature of political authority and responsibility that do not apply to personal self-defence. This important difference is commonly ignored or side-lined by contemporary theorists who regard the principles of these two types of conflict as very closely aligned and the moral differences between them as matters of degree only. (shrink)
Two articles have appeared in Law and Philosophy that provide detailed criticisms of aspects of my account of the justification of individual self-defense. One of these articles misconstrues central aspects of my account. The other raises a less central, but nonetheless an important issue that invites clarification. The criticisms raised in these two articles to which I respond here have important bearing on the nature of the justification of self-defense.
This paper critically addresses two central aspects of Frances Kamm’s account of conceptual and evaluative issues of terrorism in ‘Terrorism and Intending Evil’, Ethics for Enemies (oup 2011), chapter 2. The paper engages with what Kamm says about cases in which an act done from a morally bad intention or motive overtly exactly mimics a justifiable act. I argue that in such a case, an actor’s intention to terrorise is more significant to the question of whether what he or she (...) does is a terrorist act than Kamm allows. I also press considerations that run counter to Kamm’s view that in such cases an actor’s intention or motive is not directly relevant to the moral permissibility of actions that harm other people who are not otherwise liable to receive that type and degree of harm. (shrink)
This paper asks how we should conceptualize the relationship between responsibility and obligation. Its central concern is the relevance of considerations of obligation to the attribution of responsibility for what we do or bring about. The paper approaches this issue through an examination of Kant's complex, challenging and instructive theory of responsibility, in which strict obligation plays a pivotal role in attributions of responsibility for the outcomes of our actions. Even if we do not accept Kant's strongly juridical concept of (...) responsibility, his theory provides insight into the way in which we should see the connection between responsibility and obligation. (shrink)
This chapter provides a general, philosophical account of the use of harmful force in self-defence as a type of retaliation. It argues that pre-emption — the use of harmful force for prevention — is not an act of self-defence. The associations between the concepts of retaliation, self-defence, and pre-emption are discussed.
The House of Lords ruled in R v Howe (1987) that Duress is not a defence to murder in English law. Some of the central arguments rested on a simple view about the nature of duress and the way in which duress is relevant in moral evaluation. This paper discusses legal and non-legal senses of duress, and argues that duress can be relevant to moral evaluation in a number of different ways. Some acts under duress are morally justified (here the (...) defence of Duress is like that of Necessity) and some others are excusable; some excuses deny full responsibility on the part of the agent (here Duress is more like Provocation) and others do not. The judicial description of duress in Howe is too specific to notice this, with the consequence that some of the central claims made in dismissing Duress as a defence to murder are confused. (shrink)
The paper’s central focus is the ‘duty’ theory of punishment developed by Victor Tadros in The Ends of Harm. In evaluating the ‘duty’ theory we might ask two broad closely related questions: whether in its own terms the ‘duty’ theory provides a justification of the imposition of hard treatment or suffering on an offender; and whether the ‘duty’ theory can provide a justification of punishment. This paper is principally concerned with the second question, which stems from a significant difference between (...) Tadros’s ‘duty view’ of punishment, as opposed to more familiar theories that seek to justify punishment as essentially the imposition of a penalty for wrongdoing. In addressing this question I highlight this particular difference as problematic for Tadros’s ‘duty’ theory. The issues concern Tadros’s conception of punishment and the central features of his ‘duty view’: the claim that punishment of some offenders can be justified as the fulfilment of a duty of protection that they owe principally to those whom they have wrongfully harmed. (shrink)
This paper addresses what should be an important question for many institutional ethics committees: How might they justifiably trust external peer review of the scientific merit of research proposals under their consideration, since these committees are typically not constituted to review the science themselves?
The use of force in self-defense is widely regarded as morally justified. Perhaps for this reason self-defense received only sporadic attention in Western philosophy until relatively recently. In the thirteenth century St. Thomas Aquinas (see Aquinas, Saint Thomas) needed to reconcile permissible self-defense with his view that a private person must not kill intentionally; he sought to do this by distinguishing between intended, as opposed to (merely) foreseen, effects of an action and thus laid the basis of the doctrine of (...) double effect (see Doctrine Of Double Effect). Several sixteenth- and seventeenth-century philosophers discussed self-defense. Thomas Hobbes regarded self-defense as a fundamental and inalienable right (see Hobbes, Thomas). Others addressed self-defense within civil society and in relation to just war (see Natural Law; Just War Theory, History of; Locke, John; Grotius, Hugo; Pufendorf, Samuel Von). (shrink)
This paper examines the absolutist grounds for denying an agent's responsibility for what he allows to happen in 'keeping his hands clean' in acute circumstances. In defending an agent's non-prevention of what is, viewed impersonally, the greater harm in such cases, absolutists typically insist on a difference in responsibility between what an agent brings about as opposed to what he allows. This alleged difference is taken to be central to the absolutist justification of non-intervention in acute cases: the agent's obligation (...) not to do harm is held to be more stringent than his obligation to prevent (comparable) harm, since as agents we are principally responsible for what we ourselves do. The paper's central point is that this representation of the absolutist response to acute cases- as grounded in a difference in responsibility for what we do as opposed to what we allow- involves a misleading theoretical inversion. I argue that the absolutist justification of non-intervention in acute cases must depend on a direct defence of the nature and the stringency of the moral norm with which the agent's non-intervention complies. The nature and stringency of this norm are basic to attribution of agent responsibility in acute cases, and not the other way around. (shrink)
What is family-centred care of a hospitalized child? A critical understanding of the concept of family-centred care is necessary if this widely preferred model is to be differentiated from other health care ideals and properly evaluated as appropriate to the care of hospitalized children. The article identifies distinguishable interpretations of family-centred care that can pull health professionals in different, sometimes conflicting directions. Some of these interpretations are not qualitatively different from robust interpretations of the ideals of parental participation, care-by-parent and (...) partnership in care that are said to be the precursors of family-centred care. A prominent interpretation that regards the child and his or her family collectively as the ‘unit of care’ arguably arises from ambiguity and is significantly problematic as a model for the care of hospitalized children. Clinical practice driven by this interpretation can include courses of action that do not aim to do what will best promote a hospitalized child’s welfare, and such cases will not be unusual. More broadly, this interpretation raises challenging questions about the responsibilities and authority of health professionals in relation to the interests of hospitalized children and their families. (shrink)
This article explores the connection between terrorism and the ethics of war, specifically the relevance of the moral wrongfulness of terrorism in elucidating one important aspect of the ethics of war. It begins with an overview of terrorism’s central features and the ethical issues associated with terrorism. It then discusses two considerations. First, terrorism can occur within civil society as well as in contexts of armed combat or war. Second, terrorist tactics are answerable to principles that govern ethically acceptable conduct (...) of war, not the other way around. The chapter also tackles the question of whether the jus in bello principle of discrimination that prohibits targeting innocent people ought to represent an absolute prohibition, as opposed to a very stringent constraint. It argues that an analysis of the structure of terrorism and its distinctive wrongfulness can be helpful in morally interpreting the jus in bello principle of discrimination. (shrink)
Just War theory specifies that recourse to war must be a last resort. This specification accords with a more general aim to limit the occurrence of war by articulating demanding conditions under which war can be morally legitimate. Although it has critics among contemporary Western philosophers, the condition of last resort is widely accepted as a basic element of Just War theory. It is not itself an issue of dispute between historical as opposed to contemporary Just War theorists, or between (...) traditional as opposed to revisionist Just War theorists. The defensibility of “last resort” as a necessary condition of legitimate recourse to war will depend on how the condition is best interpreted and on its moral rationale. (shrink)