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Talk 8 - Jeff McMahan, "The Relevance to Proportionality of the Number of Aggressors"Add to Queue

Course :  Ethics in the Public Sphere: War Ethics Symposium

  • Posted by : UCSanDiegoPhilosophy

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  • Date posted : Jan 01, 1970


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Traditional just war theorists claim that all combatants are morally liable to be killed in war. And many revisionist just war theorists claim that, while most just combatants are not liable to be killed, most unjust combatants are. Traditionalists and those revisionists who are not contingent pacifists thus agree that most unjust combatants are liable to be killed during a state of war. It seems, moreover, that all those who are liable to be killed may permissibly be killed, for a person's liability to suffer a harm provides a complete justification for the infliction on him of that harm. Of those unjust combatants who satisfy the conditions of liability to be killed, there therefore seems to be no limit to the number that it can be permissible to kill. Yet this seems implausible in cases in which the goals of the unjust war are modest and the great majority of unjust combatants are at most minimally culpable for their participation in the war. This paper challenges the prevailing view that there is no proportionality constraint on the number of unjust combatants it can be permissible to kill in war and explains the different ways in which the numbers can be relevant to both in bello and ad bellum proportionality.

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