Necessity and Liability: On an Honour-Based Justification for Defensive Harming

Journal of Practical Ethics 4 (2):79-93 (2016)
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This paper considers whether victims can justify what appears to be unnecessary defensive harming by reference to an honour-based justification. I argue that such an account faces serious problems: the honour-based justification cannot permit, first, defensive harming, and second, substantial unnecessary harming. Finally, I suggest that, if the purpose of the honour based justification is expressive, an argument must be given to demonstrate why harming threateners, as opposed to opting for a non-harmful alternative, is the most effective means of affirming one’s honour. Along the way, I also suggest why I think that internalism about the constraints on defensive harming (the view that the satisfaction of the necessity constraint is a necessity condition of a threatener’s liability) is correct. Most importantly, externalism implies that threateners can be liable to suffer gratuitous harm. I take this to be an unattractive consequence of the view.

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Joseph Bowen
Stockholm University


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