Justifying Defense Against Non-Responsible Threats and Justified Aggressors: the Liability vs. the Rights-Infringement Account

Philosophia 44 (1):247-265 (2016)
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Even among those who find lethal defense against non-responsible threats, innocent aggressors, or justified aggressors justified even in one to one cases, there is a debate as to what the best explanation of this permissibility is. The contenders in this debate are the liability account, which holds that the non-responsible or justified human targets of the defensive measures are liable to attack, and the justified infringement account, which claims that the targets retain their right not to be attacked but may be attacked anyway, even in one to one situations. Given that we normally think that rights are trumps, this latter claim is counter-intuitive and rather surprising, and therefore in need of justification and explanation. So far only Jonathan Quong has actually tried to provide an explanation; however, I will argue that his explanation fails and that Quong’s own account of liability is misguided. I then address Helen Frowe’s critique of the liability account. She makes the important concession that the tactical bomber has to compensate his victims, but she tries to block the conclusion that he must therefore be liable. I will demonstrate that her attempt to explain away liability fails once that concession is made

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Uwe Steinhoff
University of Hong Kong


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