Proportionality in Self-Defense

The Journal of Ethics 21 (3):263-289 (2017)
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This article considers the proportionality requirement of the self-defense justification. It first lays bare the assumptions and the logic—and often illogic—underlying very strict accounts of the proportionality requirement. It argues that accounts that try to rule out lethal self-defense against threats to property or against threats of minor assault by an appeal to the supreme value of life have counter-intuitive implications and are untenable. Furthermore, it provides arguments demonstrating that there is not necessarily a right not to be killed in defense against theft or minor assaults. While there is a general moral right of self-defense and a general right to life, the scope of these rights depends on certain social facts that—even within a liberal framework—can differ from one society to another. Moreover, the proportionality of self-defense does not depend on the rights of the aggressor alone, but also on a precautionary rule, shaped by the balance of interests of the society in question and aimed at protecting innocent people and other social interests. This rule can protect an aggressor even in cases where he does not have the right to such protection.
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Archival date: 2017-02-15
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