Quong on Proportionality in Self-defense and the “Stringency Principle”

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Abstract
Jonathan Quong proposes the following “Stringency Principle” for proportionality in self-defense: “If a wrongful attacker threatens to violate a right with stringency level X, then the level of defensive force it is proportionate to impose on the attacker is equivalent to X.” I adduce a counter-example that shows that this principle is wrong. Furthermore, Quong assumes that what determines the stringency of a person’s right is exclusively the amount of force that one would have to avert from someone else in order to have a necessity justification for one’s transgressing the right in order to avert said force. Yet, Quong provides no argument as to why, first, the stringency of a right should be measured exclusively with reference to permissible rights-infringement; and second, he provides no explanation as to why the permissibility of the rights-infringement should be established with reference to “someone else,” namely with reference to an “innocent person,” instead of with reference to the person against whom the right in question is actually being held: the aggressor. I argue that the latter option is certainly the more plausible one, but so amended the stringency principle will be unable to adjudicate any substantive questions about proportionality in self-defense. In particular, Quong’s account cannot “explain” – contrary to what Quong claims – the allegedly intuitive judgment that one must not kill in defense of property or in order to avoid minor injuries.
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Archival date: 2016-12-08
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2016-12-08

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