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Uwe Steinhoff
University of Hong Kong
  1.  49
    Waldron on the “Basic Equality” of Hitler and Schweitzer: A Brief Refutation.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    The idea that all human beings have equal moral worth has been challenged by insisting that this is utterly counter-intuitive in the case of individuals like, for instance, Hitler on the one hand and Schweitzer on the other. This seems to be confirmed by a hypothetical in which one can only save one of the two: intuitively, one clearly should save Schweitzer, not Hitler, even if Hitler does not pose a threat anymore. The most natural interpretation of this intuition appeals (...)
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  2. Rights, Liability, and the Moral Equality of Combatants.Uwe Steinhoff - 2012 - The Journal of Ethics 16 (4):339-366.
    According to the dominant position in the just war tradition from Augustine to Anscombe and beyond, there is no "moral equality of combatants." That is, on the traditional view the combatants participating in a justified war may kill their enemy combatants participating in an unjustified war - but not vice versa (barring certain qualifications). I shall argue here, however, that in the large number of wars (and in practically all modern wars) where the combatants on the justified side violate the (...)
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  3. The Moral Equality of Modern Combatants and the Myth of Justified War.Uwe Steinhoff - 2012 - Theoretical and Applied Ethics 1 (4):35-44.
    In the tradition of just war theory two assumptions have been taken pretty much for granted: first, that there are quite a lot of justified wars, and second, that there is a moral inequality of combatants, that is, that combatants participating in a justified war may kill their enemy combatants participating in an unjustified war but not vice versa. I will argue that the first assumption is wrong and that therefore the second assumption is virtually irrelevant for reality. I will (...)
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  4. Self-Defense as Claim Right, Liberty, and Act-Specific Agent-Relative Prerogative.Uwe Steinhoff - 2016 - Law and Philosophy 35 (2):193-209.
    This paper is not so much concerned with the question under which circumstances self-defense is justified, but rather with other normative features of self-defense as well as with the source of the self-defense justification. I will argue that the aggressor’s rights-forfeiture alone – and hence the liberty-right of the defender to defend himself – cannot explain the intuitively obvious fact that a prohibition on self-defense would wrong victims of attack. This can only be explained by conceiving of self-defense also as (...)
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  5. Why "We" Are Not Harming the Global Poor: A Critique of Pogge's Leap From State to Individual Responsibility.Uwe Steinhoff - 2012 - Public Reason 4 (1-2):119-138.
    Thomas Pogge claims "that, by shaping and enforcing the social conditions that foreseeably and avoidably cause the monumental suffering of global poverty, we are harming the global poor ... or, to put it more descriptively, we are active participants in the largest, though not the gravest, crime against humanity ever committed." In other words, he claims that by upholding certain international arrangements we are violating our strong negative duties not to harm, and not just some positive duties to help. I (...)
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  6. Why We Shouldn’T Reject Conflicts: A Critique of Tadros.Uwe Steinhoff - 2014 - Res Publica 20 (3):315-322.
    Victor Tadros thinks the idea that in a conflict both sides may permissibly use force should (typically) be rejected. Thus, he thinks that two shipwrecked persons should not fight for the only available flotsam (which can only carry one person) but instead toss a coin, and that a bomber justifiably attacking an ammunitions factory must not be counterattacked by the innocent bystanders he endangers. I shall argue that Tadros’s claim rests on unwarranted assumptions and is also mistaken in the light (...)
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  7. Justifying Defense Against Non-Responsible Threats and Justified Aggressors: The Liability Vs. The Rights-Infringement Account.Uwe Steinhoff - 2016 - Philosophia 44 (1):247-265.
    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 (...)
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  8. Proportionality in Self-Defense.Uwe Steinhoff - 2017 - The Journal of Ethics 21 (3):263-289.
    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 (...)
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  9. The Liability of Justified Attackers.Uwe Steinhoff - 2016 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (4):1016-1030.
    McMahan argues that justification defeats liability to defensive attack (which would undermine the thesis of the "moral equality of combatants"). In response, I argue, first, that McMahan’s attempt to burden the contrary claim with counter-intuitive implications fails; second, that McMahan’s own position implies that the innocent civilians do not have a right of self-defense against justified attackers, which neither coheres with his description of the case (the justified bombers infringe the rights of the civilians) nor with his views about rights (...)
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  10. What Is War—And Can a Lone Individual Wage One?Uwe Steinhoff - 2009 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 23 (1):133-150.
    Practically all modern definitions of war rule out that individuals can wage war. They conceive of war as a certain kind of conflict between groups. In fact, many definitions even restrict the term “war” to sustained armed conflicts between states. Instead of taking such definitions as points of departure, the article starts from scratch. I first explain what an explication of the concept of “war” should achieve. I then introduce the fundamental, and frequently overlooked, distinction between war as an historical (...)
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  11. Rodin on Self-Defense and the "Myth" of National Self-Defense: A Refutation.Uwe Steinhoff - 2013 - Philosophia 41 (4):1017-1036.
    David Rodin denies that defensive wars against unjust aggression can be justified if the unjust aggression limits itself, for example, to the annexation of territory, the robbery of resources or the restriction of political freedom, but would endanger the lives, bodily integrity or freedom from slavery of the citizens only if the unjustly attacked state actually resisted the aggression. I will argue that Rodin's position is not correct. First, Rodin's comments on the necessity condition and its relation to an alleged (...)
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  12. Self-Defense and the Necessity Condition.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    Rights forfeiture or liability are not a path to the permissibility of self-defense (not even barring extraordinary circumstances), and the necessity condition is not intrinsic to justified self-defense. Rather, necessity in the context of justification must be distinguished from necessity in the context of rights forfeiture. While innocent aggressors only forfeit their right against necessary self-defense, culpable aggressors also forfeit, on grounds of a principle of reciprocity, certain rights against unnecessary self-defense. Yet, while culpable aggressors would therefore not be wronged (...)
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  13. Just Cause and 'Right Intention'.Uwe Steinhoff - 2014 - Journal of Military Ethics 13 (1):32-48.
    I argue that the criterion of just cause is not independent of proportionality and other valid jus ad bellum criteria. One cannot know whether there is a just cause without knowing whether the other (valid) criteria (apart from ‘right intention’) are satisfied. The advantage of this account is that it is applicable to all wars, even to wars where nobody will be killed or where the enemy has not committed a rights violation but can be justifiably warred against anyway. This (...)
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  14. McMahan, Symmetrical Defense and the Moral Equality of Combatants.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    McMahan’s own example of a symmetrical defense case, namely his tactical bomber example, opens the door wide open for soldiers to defend their fellow-citizens (on grounds of their special obligations towards them) even if as part of this defense they target non-liable soldiers. So the soldiers on both sides would be permitted to kill each other and, given how McMahan defines “justification,” they would also be justified in doing so and hence not be liable. Thus, we arrive, against McMahan’s intentions, (...)
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  15. Drowning the Shallow Pond Analogy: A Critique of Garrett Cullity's Attempt to Rescue It.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    Garrett Cullity concedes that saving a drowning child from a shallow pond at little cost to oneself is not actually analogous to giving money to a poverty relief organization like Oxfam. The question then arises whether this objection is fatal to Peters Singer's argument for a duty of assistance or whether it can be saved anyway. Cullity argues that not saving the drowning child and not giving money to organizations like Oxfam are still morally analogous, that is, not giving money (...)
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  16. Shortcomings of and Alternatives to the Rights-Forfeiture Theory of Justified Self-Defense and Punishment.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    I argue that rights-forfeiture by itself is no path to permissibility at all (even barring special circumstances), neither in the case of self-defense nor in the case of punishment. The limiting conditions of self-defense, for instance – necessity, proportionality (or no gross disproportionality), and the subjective element – are different in the context of forfeiture than in the context of justification (and might even be absent in the former context). In particular, I argue that a culpable aggressor, unlike an innocent (...)
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  17. Self-Defense and Imminence.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    This paper argues that there is a significant moral difference between force applied against (imminent) attackers on the one hand and force applied against “threatening” people who are not (imminent) attackers on the other. Given that there is such a difference, one should not blur the lines by using the term “self-defense” (understood as including other-defense) for both uses of force. Rather, only the former is appropriately called self-defense, while for the latter, following German legal terminology, the term “justifying defensive (...)
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  18. What Is Self-Defense?Uwe Steinhoff - 2015 - Public Affairs Quarterly 29 (4):385-402.
    In this paper, I will provide a conceptual analysis of the term self-defense and argue that in contrast to the widespread “instrumentalist” account of self-defense, self-defense need not be aimed at averting or mitigating an attack, let alone the harm threatened by it. Instead, on the definition offered here, an act token is self-defense if and only if a) it is directed against an ongoing or imminent attack, and b) the actor correctly believes that the act token is an effective (...)
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  19. Helen Frowe’s “Practical Account of Self-Defence”: A Critique.Uwe Steinhoff - 2013 - Public Reason 5 (1):87-96.
    Helen Frowe has recently offered what she calls a “practical” account of self-defense. Her account is supposed to be practical by being subjectivist about permissibility and objectivist about liability. I shall argue here that Frowe first makes up a problem that does not exist and then fails to solve it. To wit, her claim that objectivist accounts of permissibility cannot be action-guiding is wrong; and her own account of permissibility actually retains an objectivist (in the relevant sense) element. In addition, (...)
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  20. Shalom on the Impermissibility of Self-Defense Against the Tactical Bomber.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    A standard example of a justified aggressor is the tactical bomber who is about to destroy an ammunitions factory in a proportionate, justified military attack, full well knowing that an innocent civilian bystander will also be killed by his attack (“collateral damage”). Intuitively it seems hard to believe that the innocent bystander threatened by the tactical bomber is morally prohibited from killing him in self-defense. Yet, Stephen R. Shalom indeed endorses such a prohibition. I shall argue that all the examples (...)
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  21. The Uselessness of Rawls’s “Ideal Theory”.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    Over the years a few authors have argued that Rawls’s ideal theory of justice is useless for the real world. This criticism has been largely ignored by Rawlsians, but in the light of a recent accumulation of such criticisms, some authors (in particular Holly Lawford-Smith, A. John Simmons, Zofia Stemplowska and Laura Valentini) have tried to defend ideal theory. In this article I will recapitulate the precise problem with Rawls’s ideal theory, argue that some of Rawls’s defenders misconceive it, and (...)
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  22. Is There a Duty to Militarily Intervene to Stop a Genocide?Uwe Steinhoff - forthcoming - In Christian Neuhäuser & Christoph Schuck (eds.), Military Interventions: Considerations from Philosophy and Political Science.
    Is there is a moral obligation to militarily intervene in another state to stop a genocide from happening (if this can be done with proportionate force)? My answer is that under exceptional circumstances a state or even a non-state actor might have a duty to stop a genocide (for example if these actors have promised to do so), but under most circumstances there is no such obligation. To wit, “humanity,” states, collectives, and individuals do not have an obligation to make (...)
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  23. When May Soldiers Participate in War?Uwe Steinhoff - 2016 - International Theory 8 (2):262-296.
    I shall argue that in some wars both sides are (as a collective) justified, that is, they can both satisfy valid jus ad bellum requirements. Moreover, in some wars – but not in all – the individual soldiers on the unjustified side (that is, on the side without jus ad bellum) may nevertheless kill soldiers (and also civilians as a side-effect) on the justified side, even if the enemy soldiers always abide by jus in bello constraints. Traditional just war theory (...)
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  24. Against Pogge's 'Cosmopolitanism'.Uwe Steinhoff - 2013 - Ratio 26 (3):329-341.
    Thomas Pogge labels the idea that each person owes each other person equal respect and concern ‘ethical cosmopolitanism’ and correctly states that it is a ‘non-starter’. He offers as an allegedly more convincing cosmopolitan alternative his ‘social justice cosmopolitanism’. I shall argue that this alternative fails for pretty much the same reasons that ‘ethical cosmopolitanism’ fails. In addition, I will show that Pogge's definition of cosmopolitanism is misleading, since it actually applies to ethical cosmopolitanism and not to social justice cosmopolitanism. (...)
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  25. Quong on Agent-Relative Prerogatives to Do Harm: A Very Brief Refutation.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    In a recent paper, Jonathan Quong tries to offer further support for “the proposition that there are sometimes agent-relative prerogatives to harm nonliable persons.” In this brief paper, I will demonstrate that Quong’s argument implicitly relies on the premise that the violinist in Thomson’s famous example has a right not to be unplugged. Yet, first, Quong provides no argument in support of this premise; and second, the premise is clearly wrong. Moreover, throughout his paper Quong just question-beggingly and without argument (...)
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  26. Just Cause and the Continuous Application of Jus Ad Bellum.Uwe Steinhoff - forthcoming - In Larry May May, Shannon Elizabeth Fyfe & Eric Joseph Ritter (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook on Just War Theory. Cambridge University Press.
    What one is ultimately interested in with regard to ‘just cause’ is whether a specific war, actual or potential, is justified. I call this ‘the applied question’. Answering this question requires knowing the empirical facts on the ground. However, an answer to the applied question regarding a specific war requires a prior answer to some more general questions, both descriptive and normative. These questions are: What kind of thing is a ‘just cause’ for war (an aim, an injury or wrong (...)
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  27. Firth and Quong on Liability to Defensive Harm: A Critique.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    Joanna Mary Firth and Jonathan Quong argue that both an instrumental account of liability to defensive harm, according to which an aggressor can only be liable to defensive harms that are necessary to avert the threat he poses, and a purely noninstrumental account which completely jettisons the necessity condition, lead to very counterintuitive implications. To remedy this situation, they offer a “pluralist” account and base it on a distinction between “agency rights” and a “humanitarian right.” I argue, first, that this (...)
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  28. Unsavory Implications of a Theory of Justice and the Law of Peoples: The Denial of Human Rights and the Justification of Slavery.Uwe Steinhoff - 2012 - Philosophical Forum 43 (2):175-196.
    Many philosophers have criticized John Rawls’s Law of Peoples. However, often these criticisms take it for granted that the moral conclusions drawn in A Theory of Justice are superior to those in the former book. In my view, however, Rawls comes to many of his 'conclusions' without too many actual inferences. More precisely, my argument here is that if one takes Rawls’s premises and the assumptions made about the original position(s) seriously and does in fact think them through to their (...)
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  29. Two Failed Accounts of Citizen Responsibility for State Action: On Stilz and Pasternak.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    Anna Stilz claims that citizens of democratic states bear “task responsibility” to repair unjust harms done by their states. I will argue that the only situation in which Stilz’s argument for such “task responsibility” is not redundant, given her own premises, is a situation where the state leaves it up to the citizens whether to indemnify others for the harms done by the state. I will also show that Stilz’s “authorization view” rests on an unwarranted and implausible assumption (which I (...)
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  30. A Critique of David Miller's Like Minded Group and Cooperative Practice Models of Collective Responsibility.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    Many authors writing about global justice seem to take national responsibility more or less for granted. Most of them, however, offer very little argument for their position. One of the few exceptions is David Miller. He offers two models of collective responsibility: the like-minded group model and the cooperative practice model. While some authors have criticized whether these two models are applicable to nations, as Miller intends, my criticism is more radical: I argue that these two models fail as accounts (...)
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  31. Finlay on Legitimate Authority: A Critical Comment.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    Christopher J. Finlay claims “that a principle of moral or legitimate authority is necessary in just war theory for evaluating properly the justifiability of violence by non-state entities when they claim to act on behalf of the victims of rights violations and political injustice.” In particular, he argues that states, unlike non-state actors, possess what he calls “Lesser Moral Authority.” This authority allegedly enables states to invoke “the War Convention,” which in turn entitles even individual soldiers on the aggressive side (...)
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  32. The Guerrilla Strikes Back: A Comment on Yvonne Chiu.Uwe Steinhoff - 2011 - Diametros 30:61-75.
    In a recent article Yvonne Chiu argues that nonuniformed combat is impermissible. However, her argument that by fighting without uniforms nonuniformed guerillas coerce civilians into participating in the armed conflict and thus into surrendering their immunity (their right not to be attacked) fails: there is no coercion, no participation, and no surrendering of immunity. Yet even if this argument of hers were correct, it would still not show that such “coercion” would amount to a rights infringement. Moreover, even if it (...)
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  33. To Be Killed or Not to Be Killed? On McMahan’s Failure to Draw a Line Between Combatants and Civilians.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    In a recent paper, McMahan argues that his ‘Responsibility Account’, according to which ‘the criterion of liability to attack in war is moral responsibility for an objectively unjustified threat of harm’, can meet the challenge of explaining why most combatants on the unjustified side of a war are liable to attack while most civilians (even on the unjustified side) are not. It should be added, however, that in the light of his rejection of the ‘moral equality of combatants’, McMahan would (...)
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  34. On Renzo’s Attempt to Ground State Legitimacy in a Right to Self-Defense.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    Massimo Renzo has recently offered a theory of legitimacy that attempts to ground the state’s right to rule on the assumption that people in the state of nature pose an unjust threat to each other and can therefore, in self-defense, be forced to enter the state, that is, to become subject to its authority. I argue that depending on how “unjust threat” is interpreted in Renzo’s self-defense argument for the authority of the state, either his premise that “those who pose (...)
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  35. Political Obligation and the Particularity Problem: A Note on Markie.Uwe Steinhoff - manuscript
    P.J. Markie tries to solve the so-called particularity problem of natural duty accounts of political obligation, a problem which seems to make natural duty accounts implausible. I argue that Markie at best “dissolves” the problem: while his own natural duty account of political obligation still does not succeed in ensuring particularity, this is not an implausible but an entirely plausible implication of his account, thanks to the weakness of his concept of political obligation. The price for this, however, is that (...)
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