Justified Killing: The Paradox of Self-Defense

Overview

The right of self-defense is seemingly at odds with the general presupposition that killing is wrong; numerous theories have been put forth over the years that attempt to explain how self-defense is consistent with such a presupposition. In Justified Killing: The Paradox of Self-Defense, Whitley Kaufman argues that none of the leading theories adequately explains why it is permissible even to kill an innocent attacker in self-defense, given the basic moral prohibition against killing the innocent. Kaufman ...

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Overview

The right of self-defense is seemingly at odds with the general presupposition that killing is wrong; numerous theories have been put forth over the years that attempt to explain how self-defense is consistent with such a presupposition. In Justified Killing: The Paradox of Self-Defense, Whitley Kaufman argues that none of the leading theories adequately explains why it is permissible even to kill an innocent attacker in self-defense, given the basic moral prohibition against killing the innocent. Kaufman suggests that such an explanation can be found in the traditional Doctrine of Double Effect, according to which self-defense is justified because the intention of the defender is to protect himself rather than harm the attacker. Given this morally legitimate intention, self-defense is permissible against both culpable and innocent aggressors, so long as the force used is both necessary and proportionate. Justified Killing will intrigue in particular those scholars interested in moral and legal philosophy.

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Editorial Reviews

The Law and Politics Book Review
Primarily for those interested in the philosophy of law. However, the book is quite accessible, even for someone who has not studied philosophy for several decades.
Henry S. Richardson
Bringing to bear a lawyer's grasp of the case law, a scholar's knowledge of our moral tradition, and a philosopher's incisive insight and rigor of argument, Kaufman boldly, forthrightly, and clearly builds a powerful and novel case for seeing the doctrine of double effect not merely as not forbidding self-defense, but in fact as offering the only acceptable basis for a theory of self-defense. Not just those interested in self-defense, but also moral and legal theorists more generally will want to study this book.
Thomas Cavanaugh
Whitley Kaufman's provocative account marks a renaissance of moral awareness concerning the gravity of killing in self-defense and the difficulty of justifying the same. This work will jar many from their dogmatic slumbers; it marks a watershed in the recovery of a venerable attitude of thoughtful ambivalence, unease, and due caution concerning killing in self or other-defense. Kaufman does yeoman work here showing that the current insouciance regarding the ease of justifying homicidal self-defense is not merited. Considering how much depends upon the success of arguments for killing in self-defense—justified war, to name but one example —ethicists will do well to ponder and rise to the challenge here compellingly articulated by Kaufman.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739128992
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 9/24/2009
  • Pages: 172
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Whitley R. P. Kaufman is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Chapter One: Introduction Chapter 2 Chapter Two: The Principles of Self-Defense Chapter 3 Chapter Three: The Leading Theories of Self-Defense Chapter 4 Chapter Four: The Doctrine of Double Effect Chapter 5 Chapter Five: Double Effect and Common Sense Morality Chapter 6 Chapter Six: Can Double Effect Justify Self-Defense? Chapter 7 Chapter Seven: Conclusion: Justifying Self-Defense

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