In thinking about the rules of war, the trend in contemporary political philosophy has been to start from individual conduct and scale up. War is just many instances of individual self-defense, so the rules about individual self-defense will frame the principles of just warfare. Our guest today, Jon Quong, wants to flip that on its head. To understand whether a given individual is acting rightly in harming another, we need to first settle our views about the social context in which it takes place.
Jon Quong is a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester. He has links to many of his papers on self-defense on his website. Interested readers might start with ”Killing in Self-Defense,” Ethics 119, no. 3 (2009).
As Quong mentions, the much-discussed case of the man falling down a well originates with Robert Nozick, in his Anarchy, State and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974).
A discussion of eliminative harmful agency and opportunistic harmful agency can be found in Warren S. Quinn, “Actions, Intentions, and Consequences: The Doctrine of Double Effect,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 18, no. 4 (1989).
Jeff McMahan’s views on self-defense are set out in some detail in Killing in War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Michael Walzer’s can be found, among others, in his Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, 4th Ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2006).