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Desert and Avoidability in Self-Defense

John Gardner and François Tanguay-Renaud
Vol. 122, No. 1, Symposium on Jeff McMahan’s Killing in War (October 2011), pp. 111-134
DOI: 10.1086/662294
Stable URL:
Page Count: 24
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Desert and Avoidability in Self-Defense
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Jeff McMahan rejects the relevance of desert to the morality of self-defense. In Killing in War he restates his rejection and adds to his reasons. We argue that the reasons are not decisive and that the rejection calls for further attention, which we provide. Although we end up agreeing with McMahan that the limits of morally acceptable self-defense are not determined by anyone’s deserts, we try to show that deserts may have some subsidiary roles in the morality of self-defense. We suggest that recognizing this might help McMahan to answer some unanswered questions to which his own position gives rise.