Seth Lazar wins the Society for Applied Philosophy Postgraduate Essay Prize 2008

4th year Political Theory DPhil candidate in the Department Seth Lazar has won the postgraduate essay prize at the 2008 Society for Applied Philosophy Annual Conference with his paper: ‘The Right to Kill? A Critique of Jeff McMahan`s Theory of Liability to Defensive Killing`.

The paper launches four challenges against McMahan`s theory of liability to defensive killing. Lazar`s first challenge is that McMahan`s model of ex ante distributive justice, unless combined with a culpability-based account of self-defence, is fundamentally dissonant with our pre-theoretical intuitions about the nature of self-defence. His second objection is that, ordinarily, all relevant parties-Defender, Attacker and Cause-will be to some degree blamelessly responsible for the situation of forced choice arising, therefore that alone cannot distinguish between them. Third, Lazar considers McMahan`s recent suggestion that what matters is that one party has imposed a risk on the others, but not vice versa. He rejects this view too, arguing that assuming a risk is as important as imposing one, and anyway all parties to a situation of forced choice do actually impose risks on one another. Finally, Lazar considers the possibility that what matters is that one party has created a greater risk than the others, but counters that it is not the size of the risk, but whether or not it is justified that matters: which returns us to the culpability-based account of self-defence.

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