The concept of responsibility in the ethics of self-defense and war

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The focus of this paper is an influential family of views in the ethics of self-defense and war: views that ground the agent’s liability to be attacked in self-defense in the agent’s moral responsibility for the threat posed (“Responsibility Views”). I critically examine the concept of responsibility employed by such views, by looking at potential connections with the contemporary literature on moral responsibility. I start by uncovering some of the key assumptions that Responsibility Views make about the relevant concept of responsibility, and by scrutinizing those assumptions under the lens of more general theorizing about responsibility. I identify an important conflict that arises at that point. The problem is that the concept presupposed by Responsibility Views is in tension with the standard way of understanding the connection between the neutral and non-neutral forms of moral responsibility. I draw attention to a particular strategy that could be used to address this challenge, but I also identify some important obstacles that stand in the way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophical Studies
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • blameworthiness
  • defensive harm
  • ethics of war
  • liability
  • moral responsibility
  • self-defense

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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