4 Grounding Self-Defense in Rights

The most natural way to think about self-defense, for most people, is through the idea of rights. Put in its simplest terms this reflects the intuition that a man who kills in self-defense has a right to act as he does, and that moreover what underlies this is the fact that the aggressor no longer possesses the right not to be killed by him. Through his aggressive actions his right to life has been lost, negated, or somehow annulled. There is no denying that this idea captures a powerful intuition about the way the whole mechanism of defensive rights operates.

On further reflection, however, this simple conception leads to a philosophical quagmire. When applied in a principled way to particular cases it seems to generate deep contradictions and puzzles. Indeed, so difficult has it proved to provide a coherent account of self-defense through the notion of rights that, as we shall see, a number of modern theorists have decried the entire project as hopelessly ill-conceived.

None the less, a coherent rights-based explanation of self-defense can be constructed. I shall argue in this chapter that it provides the best overall approach to completing our understanding of self-defense. In demonstrating this, however, we shall need to push the account a long way from the simple thought about loss of the aggressor's rights articulated here.


Forfeiture and rights of limited scope

As suggested in the last chapter, the primary difficulty for a rights-centred account of self-defense is how to explain what I have called the 'moral asymmetry' between the defender and the aggressor. The problem can be summarized as follows: if the right of self-defense derives from the right to life, and that right is universal, why is it permissible for the defender to kill the aggressor but not the other way around, even though at the moment of engagement each is a threat to the life of the other?

-70-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
War and Self-Defense
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 214

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.