Jeffrie G. Murphy
1. Murder is the intentional and uncoerced killing of the innocent. 2. Murder is by definition morally wrong. 3. Modern war by its very nature involves the intentional killing of innocent people.
Therefore, modern war is morally wrong.
Though Professor Murphy does not take a stand on this issue (it may be false that modern war necessarily involves killing the innocents), he appeals to the Kantian moral perspective that the motive of the agent is the preeminent moral consideration to give some sense to an absolute prohibition against killing innocent persons. His argument: I can kill in warfare, but only those who are trying to kill me. Such persons are members of a causal and logical chain of agency. I must have reasonable evidence that those I intend to kill are in this chain, for to kill without such evidence is to intend to kill innocent persons. Though the aging Nazi octogenarian in Dresden may in fact be in this chain, I cannot practically know this and therefore cannot kill him. In practical situations, then, a person's status as a combatant or noncombatant determines the moral character of the act of killing rather than objective guilt or innocence. In borderline cases, such as workers in factories producing goods of peripheral interest to the war effort, the burden of proof is on the agent considering the killing. Professor Murphy rejects the utilitarian justification for killing innocents or noncombatants. He considers it a moral datum that we should treat people as ends and not means for our projects, regardless of the objective good we calculate as the outcome.
From The Monist 57, no. 4 ( 1973). Printed with permission.