1st Edition

Self-Defense, Necessity, and Punishment A Philosophical Analysis

By Uwe Steinhoff Copyright 2020
    384 Pages
    by Routledge

    382 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book offers a philosophical analysis of the moral and legal justifications for the use of force. While the book focuses on the ethics self-defense, it also explores its relation to lesser evil justifications, public authority, the justification of punishment, and the ethics of war.

    Steinhoff’s account of the moral use of force covers a wide range of topics, including the nature of justification in general, the precise elements of different justifications, the logic of claim- and liberty-rights and of rights forfeiture, the value of human life and its limits, and the principles of reciprocity and precaution. While the author’s analysis is primarily philosophical, it is informed by a metaethical stance that also places heavy emphasis on existing law and legal scholarship. In doing so, the book appeals to widely shared moral intuitions, precepts, and concepts grounded in criminal law.

    Self-Defense, Necessity, and Punishment offers the most comprehensive and systematic account of the ethics of self-defense. It will be of interest to scholars and graduate students working in applied ethics and moral philosophy, philosophy of law, and political philosophy.

    1. Introduction

    2. Self-Defense (Understood as Including Other-Defense): Foundations

    3. Self-Defense: Special Cases (Innocent Attackers, Justified Attackers, and Non-Responsible Threats)

    4. Emergency Justifications (Including Necessity and Lesser Evil)

    5. Punishment and the Public Authority Justification


    Uwe Steinhoff is Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. He is the author of On the Ethics of War and Terrorism (2007), The Philosophy of Jürgen Habermas (2009), and On the Ethics of Torture (2013), and the editor of Do All Persons Have Equal Moral Worth? (2015).

    "Drawing on legal scholarship and moral argument, Steinhoff carefully analyzes the concept of self-defense and explains the scope and limits of the justified use of force in defense of self or others against attack. In the last quarter of the book, he applies these insights to punishment and to emergencies in which necessity justifies violating rights or established norms. Steinhoff is explicit about his moral methodology. He strives for clarity and precision, and his arguments are forceful and exacting . . . [His] insights and skilled argumentation make it well worth reading, and specialists will not want to miss it. Summing up: Highly recommended." -- CHOICE