Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:Peter Kilner
Title:Soldiers, Self-Defense, and Killing in War
Degree:Master of Arts
Committee Chair: Harlan B. Miller
Committee Members:John Christman
Patrick Croskery
Keywords:military ethics, just war, pacifism, killing
Date of defense:May 7, 1998
Availability:Release the entire work immediately worldwide.


Just-Warists and War-Pacifists disagree on whether soldiers are morally justified in killing each other in wartime combat. Many of their respective arguments, and their contradictory conclusions, are based upon principles of self-defense. In this thesis, I examine the role that principles of self-defense play in the arguments surrounding the moral justification of killing in combat. I do so by critiquing both a Just-Warist argument that relies on self-defense (constructed from the works of Michael Walzer and Judith Jarvis Thomson) and a War-Pacifist argument (developed by Richard Norman) that condemns killing in combat based on the moral requirements of self-defense. I demonstrate that both arguments fail due to their mistaken assumptions that soldiers are not morally responsible for their actions. I conclude by arguing that--once soldiers are recognized as morally responsible agents--killing in combat can be morally justified by principles of self-defense.

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