On Disproportionate Force and Fighting in Vain

Esben Overland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Two conditions guiding permissible use of force in self-defence are proportionality and success. According to the proportionality condition the means used to prevent an attack can be permissible only if they are proportional to the interest at stake.1 According to the success condition, otherwise impermissible acts can be justified under the right to self-defence only if they are likely to succeed in preventing the perceived threat.2 These requirements should not always be interpreted narrowly. Sometimes people are permitted to kill culpable aggressors in order to avoid a non-lethal harm. Sometimes people are permitted to take up arms to defend themselves against culpable aggressors they have little or no hope of defeating.Recent attempts to explain why such actions against culpable aggressors may be permissible have appealed to the victim's interest in defending [End Page 235] herself against disrespectful treatment and her interest in protecting her honour. I call these strategies 'victim-centred,' since they attempt to explain why the victim's action against culpable aggressors does not violate the requirements of proportionality and success, or whether she violates them justifiably, by appealing primarily to the interests of the victim. These strategies are called on to avoid an aggressor-centred view, which is supposed to have unacceptable consequences. According to one aggressor-centred view, disproportionate force and fighting in vain may be permissible primarily because the aggressors who are harmed are morally culpable and therefore have a reduced claim to protection against threats of harm. In this paper I make a case for this aggressor-centred view.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)235-262
    Number of pages28
    JournalCanadian Journal of Philosophy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'On Disproportionate Force and Fighting in Vain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this