- The Oxford Handbook of Ethics of War
- The Ethics of War
- Method in the Morality of War
- The Just War Framework
- Historiography of Just War Theory
- Deep Morality and the Laws of War
- The Ethics of War up to Thomas Aquinas
- Late Scholastic Just War Theory
- Early Modern Sources of the Regular War Tradition
- A Richer Jus ad Bellum
- Knowing When Not to Fight
- National Defence and Political Independence
- Humanitarian Intervention and the Modern State System
- Territorial Rights and National Defence
- Last Resort and Proportionality
- Legitimate Authority in War
- Civil War and Revolution
- The Moral Equality of Combatants
- Noncombatant Immunity and War-Profiteering
- Human Shields
- Dimensions of Intentions: Ways of Killing in War
- Proportionality and Necessity in Jus in Bello
- Torture: Rescue, Prevention, and Punishment
- Drones and Robots: On the Changing Practice of Warfare
- Ending Wars
- War’s Aftermath and the Ethics of War
- Justice After War
- Reconciliation and Reparations
Abstract and Keywords
In this chapter, the author explores the requirement of proportionality in the killing of civilians in war. The work first examines the general notion of proportionality in defensive harming. It then explores proportionality in the resort to war and explains why the traditional theory of just war claims that proportionality in individual acts of war must be different. The author argues that the traditional theory’s claim is a mistake and that when a war lacks just aims, individual acts of harming can seldom be proportionate. Finally, the author considers proportionality as a constraint on violence in a war with just aims, claiming that, in some instances, judgments of proportionality in the conduct of war can be surprisingly precise, though much depends on assumptions about certain fundamental issues in moral theory, such as whether there is an ‘agent-relative permission’ to give some degree of priority to one’s own life.
Jeff McMahan is Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University.
Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.
If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.