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The Moral Distinction Between Combatants and Noncombatants: Vulnerable and Defenceless


In Sparing Civilians, Seth Lazar claims that in war, with rare exceptions, killing noncombatants is worse than killing combatants. This paper raises some doubts about whether this is an important principle – at least, once we understand Lazar’s clarifications. It also suggests that however it is clarified, it seems false. And it suggests a related principle that more plausible. This related principle applies only to those with just aims, and it applies only to intentional killing rather than to all forms of killing.

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Correspondence to Victor Tadros.

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I am grateful to participants at the Carnegie Conference on books by Seth Lazar and Helen Frowe. I am especially grateful to Seth, whose response helped me to improve this paper, and to Helen Frowe for comments on a later draft. I am also grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for a Major Research Fellowship which allowed me the time to work on it.

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Tadros, V. The Moral Distinction Between Combatants and Noncombatants: Vulnerable and Defenceless. Law and Philos 37, 289–312 (2018).

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