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Reply to Critics: Poscher and Eleftheriadis

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In this piece I reply to comments on my book, The Mechanics of Claims and Permissible Killing in War, by Ralf Poscher and Pavlos Eleftheriadis. Poscher points out that my discussion of rights gave short shrift to the notion of dignity; my reply here gives me the welcome opportunity to correct that oversight. Eleftheriadis dissects my methodology, trying to shoehorn my theory into an existing category; my reply here gives me an opportunity to clarify why it is not just a variation on a familiar theme, but in fact, it represents a new approach to rights.

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  1. There were two of five who commented on my book in a symposium that was to be published, along with this response, in this journal. Unfortunately, communication problems seem to have prevented the other three—Kai Möller, Alon Harel, and Dimitrios Kyritsis—from publishing their comments on my book. I nonetheless remain grateful to all five of them for their thoughtful engagement.

  2. I do consider what I call “dignity based wrongs”. Walen 2019, 131–136. But I failed to articulate an account of dignity.

  3. Poscher 2022, 200.

  4. Walen 2019, 47.

  5. Poscher 2022, 197.

  6. Poscher 2022, 199.

  7. Parfit 2011, 9.

  8. I use “inalienable” in an especially broad way. Often, it is used to limit the rights that can be waived or traded away, but not the rights that can be forfeit. I use it to cover all possible ways of losing rights.

  9. I disagree with Etinson in one important way: I think dignity is properly viewed as the foundation of human rights, contra what he says on 379.

  10. I think something similar can be said about treating another as a slave.

  11. Poscher 2022, 194.

  12. Etinson 2020, 371.

  13. Poscher 2022, 200.

  14. Eleftheriadis 2022, 191.

  15. Eleftheriadis 2022, 190.

  16. Eleftheriadis 2022, 188.

  17. See Walen 2019, 58–59.

  18. Forfeiture and waiver of claims are also important, and both reflect, in different ways, the significance of autonomy.

  19. Walen 2019, 49.

  20. Eleftheriadis 2022, 190.

  21. Eleftheriadis 2022, 182.

  22. Eleftheriadis 2022, 182.

  23. Walen 2019, 47.

  24. Eleftheriadis 2022, 183.

  25. Eleftheriadis 2022, 184.

  26. I discuss that kind of two-step analysis in Walen 2019, 97–98. For a more detailed account of how I handle probabilities, see Walen 2020.

  27. Walen 2019, 77–79.

  28. Eleftheriadis 2022, 184.

  29. Eleftheriadis also seems to think that reductive individualism implies that leaders would be making corrupt, “private use” of political power. Eleftheriadis 2022, 184. Not at all. Insofar as they see themselves as acting in a role, they are to take into account only the claims on the state, in that role; they are to put their personal agent-claims aside. Walen 2019, 11, 37.

  30. Eleftheriadis 2022, 191.

  31. Eleftheriadis 2022, 191.

  32. Eleftheriadis 2022, 191.

  33. Walen 2019, 5.

  34. They may be morally violated in the sorts of extreme cases that give rise to threshold deontology. But the justification for such violations does not take place in the space of rights. It presupposes the breakdown of—and thus occurs outside of—the space of rights. See Walen 2019, 115–118.


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Correspondence to Alec Walen.

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Walen, A. Reply to Critics: Poscher and Eleftheriadis. Jus Cogens 4, 329–337 (2022).

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