Can Self-Defense Justify Punishment?

22 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2012

See all articles by Larry Alexander

Larry Alexander

University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: April 17, 2012


This piece is a review essay on Victor Tadros’s The Ends of Harm. Tadros rejects retributive desert but believes punishment can be justified instrumentally without succumbing to the problems of thoroughgoing consequentialism and endorsing using people as means. He believes he can achieve these results through extension of the right of self-defense. I argue that Tadros fails in this endeavor: he has a defective account of the means principle; his rejection of desert leads to gross mismatches of punishment and culpability; and he cannot account for punishment of inchoate crimes.

Keywords: crime, desert, punishment, self-defense, attempts, use as a means

JEL Classification: K10, K39

Suggested Citation

Alexander, Lawrence, Can Self-Defense Justify Punishment? (April 17, 2012). Law and Philosophy, Forthcoming; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 12-093. Available at SSRN:

Lawrence Alexander (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-2317 (Phone)
619-260-4728 (Fax)

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