Torts as Self-Defense

32 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2019

See all articles by Guy Sela

Guy Sela

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: August 6, 2019


My claim in this paper is that two instances of liability — liability to pay compensation and liability to defensive harming — are on a par. People who are about to suffer harm are sometimes allowed to act in self-preservation or self-defense — that is, to take measures to avert this harm, even if these measures are likely to impose a burden on others. Similarly, people who have suffered harm are sometimes allowed to extract reparations — that is, to make themselves as well as they were before having suffered the harm, even if the only means of doing so is by imposing a certain burden on other people. In this paper, I argue for the Equivalence Thesis: the claim that (at least in the state of nature) the conditions of permissibility for imposing a burden on someone through acting in self-defense and through the extraction of reparations are the same.

Keywords: Self Defense, Reparations, Entitlements, Liability, State of Nature, Civil Recourse

Suggested Citation

Sela, Guy, Torts as Self-Defense (August 6, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Guy Sela (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

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