Moral Tragedies, Supreme Emergencies and National Defense
Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2006
Posted: 29 Mar 2006
Assume that some group, A, is under a serious threat from some other group, B. The only way group A can defend itself is by using lethal force against group B, but the standard conditions for using force in self-defense are not met. Ought group A to avoid the use of force even if this means yielding to an aggressive, evil power? Most people would resist this conclusion, yet given the violation of essential conditions for self-defense, this resistance is hard to justify. The aim of this paper is to point to an interesting yet unnoticed move made by some philosophers to find a way out of this problem, a move which relies on construing the situation at hand as a tragic dilemma. I show the attractiveness of this solution and argue that in the end it fails.
Keywords: supreme emergency, moral tragedies, national defense, morality and war
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