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The Oxford Institute For Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflicts is hosting a Round Table Discussion with Jeff McMahan, and a Killing in War Workshop.

Proportionality and Noncombatant Immunity: Round Table Discussion
Thursday, 8 October, 3.00-5.00pm
Oxford University
Manor Road Building, Seminar Room D

Professor Jeff McMahan (Rutgers University)
Dr. Helen Frowe (University of Sheffield)
Dr. Seth Lazar (ELAC)

Proportionality and noncombatant immunity are at the heart of the conventional account of just conduct in war. Noncombatants should never be deliberately targeted; when civilian deaths are unavoidable, they must be proportionate to the military objective attained. Recent revisionists—most prominently, Jeff McMahan—have questioned whether privileging the lives of noncombatants, especially those on the unjustified side in a war, is defensible. Their view that liability to attack is grounded in responsibility for an unjustified threat—whether direct or indirect—renders a commitment to noncombatant immunity untenable, and has equally strong implications for the proportionality principle. In this informal roundtable discussion McMahan presents his recent work on proportionality and noncombatant immunity, with responses by philosophers from both sides of the current debate.

This event is open to all; please RSVP to elac (at)


Workshop: Killing in War
9 and 10 October
Oxford University
Manor Road Building

ELAC’s inaugural workshop for 2009/10 will explore themes from Jeff McMahan’s recently published book, Killing in War (OUP). Killing in War distils and develops a series of powerful arguments about the morality of war proposed over the last fifteen years, advocating a wholesale revision of conventional thinking on the just war. This workshop brings together some of the leading moral, political and legal philosophers in the field, to respond to McMahan’s arguments, and present their own views of what justifies killing in war. A provisional schedule is attached.

Speakers include:

Dr. Yitzhak Benbaji, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Professor Tony Coady, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne
Professor Cécile Fabre, University of Edinburgh
Professor John Gardner, University of Oxford
Professor Larry May, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt and Australian National Universities and Vanderbilt University
Professor Jeff McMahan, Rutgers University
Dr. David Rodin, ELAC, University of Oxford
Professor Cheyney Ryan, University of Oregon
Professor Henry Shue, University of Oxford

There are several spaces left for this event. If you are interested in attending please email elac (at)


  1. 1. Posted by Jacob Mack | September 27, 2009 12:08 am

    I believe that a neo-Kantian perspective best sums up the reason and imperative of not intentionally killing non combatants. Thomas Nagel sheds some light on the matter. Stephen J. Bright and C.A.J. Cody also have written some interesting, related papers,if supplementary in nature.

  2. 2. Posted by Thom Brooks | September 28, 2009 3:43 pm

    A terrific book — my review should appear in the Times Higher any day now…

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