April 24 Center for Global Ethics and Politics: Rethinking Just War

4:30 p.m.

Room 5409

Co-sponsored by Social and Political Philosophy Working Group


Rethinking Just War with Thom Brooks

Just war theorizing has undergone a renaissance inspired by the ground-breaking work of Jeff McMahan. Central to the new orthodoxy is the claim that self-defense is a right that when satisfied can justify a right to inflict harm on unlawful aggressors. This right of self-defense can be acted on by more potential parties than the targeted victim(s) alone. The new orthodoxy rests on a mistake about the justification of self-defense as not a right to inflict harm, but a defense against conviction for inflicting harm. This presentation explores how self-defense is understood in criminal law and its divergence from just war theorists invoking self-defense. Instead of our understanding wars as just or unjust (as if “just” wars are activities entailing no wrongs), they should be considered as excused or unexcused wrongs.


Thom Brooks is the Head of Durham Law School and Professor of Law and Government at Durham University. He has held visiting positions at Oxford, St Andrews, Uppsala and Yale. His books include Hegel’s Political Philosophy (2d 2013), Punishment (2012), Becoming British (2016) and (edited) The Oxford Handbook of Global Justice (2017). Brooks is founding editor of the Journal of Moral Philosophy.

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