Pre-emptive rules and the scope of defensive rights

Yitzhak Benbaji*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This essay advances a morality of defensive harm, which I call “Rule-SD.” Rule-SD resolves in a new way two types of difficult cases. It entails that if certain conditions are met, a defender has the right to kill a man who is innocently falling on her, if this is necessary for her survival. Moreover, Rule-SD yields the “free competition resolution” in some symmetrical cases; it implies that two people who innocently threaten each other might have a right to kill each other if necessary for their survival. Rule-SD’s core claim is that a defender’s right of self-defense might arise from a “pre-emptive rule” rather than from facts about the liability of the attacker. In those cases, the defender is subject to a rule that permits self-preference.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWho Should Die?
Subtitle of host publicationThe Ethics of Killing in War
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780190495657
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Killing
  • Liability
  • Pre-emptive rule
  • Rule-SD
  • Self-defense


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