thomson_on_self_defense

thomson_on_self_defense - Phil 106 Fall 2010 1 Thomson on...

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Phil 106: Fall 2010 Thomson on Self-Defense Hoversten 1 Villainous aggression Thomson begins her discussion with a hypothetical case in which she takes it to be uncontroversial that one is permitted to kill in self-defense . Villainous Aggressor An individual is running you down with a truck. He has the intent to kill you and will do so unless you stop him. Your only means of stopping him is to use your bazooka to blow up the truck, which will naturally kill him in the process. It seems clear that you are permitted to blow up the truck and driver in this case. However, killing an intentful aggressor isn’t always permissible. In the case as described your only option involves killing the driver. But if you could stop his attack without resorting to blowing up the truck, then killing him is no longer permissible. Thus, a constraint on permissible killing in self-defense is that the killing is necessary to save your life. Based on this case, we can offer a first pass at an account of when killing in self-defense is permissible. (Villain) It is permissible to kill someone in self-defense just in case that person is villainously aggressing against you (and you have no other means of perserving your life). 2 Mere aggression But Thomson thinks that (Villain) is too limiting. For she takes it to be clear that you are also permitted to kill in self-defense in the following case. Innocent Aggressor You are again being run down by a truck, and your only option for saving yourself is to blow up the truck and driver with your bazooka. However, in this case the driver has been given a drug that has caused him to go crazy. He is not responsible for his actions toward you. Thomson recognizes that there is a distinction between being permitted to perform some action, and having an excuse for an action. To say that someone is permitted to do something is to say that it would not be wrong for them to do so. To say that someone has an excuse for doing something is to say that they acted wrongly but that the level of blame they deserve for that wrong is less than would normally be warranted. Excuses may be mitigating , in that they lessen the agent’s fault, or they may be exculpating , in that they completely free the agent from fault. But Thomson doesn’t think that killing in this case is merely excusable. We can’t say that the villainous aggressor is less worthy of living than the innocent one. All we know is that the innocent aggressor is faultless in the action at hand . He may be generally a bad dude. We can’t say that killing the villain is okay because he deserves punishment. Who are we to be dishing out this punishment? And anyway, if punishment is what justifies the killing, then why is the necessity constraint in effect. Wouldn’t it be appropriate to punish him equally no matter what means you had of saving your life?
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