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Proportional Self Defence

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By bclam
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There has always been much debate and deliberation throughout the years over the controversial topic of self-defence. This level of disputation is especially heightened when factors of innocents come into play, particularly that of an innocent threat. An innocent threat is that which threatens your right to live however is not acting from an intention to kill you. Such that - even though regarded as ‘innocent’ - still imposes an issue to oneself that if no action is taken this undeniable threat will kill you or cause harm. Therefore action proportional to the threat, I believe must be put under the banner of self-defence and as result be deemed permissible.

Throughout philosophical history two main concepts upon innocence and self-defence have shone through; the restrictive theory and the permissive theory. The restrictive theory very much supports innocence as a holistic body in that even though a threat, the threat remains innocent thus it is impermissible to cause harm or death. On the other side of the spectrum is the permissive theory. This theory supports the man that is being threatened as it believes threats immediately lose their right to live, thus it is permissible to defend oneself. The restrictive theory is more so then not based on rights whilst the permissive theory embodies a more intuitive and consequential approach hence why it is better for worldly application. J.J. Thompson - a philosopher whose field is in ethics and applied ethics - is in full support of this theory as pointed out by; “What makes it permissible for you to kill [Threats] is the fact that they will otherwise [infringe] your right that they not kill you, and therefore lack rights that you not kill them”. This quote speaks volumes as a humans intuitive nature always demands survival so its only logical to support the value of life. Mr Thompson also points out the links between an innocent aggressor and an innocent threat in that although the innocent threat has no intention to cause harm it still will - the same as the aggressor. It is clear such an approach must be guided by certain principles as killing is a drastic measure. Defence - or levels of defence - are guided through three different factors; imminence, necessity and finally proportionality. Such that the threat must be sudden, defending oneself through violence is the last course of action and lastly the actions taken to defend must be proportional to the imminent threat. So although its only logical to defend oneself against innocent threats it must be said that killing such a threat should be the last measure taken and only if it is proportional to the imminent threat. Many other philosophers have put their views upon such a contentious topic, in particular Michael Otsuka who is a professor in the department of philosophy.

Going against the consequential approach to defence is Michael Otsuka who firmly believes that having a rights-based approach is much better avenue to venture down. His argument is, in large part, based on what he regards as innocence to be the highest moral ground. Otsuka believes self-defence can only be justified when the threat has a lethal object and intent to kill you. This is Otsuka’s restrictive theory. Such a view is proposed accordingly to ones right to live and in the case of an innocent threat there is believed to be no the moral difference between that and an innocent bystander. However, how can that ever be the case? If, we as humans, abide by this view what if in the case that if nothing is done, then the threat even though regarded as innocent, will ultimately cause harm to you and perhaps death. Morality, by definition from the oxford diction is said to be “Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour”. So with this in mind by principal how can we morally accept that in the end the danger to you will inflict pain? It simply shouldn't not be recognised. Having said that, it can be denoted that such a view may be aiming to alleviate violence from communities in away that suggest we as humans use other means other then violence to avoid such issues. From this point of view it can be accepted however in spite of that following with the theme of proportional defence, it shouldn't not be regarded a morally wrong to cause harm and perhaps kill the threat if necessary even though regarded as innocent.

As a society or community we as like species submit ourselves to a level of agreement to a sovereign. We instil our faith in such a overshadowing figure in order to alleviate ourselves from the state of nature which has no rules/laws to insure some form of safety. This form of safety brings criminals to justice in order to keep the peace within communities. Without the sovereign keeping this peace we lose faith hence, return to a state of nature. Thomas Hobbes - an English philosopher - accounts the state of nature to be closely linked between that of the nature of man, “The condition of man... is a condition of war of everyone against everyone”. This belief flows on to his stance on self-defence. The view that when ones life is in danger from a threat, that threat loses their claimed right that you cause no harm to them. Hobbe’s, although in accordance with the theme, does agree that even though innocent such threats do lose their right to live. The issue with his view however is that losing these rights makes us return to the state of nature and proportionality is not regarded as a factor. Such that as soon as someone provides an imminent threat, the are no rules - anything goes. Looking back to the theme of laws, in the victorian crimes act links can be made between an innocent threat and manslaughter. Manslaughter can be defined as a crime involving killing a fellow man however without the malice intent - again, very closely connected to an innocent threat. With this in mind, if manslaughter is undoubtably punished by the sovereign that we put our faith in, then any form of scepticism clouding the judgment that one can defend themselves against an innocent threat should be eradicated.

Self-defence has always been highly contentious and perpetually up for much deliberation and debate. When is it acceptable to defends oneself? To what degree is oneself able to defend themselves? Should innocence play a factor? Without fail there will always be differences in opinions however, with everything considered the capacity for one to defend themselves in a means that is proportional to the threat should always be considered just.

References:

D. Baltzly, M. Chadha, T. Handfield, J. Kennett, N. Levy, J. Oakley, A. Townsend, (2014). Life, death and morality: study guide. School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies, Faculty of Arts, Monash University.

Thomson, J. (1991). Self-Defence. Philosophy And Public Affairs, 20(4).

Jour - Otsuka, M. (2006). Killing the Innocent in Self-Defense. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 23(1). PG- 74-94

Lloyd, S. & Sreedhar, S. (2002). Hobbes's Moral and Political Philosophy. Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes-moral/

The Causes of quarrel: essays on peace, war, and Thomas Hobbes. (1990). Choice Reviews Online, 27(11), 27-6288-27-6288. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/choice.27-6288

CRIMES ACT 1958 - SECT 3AUnintentional killing in the course or furtherance of a crime of violence. (2016). Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/ca195882/s3a.html

CRIMES ACT 1958 - SECT 5Punishment of manslaughter. (2016). Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 18 May 2016, from http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/ca195882/s5.html

Morality - definition of morality in English from the Oxford dictionary. (2016). Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/morality?q=Morality+

Arneson, D. (2005). JUDITH THOMSON ON SELF-DEFENSE. Philosophy Faculty. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu/faculty/rarneson/Courses/13THOMSONONSELFDEFENSE2005.pdf

Self Defence | The Logical Place. (2016). Yandoo.wordpress.com. Retrieved 9 May 2016, from http://yandoo.wordpress.com/tag/self-defence/

Silva, D. (2016). Life, Death, and Morality
Lecture 6.1. Presentation, Monash University.…...

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