Fairness, Responsibility and Self-Defense


There is (almost) a consensus that self-defense is justified in some paradigm situations, but a substantial disagreement regarding the nature of this justification. The paper suggests a justification for self-defense which is based on a general thesis regarding the proper resolution of interpersonal conflicts. This thesis includes two basic ideas. First, individual well-being is the fundamental value. Second, interpersonal conflicts of well-being should be resolved in light of two conceptions of fairness, one of which considers the responsibility of persons for interpersonal conflicts as a morally significant factor. These ideas are elaborated in several principles that guide the resolution of interpersonal conflicts. The paper applies this thesis with respect to the justification of self-defense, explores its implications and compares it to other proposed justifications for self-defense.