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Jeff McMahan
Killing Civilians in War
Wednesday, October 29, 2008, 12:00pm - 01:30pm
Mershon Center for International Security Studies
1501 Neil Ave., Columbus, OH 43201

Jeff McMahan

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Jeff McMahan is professor of philosophy at Rutgers University.  He specializes in normative ethics; practical ethics, including bioethics and international ethics; and political philosophy.  He also works occasionally in metaphysics and legal theory.

McMahan's research is known for its combination of philosophical rigor and simultaneous accessibility to the non-specialist audience. He is author of The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life (Oxford University Press, 2002), described as "the first comprehensive study of the ethics of killing, where the moral status of the individual killed is uncertain." 

Drawing on philosophical notions of personal identity and the immorality of killing, McMahan looks carefully at a host of practical issues, including abortion, infanticide, the killing of animals, assisted suicide, and euthanasia.

In May 2007, McMahan was awarded the American Philosophical Association's Frank Chapman Sharp Memorial Prize for "the best unpublished essay or monograph on the philosophy of war and peace" for the manuscript of The Morality and Law of War (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

McMahan's most recent work focuses on the ethics of killing in war, as self-defense, and as a mode of punishment. A significant strand of this current work is dedicated to the re-examination of traditional just war theory.

Some theorists of modern statecraft have attempted to banish the concept of "just war" that prevailed during the Crusades and religious wars of the Middle Ages. These theorists argue that agreements between sovereign states should focus on limiting war's worst effects.

With the current rise of global war, there has been a resurgence of scholarly, political, and journalistic attempts to theorize the allegedly "just war." McMahan seeks to pry apart the perceived assumptions grounding many of these arguments, using the tools of metaphysics and ethical theory.


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