Robots as “Evil Means”? A Rejoinder to Jenkins and Purves

| September 2016
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The notion that some means of waging war are mala in se is a confronting one. Surely, any weapon can be used for good or ill? Philosophers often try to justify the category of mala in se by suggesting that some weapons are inherently incapable of being used in accordance with the just war principles of distinction and proportionality. This line of argument faces two obvious objections. First, claims about the limits of particular weapons typically fail to consider the different contexts in which they might be used. For example, anti-personnel mines can be used as defensive measures for fixed installations in marked locations that are fenced off from civilian intrusion. Second, deriving the category of mala in se from the principles of distinction and proportionality makes it redundant. The argument that some weapons cause disproportionate suffering is more persuasive, but it falters if one conducts an honest appraisal of the nature and extent of the suffering caused by weapons that are not held to be mala in se.

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Category: Issue 30.3, Response, The Ethics of War and Peace

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