Bob Underwood (Oxford): 'The Communicative Function of Killing in War'
Killing in war often eliminates threats and plays a part in influencing the decisions of others. When killing in war serves this communicative function it necessarily harms and uses the person killed as means to some further end. Most who write on killing in war do not discuss the moral dimensions of the message soldiers and other combatants send when they kill in war. In this paper, I argue that, like punishment, the message we communicate through killing in war is an important consideration that can feature in the balance of reasons one might have for killing some but not others in war. This is most often the case when combatants already have defensive options justified on the grounds of liability to defensive harm and this is context I explore in this paper. In this context, combatants that fight for just aims can offer three justifications for the communicative function of killing in war even though it harms and uses persons as means to some further end. As with punishment, there are many justifiable aims that communication through defensive harming might achieve and as many messages that we might convey in order to achieve those aims.
DPhil Seminar Organisers: Chong Ming Lim and James Matharu