Jeff McMahan

jeff mcmahan


2014 - present White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, Oxford.
2003 - 2014 Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University.
1986 - 2003 Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor of Philosophy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
1983 - 1986 Title A Fellow in Philosophy, St. John’s College, Cambridge.




PhD. Philosophy, Cambridge.

Dissertation: ‘Problems of Population Theory’, supervised by Bernard Williams.

1983 MA. Philosophy, Oxford.

BA. Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

First Class Honours.


BA. Major in English Literature, University of the South, USA.

Summa cum Laude.



  • British Nuclear Weapons: For and Against (London: Junction Books, 1981). Preface by Bernard Williams.
  • Reagan and the World: Imperial Policy in the New Cold War (London: Pluto Press, 1984). Revised, updated, and expanded edition, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1985.

Reviews: Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Australian Review of Public Affairs, Canadian Journal of Philosophy (review essay),  Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Philosophie, Ethics, Journal of Ethics (review essay), Journal of the American Academy of Religion, London Review of Books, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Philosophical Books 1, Philosophical Books 2, Philosophical Books 3, Philosophical Review, Philosophy & Phenomenological Research (review essay), Sats – Nordic Journal of Philosophy, Times Literary SupplementUtilitas

Reviews: Analysis symposium 1, Analysis symposium 2, Analysis symposium 3, Australasian Journal of PhilosophyAustralian Book Review, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Center for Jewish Law, Essays in Philosophy, Ethics, Ethics symposium 1, Ethics symposium 2, Ethics symposium 3, Ethics symposium 4, International Affairs, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Journal of Moral PhilosophyJournal of Politics, Mind, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Perspectives on Politics, Philosophy & Public Affairs (review essay), Political Quarterly, Radical Philosophy Review, The Mises Review, The Philosophers’ Magazine, The Times Higher Education, Transnational Legal Theory, Utilitas symposium 1, Utilitas symposium 2Utilitas symposium 3Commonweal

  • Principles and Persons: The Legacy of Derek Parfit (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021). Coedited with Tim Campbell, James Goodrich, and Ketan Ramakrishnan.
  • Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit (Oxford: Oxford University Press, January 2022). Coedited with Tim Campbell, James Goodrich, and Ketan Ramakrishnan.
  • Derek Parfit: His Life and Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).


In Press


  • The Values of Lives (New York: Oxford University Press). A collection of articles.


Under Contract


  • The Right Way to Fight (New York: Oxford University Press).
  • The Ethics of Killing: Self-Defense and Punishment (New York: Oxford University Press).
  • The Ethics of Killing: War (New York: Oxford University Press).









  • “On Nuclear Modernization in Europe,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (October 1982).




  • “Nuclear Blackmail,” in Nigel Blake and Kay Pole, eds., Dangers of Deterrence: Philosophers on Nuclear Strategy (London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983): 84-111.






  • “The Ethics of International Intervention,” in Anthony Ellis, ed., Ethics and International Relations (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986): 24-51. Revised version in Kenneth Kipnis and Diana T. Meyers, eds., Political Realism and International Morality: Ethics in the Nuclear Age (Boulder: Westview Press, 1988): 75-101.
  • “A Note on Pure Defense,” Journal of Philosophy 83, no. 11 (1986): 640-641.




  • “How Defensive Is Strategic Defense?” in Douglas Lackey, ed., Ethics and Strategic Defense (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1988): 99-106.







  • War and Peace,” in Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics (Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell, 1991): 384-95.













  • Realism, Morality, and War,” in Terry Nardin, ed., The Ethics of War and Peace: Religious and Secular Perspectives (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996): 78-92.







  • Wrongful Life: Paradoxes in the Morality of Causing People to Exist,” in Jules Coleman and Christopher Morris, eds., Rational Commitment and Social Justice: Essays for Gregory Kavka (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, October 1998): 208-247. Reprinted in abridged and revised form in John Harris, ed., Oxford Readings in Bioethics(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).







  • Moral Intuition,” in Hugh LaFollette, ed., Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).







  • Animals,” in R. G. Frey and Christopher Wellman, eds., Blackwell Companion to Applied Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).






  • Preventing the Existence of People with Disabilities,” in David Wasserman, Jerome Bickenbach, and Robert Wachbroit, eds., Quality of Life and Human Difference: Genetic Testing, Health Care, and Disability (NY and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005): 142-71.




  • An Alternative to Brain Death,” Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics (Spring 2006): 44-48. Reprinted in John Arras, Alex John London, and Bonnie Steinbock, eds.. Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine, 7th edition (McGraw Hill, 2007).
  • The Lucretian Argument,” in R. Feldman, K. McDaniel, J.R. Raibley, and M.J. Zimmerman, eds., The Good, the Right, Life and Death, a Festschrift for Fred Feldman (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2006): 213-26.




  • Killing Embryos for Stem Cell Research,” Metaphilosophy 38, no. 2/3 (April 2007): 170-89. Reprinted in Lori Gruen, Laura Grabel, and Peter Singer, eds., Stem Cell Research: The Ethical Issues (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).
  • Just War,” in Robert E. Goodin, Philip Pettit, and Thomas Pogge, eds., A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, 2nd edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).
  • Jeff McMahan” (an interview) in Thomas Petersen and Jesper Ryberg, eds., Normative Ethics: 5 Questions (New York & London: Automatic Press/VIP, 2007).




  • Aggression and Punishment,” in Larry May, ed., War: Philosophical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
  • Comment,” in Michael Doyle, Striking First: Preemption and Prevention in International Conflict (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).




  • Radical Cognitive Limitation,” in Kimberley Brownlee and Adam Cureton, eds., Disability and Disadvantage (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2009).




  • Laws of War,” in Samantha Besson and John Tasioulas, eds., The Philosophy of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).
  • Animalism and the Varieties of Conjoined Twinning,” coauthored with Tim Campbell, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics (2010).  Revised and expanded version in Stephan Blatti and Paul Snowdon, eds., Animalism: New Essays on Persons, Animals, and Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016): 229-252.
  • Torture and Collective Shame,” in Anton Leist and Peter Singer, eds., Coetzee and Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).




  • Duty, Obedience, Desert, and Proportionality in War: A Response,” Ethics 122, no. 1 (2011): 135-67.  (A response in a symposium on Killing in War to commentaries by Yitzhak Benbaji, John Gardner and François Tanguay-Renaud, David Rodin, and Cheyney Ryan.)
  • “Kann Töten Gerecht Sein?” (Can Killing be Just?), if: Zeitschrift für Innere Führung 2 (2011).  (Journal of the Bundeswehr.)




  • War,” in David Estlund, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Political Philosophy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).




  • “Causing People to Exist and Saving People’s Lives,” Journal of Ethics 17 (2013): 5-35. Revised and abridged version under the title “Creating People and Saving People,” in Gustaf Arrhenius, Tim Campbell, and Krister Bykvist, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Population Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
  • Foreword,” to Bradley Jay Strawser, ed., Killing by Remote Control: The Ethics of an Unmanned Military (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • Bernard Williams: A Reminiscence,” in Alexandra Perry and Chris Herrera, eds., The Moral Philosophy of Bernard Williams (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing).
  • Moral Intuition,” revised version, in Hugh LaFollette and Ingmar Persson, eds., Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory, second edition (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).




  • Foreword,” to  Andrea Ellner, Paul Robinson, and David Whetham, eds., When Soldiers Say No: Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military (Ashgate, 2014).
  • Moral Status,” in David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton, eds., Philosophy Bites Again (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).




  • The Moral Problem of Predation,” in Andrew Chignell, Terence Cuneo, and Matt Halteman, eds., Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments About the Ethics of Eating (London: Routledge, 2015).
  • Death, Killing, and War,” in a special issue of COLLeGIUM: Studies Across Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences on “Death, Dying and Mortality – From Individualistic to Communal Perspectives,” edited by Sami Pihlström, Sara Heinämaa & Outi Hakola (2015).




  • The Limits of Self-Defense,” in Christian Coons and Michael Weber, eds., The Ethics of Self-Defense (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • A Challenge to Gun Rights,” in David Edmonds, ed., Philosophers Take on the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • Tom Regan: An Appreciation,” in Gary Comstock and Mylan Engel, eds., The Moral Rights of Animals (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016).







  • Doing Good & Doing the Best,” in Paul Woodruff, ed., Philanthropy and Philosophy: Putting Theory Into Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
  • Torture and Method in Moral Philosophy,” in Scott Anderson and Martha Nussbaum, eds., Confronting Torture: Essays on the Ethics, Legality, History, and Psychology of Torture Today (Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 2018).
  • "Postscript" in Bradley Jay Strawser, Ryan Jenkins, and Michael Robillard, eds., Who Should Die? The Ethics of Killing in War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).
  • Foreword to Shannon Fyfe, Larry May, and Eric Ritter, eds., The Cambridge Handbook of the Just War(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).




  • Foreword,” in Espen Gamlund and Carl Tollef Solberg, eds., Saving People from the Harm of Death (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).
  • Early Death and Later Suffering,” in Espen Gamlund and Carl Tollef Solberg, eds., Saving People from the Harm of Death (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019): 116-133.
  • Eating Meat,” in David Edmonds, ed., Ethics and the Contemporary World (London: Routledge, 2019).




  • The Battle of the Lexicons,” a commentary on Arthur Ripstein’s Tanner Lectures in Saira Mohamed, ed., Rules for Wrongdoers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021).




  • "Suffering and Moral Status," in Stephen Clarke, Julian Savulescu, and Hazem Zohny, eds., Rethinking Moral Status (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

I have written primarily about a range of issues concerning harming, killing, and saving. These issues include war, self- and other-defense, abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, the metaphysics of personal identity, the metaphysics of death, the evaluation of death, the moral status of animals, causing people to exist, disability, torture, philanthropy, and so on.

During Hilary and Trinity terms 2021 I will be teaching a graduate seminar on the ethics of creating, preserving, and ending lives. I will be discussing issues in population ethics and their relevance to various problems in practical ethics.

Philosophy Bites Interview on Killing in War, November 2009

Philosophy Bites Interview on Vegetarianism, June 2010

“The Meat Eaters,” New York Times Opinionator, September 2010

Wisconsin Public Radio interview on the killing of Osama bin Laden, May 2011

Bioethics Bites interview on Moral Status, April 2012

“Rethinking the ‘Just War’, Part 1” New York Times Opinionator, November 2012

“Rethinking the ‘Just War’, Part 2” New York Times Opinionator, November 2012

“Why Gun ‘Control’ Is Not Enough,” New York Times Opinionator, December 2012

Live chat on drone warfare with Michael Walzer and Jane Mayer, New Yorker online, February 2013

Philosophy Bites Interview on Gun Control, February 2013

Journal of Medical Ethics Interview on Infanticide, February 2013

Huffington Post Op-Ed on Syria, August 2013

“The Moral Case for Military Strikes Against Syria,” al-Jazeera America, September 2013

Boston Review forum: “The Moral Responsibility of Volunteer Soldiers,” November 2013

Minerva: Interview on vegetarianism (with Peter Singer), May 2014

Proportionality in the 2014 Gaza War, Prospect Magazine, August 2014

“Can Torture Ever Be Moral?” New York Times Opinionator, January 2015

“A Challenge to Gun Rights,” Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, April 2015

Morally Necessary Defense in Syria, Washington Post, November 2015

Interview with Katrien Devolder on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, November 2015

New York Times Facebook Live, discussion of abortion, February 2017

“Who is the Victim in the Anna Stubblefield Case?” (with Peter Singer), New York Times Opinionator, April 2017

“I Was No-Platformed. Here’s Why It’s Counterproductive,” New Statesman, 4 January 2019

“Should Corporate Executives Be Criminally Prosecuted for Their Misdeeds?,” New Statesman, 18 June 2019