This book offers a philosophical analysis of the moral and legal justifications for the use of force. While the book focuses on the ethics self-defense, it also explores its relation to lesser evil justifications, public authority, the justification of punishment, and the ethics of war.

Steinhoff’s account of the moral use of force covers a wide range of topics, including the nature of justification in general, the precise elements of different justifications, the logic of claim- and liberty-rights and of rights forfeiture, the value of human life and its limits, and the principles of reciprocity and precaution. While the author’s analysis is primarily philosophical, it is informed by a metaethical stance that also places heavy emphasis on existing law and legal scholarship. In doing so, the book appeals to widely shared moral intuitions, precepts, and concepts grounded in criminal law.

Self-Defense, Necessity, and Punishment offers the most comprehensive and systematic account of the ethics of self-defense. It will be of interest to scholars and graduate students working in applied ethics and moral philosophy, philosophy of law, and political philosophy.

chapter 1|31 pages


chapter 2|194 pages

Self-Defense (Understood as Including Other-Defense)


chapter 3|59 pages


Special Cases (Innocent Attackers, Justified Attackers, and Non-Responsible Threats)

chapter |3 pages

Concluding Remarks