Justifying self-defense, defense of others, and the use of force in law enforcement
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2009.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. While the permissibility of self-defense may seem obvious, philosophers and legal theorists have had difficulty creating a complete and sound philosophical justification. The right of self-defense has odd contours: in some dimensions, the right is broad, while in others, very narrow. Current theories have difficulty justifying both aspects. Rights-based theories, specifically, can justify the broad permission to use force, but they have trouble explaining the extensive restrictions on exercising the right. Making matters even more complicated, the breadth of one's self-defense right can vary. Law enforcement officers acting in their official capacity, unlike private citizens, never have a duty to retreat before using deadly force. Philosophers generally have ignored such complications.; In this dissertation, I demonstrate how a rights-based account can explain the broad and narrow nature of the right of self-defense. Utilizing concepts from both moral and political theory, I justify the traditional limitations on the right of self-defense, including the necessity and imminence requirements. I argue that unnecessary force interferes with aggressors' right to due process of law and usurps the authority of the state to adjudicate rights-claims and other disputes. Drawing from Kant, I also argue that individuals lack authority to vindicate their rights. The right of self-defense is a supplementary mechanism by which defenders preserve their right to seek justice in a court of law.; I argue that the positive permission to use force derives from three interests: (1) protection of individual autonomy, autonomy-based rights, and respect for persons; (2) preservation of the ability to seek a full (or almost full) judicial remedy to vindicate a violation of one's rights; and (3) protection of the public peace and security. I argue that unjust aggression, unlike other violations of rights, may be resisted with violence because of the extensive harm to one's person that can result and the inability to seek judicial redress. I also define and justify the proportionality requirement and demonstrate how that requirement is consistent with a theory justifying self-defense based on protecting autonomy and autonomy-based rights. Finally, I apply my theory to non-core cases, including the expanded rights of law enforcement officers.
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