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The Ethics of War

2. Necessity and Proportionality

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In this module we explore the role of the principles of necessity and proportionality in a justified war. In particular we focus on (i) the relationship between necessity and the goals of war (ii) the simple view of proportionality: that it is proportionate to kill up to as many people in war as we are able to prevent from being killed, and objections to this view (iii) proportionality in light of the doctrine of doing and allowing (iv) how the lives of different groups of people who might be killed in war are valued in the proportionality calculation.


In this course Professor Victor Tadros (University of Warwick) explores the ethics of war. In the first module, we examine the goals of war and evaluate how difficult such goals are to justify. In the second module, we look at the principles of necessity and proportionality in a justified war and review different ideas about what constitutes a proportionate reason to go to war. In the third module, we turn our attention to what might make somebody liable to be killed and how notions of liability can be applied in proportionality calculations concerning war. In the fourth module, we enquire further into what makes someone liable to be killed, using thought experiments to test our intuitions about liability. In the fifth module we explore the relationship between combatants and non-combatants in the ethics of war by applying our knowledge about responsibility, culpability and liability. In the sixth and final module, we look at the laws of war and compare these laws with the morality of war as explored in previous lectures.


Professor Victor Tadros is a lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Warwick. His research interests are in the philosophy of criminal law, terrorism law, the criminal trials and punishment. He is currently researching just war theory, and issues in moral and political philosophy. His books include Criminal Responsibility (2005), The Trial on Trial (with Antony Duff, Lindsay Farmer and Sandra Marshall) (2007) The Ends of Harm: The Moral Foundations of Criminal Law (2011), Wrongs and Crimes (2016) and To Do, To Die, To Reason Why (2020).

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APA style

Tadros, V. (2022, April 26). The Ethics of War - Necessity and Proportionality [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Tadros, V. "The Ethics of War – Necessity and Proportionality." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Apr 2022,

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