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Although Michael Moore has theorized much of the criminal law, he has left self-defense virtually untouched. This festschrift chapter sets forth the current debates within self-defense theory. It then pieces together Moore’s views about these puzzles, arguing that Moore adopts a distributive view of self-defense whereby an innocent victim may redistribute harm to its culpable or innocent cause. The chapter then questions some of Moore’s claims, including how Moore grounds the self-defensive right against innocent aggressors and threats, whether self-defense is best viewed as a mechanism for harm distribution, and whether Moore needs something like the forfeiture concept that he rejects. The chapter concludes by demonstrating that Moore’s commitments in self-defense would justify a deterrence-based criminal law and by asking how this result can be reconciled with Moore’s retributivist commitments.


Michael Moore, self-defense, innocent aggressors, forfeiture, deterrence

Publication Citation

In Legal, Moral, and Metaphysical Truths: The Philosophy of Michael S. Moore (Kimberly Kessler Ferzan & Stephen J. Morse eds., Oxford 2016)