Instrumental authority and its challenges: the case of the laws of war

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Law and Morality at War offers a broadly instrumentalist defense of the authority of the laws of war: these laws serve combatants by helping them come closer to doing what they have independent moral reason to do. We argue that this form of justification (invoked by many legal and political theorists) sets too low a bar. An authority’s directives are not binding, on instrumental grounds, if the subject could, within certain limits, adopt an alternative, and superior, means of conforming to morality’s demands. It emerges that Haque’s argument fails to vindicate the law’s authority over all (or even most) combatants.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-575
Number of pages28
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019