Astor Visiting Lecturer: Professor Jeff McMahan

OUC is pleased to announce two public events by Astor Visiting Lecturer, Professor Jeff McMahan

The Faculty of Philosophy and the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics are very pleased to welcome Professor Jeff McMahan as Astor Visiting Lecturer for 2013. 

As part of the lectureship, two public events will take place at the Faculty of Philosophy. All are welcome to attend and booking is not required; please arrive early to guarantee a seat.

1. Public Debate: Wednesday 6th February, 2.00 – 3.30pm

Title:  ‘The Value of Life’
Venue:  Graduate Training Room, Radcliffe Humanities, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6GG.  Map:

John Broome, the White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, will debate the value of life with Jeff McMahan, focussing on McMahan’s time-relative account of the value of life, which Broome has criticised. This will be a rare opportunity to bring together McMahan and Broome in a public debate and is likely to be of interest to many and of enormous and wide ranging practical significance.

2. Astor Lecture:  Thursday 7th February, 6.30 – 8.30 pm

Title:  ‘What Rights May be Defended by Means of War?’
Venue:  Lecture Theatre, Faculty of Philosophy, Radcliffe Humanities, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6GG.  Map:

Wrongful aggressors often claim to love peace, and there is a sense in which that is true, for they would prefer to get what they want without having to fight a war.  Many of the aims that motivate unjust wars could be achieved without violence: for example, control of certain natural resources such as oil, limited political control over another state, the annexation of a bit of its territory, and so on.  In such cases, war and killing become necessary for aggressors only if they meet with military resistance. If an aggressor’s aims were limited, so that the aggressor would not kill or seriously harm any citizen if it could achieve its goals without violence, would it be permissible for the victims to go to war in self-defense?  The traditional assumption is that self-defense against aggression is always permissible. But are the values of state sovereignty and territorial integrity always, or even generally, sufficiently important on their own to justify the resort to war in their defense?   


Jeff McMahan is Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University.  He did his graduate work at Oxford and Cambridge and was a research fellow at St. John’s College, Cambridge.  He is the author of The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life (OUP, 2002) and Killing in War (OUP, 2009).  He has several other books forthcoming from OUP, including a collection of essays called The Values of Lives, a book on war intended for both academic and nonacademic readers called The Right Way to Fight, and a sequel to his 2002 book called The Ethics of Killing: Self-Defense, War, and Punishment.