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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 28, 2012

Freedom, Religion, and Gender

Sally J. Scholz
Pages 167-176

Innocence and Vulnerability
Comments on Terrorism and the Ethics of War, by Stephen Nathanson

In Stephen Nathanson’s important new book, he offers and defends a definition of terrorism that relies on a conception of innocence that blends both moral innocence and status innocence. I argue that this understanding of innocence needs to be modified in two ways. First, status innocence ought to incorporate the notion of opposition. It is not just in becoming a soldier that one sacrifices status innocence; it is in the context of war or opposition. Second, I argue that moral innocence understood according to a liability-based notion of responsibility is insufficient. It does not address the various relational elements of responsibility. To remedy that gap, I suggest that we add a vulnerability-based notion of responsibility together with the liability-based model for a more complete account of moral innocence.

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