Reasonable mistakes and regulative norms : Racial bias in defensive harm

Journal article

Bolinger, Renée Jorgens. (2017). Reasonable mistakes and regulative norms : Racial bias in defensive harm. Journal of Political Philosophy. 25(2), pp. 196-217.
AuthorsBolinger, Renée Jorgens

[Extract] Edmund Joubran was working as clerk in a corner store when two men entered, one pointed a gun at him, and demanded cash. Believing they might kill him, Joubran drew and fired his own 0.38-caliber pistol, killing one of the men. Police later discovered that the robber's weapon was just a realistic toy gun.1 Though he was mistaken about whether defense was necessary, it seems that Joubran did exactly what rational, well-intentioned agents in situations epistemically like his should be expected and permitted to do: protect their lives from an immediate, unjust threat. Contrast Joubran with another mistaken defender. Anthony Simon had a bad relationship with his neighbor Steffen Wong, and one evening the two got into a verbal argument. Simon believed that Wong was a martial artist and a lethal threat even empty-handed. When Wong appeared angry, Simon feared he was about to attack and defensively shot Wong. In fact Wong posed no threat, and did not even know any martial arts—Simon only believed that he did because he was Asian.2 Intuitively, we should want legal principles for self-defense that count Joubran as having done nothing wrong, but hold Simon responsible for his unreasonable error. Unlike the robber, Wong can legitimately complain that his rights against harm have been violated.

JournalJournal of Political Philosophy
Journal citation25 (2), pp. 196-217
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85017386096
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range196-217
Publisher's version
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online03 Apr 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited19 Jan 2022
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