Public Reason: Vol. 5, No. 1, June 2013
Helen Frowe’s “Practical Account of Self-Defence”: A Critique
Uwe Steinhoff

Helen Frowe has recently offered what she calls a “practical” account of self-defense. Her account is supposed to be practical by being subjectivist about permissibility and objectivist about liability. I shall argue here that Frowe first makes up a problem that does not exist and then fails to solve it. To wit, her claim that objectivist accounts of permissibility cannot be action-guiding is wrong; and her own account of permissibility actually retains an objectivist (in the relevant sense) element. In addition, her attempt to restrict subjectivism primarily to “urgent” situations like self-defense contradicts her own point of departure and is either incoherent or futile. Finally, the only actual whole-heartedly objectivist account she criticizes is an easy target; while those objectivist accounts one finds in certain Western European jurisdictions are immune to her criticisms. Those accounts are also clearly superior to hers in terms of action-guidingness.

Key words: action-guidingness, Helen Frowe, justification, objectivism, self-defense, subjectivism.


Steinhoff, Uwe. 2013. Helen Frowe’s “Practical Account of Self-Defence”: A Critique. Public Reason 5 (1): 87-96.