Many works in applied moral and political philosophy start from an intuitive underlying moral principle and then argue that it leads to radical implications for our norms and practices. (For example, that a commitment to equality entails that we should abolish immigration restrictions, or confiscate one another's organs, or refuse to read our children bedtime stories.) Seth Lazar's Sparing Civilians works in the other direction. It aims to provide new moral foundations for a touchstone of commonsense morality and law: the idea that there is an extremely stringent moral constraint on killing noncombatants in war. More precisely, Lazar defends a comparative claim:

Moral Distinction: In war, with rare exceptions, killing noncombatants is worse than killing combatants. (2)

The uninitiated reader might wonder why a defense of Moral Distinction is needed in the first place. As Lazar points out, “If any moral principle commands near universal assent, this one does”...

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