Jeff McMahan (philosopher)

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Jeff McMahan
Jefferson Allen McMahan

30 August 1954
Alma materUniversity of the South
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
St. John's College, Cambridge
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
InstitutionsSt. John's College, Cambridge
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Rutgers University
University of Oxford
ThesisProblems of Population Theory (1986)
Doctoral advisorJonathan Glover, Derek Parfit, Bernard Williams
Main interests
Normative and applied ethics
Notable ideas
The ethics of intensive animal farming, the ethics of killing in war, the ethics of nuclear weapons

Jefferson Allen McMahan[1] (/məkˈmɑːn/; born 30 August 1954) is an American philosopher.

Education and career[edit]

He completed a B.A. degree in English literature at the University of the South (Sewanee). He completed a second B.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics then did graduate work in philosophy at Corpus Christi College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He then earned his M.A. at the University of Oxford. He was offered a research studentship at the St. John's College, Cambridge from 1979 to 1983. He studied first under Jonathan Glover and Derek Parfit at the University of Oxford and was later supervised by Bernard Williams at the University of Cambridge, where he was a research fellow of St. John's College from 1983 to 1986. He received his doctorate in 1986. His thesis title was Problems of Population Theory.

He taught at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1986–2003) and at Rutgers University (2003–2014).[1] He has been White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford since 2014.[1]


He has written extensively on normative and applied ethics. His publications include The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life (Oxford University Press, 2002), Killing in War (OUP, 2009), which argues against foundational elements of the traditional theory of the just war, The Morality of Nationalism (co-edited with Robert McKim, OUP, 1997), and Ethics and Humanity (co-edited with Ann Davis and Richard Keshen, OUP, 2010).

McMahan has written on the subject of intensive animal farming as a major ethical problem and is one of the main contributors in the ethical debate on wild animal suffering. He argued for a strong negative duty to stop the suffering inflicted on animals through modern industrial agriculture and made a case for intervening in nature to alleviate the suffering of wild animals.[2][3]

He is on the editorial board of The Journal of Controversial Ideas.[4]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life (Oxford University Press, 2002) (ISBN 0-195-16982-4)
  • Killing In War (Oxford University Press, 2009) (ISBN 0-199-54866-8)
  • The Ethics of Killing: Self-Defense, War, and Punishment (Oxford University Press, 2019) (ISBN 0-195-16982-4)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c CV
  2. ^ McMahan, Jeff (19 September 2010). "The Meat Eaters". New York Times Opinionator. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  3. ^ McMahan, Jeff (2014). "The Moral Problem of Predation". In Chignell, Andrew. Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments on the Ethics of Eating (PDF). London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415806831.
  4. ^ Rosenbaum, Martin (12 November 2018). "Pseudonyms to protect authors of controversial articles". BBC. Retrieved 13 November 2018.

External links[edit]