In this unflinching look at the experience of suffering and one of its greatest manifestations-torture-J.M. Bernstein critiques the repressions of traditional moral theory, showing that our morals are not immutable ideals but fragile constructions that depend on our experience of suffering itself. Morals, Bernstein argues, not only guide our conduct but also express the depth of mutual dependence that we share as vulnerable and injurable individuals. Beginning with the attempts to abolish torture in the eighteenth century, and then sensitively examining what is suffered in torture and related transgressions, such as rape, Bernstein elaborates a powerful new conception of moral injury. Crucially, he shows, moral injury always involves an injury to the status of an individual as a person-it is a violent assault against his or her dignity. Elaborating on this critical element of moral injury, he demonstrates that the mutual recognitions of trust form the invisible substance of our moral lives, that dignity is a fragile social possession, and that the perspective of ourselves as potential victims is an ineliminable feature of everyday moral experience.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 408
Weight: 590 g
Dimensions: 231 x 150 x 30 mm
For many years now Bernstein has been a leading voice in the evolving critical theory tradition, turning out impressive and influential work on Lukacs, Adorno, the relation between art and philosophy, and social critique. Torture and Dignity is his most ambitious and systematic book. Taking his bearings from what are the clearest, most unambiguous cases of moral injury torture and rape he aims to develop a general account of the nature of moral wrong, and he does so without engaging the conventional (and, he argues, thoroughly misleading and distorting) problem of convincing the moral skeptic to refrain from such harm. What results is a book that is lucidly written, original, passionate, and compelling, with many moments of real brilliance. His ability to develop out of such a negative ethics a positive account of our dependence on each other is no less valuable and challenging. The book is a major achievement. --Robert B. Pippin, author of Interanimations: Receiving Modern German Philosophy"
Torture and Dignity raises a number of important issues in moral philosophy and moral practice in a way that is original and highly engaging. Bernstein is a brilliant writer whose passion and conviction come across vividly and persuasively in a breadth of styles and approaches, which is so unusual in contemporary ethics. In this work we see a philosopher engaged in analysis and argument, but also with literature, phenomenology, memoir, law, the history of ideas, and public policy. --Robert Stern, author of Understanding Moral Obligation: Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard"