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Understanding Torture

J. Jeremy Wisnewski

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Despite Victor Hugo's 19th-century proclamation that torture no longer exists, we still find it even now, even in those nations that claim to be paradigms of civility. Why is it that torture still exists in a world where it is routinely regarded as immoral? Is it possible to eliminate torture, and if so, how? What exactly does it mean to call something 'torture', and is it always morally reprehensible?

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1. The Persistence of Torture: An Affliction That Won't Go Away
2. The History of Torture: A Sketch
3. The Wrongness of Torture: Identifying Torture's Unique Despicability
4. How Torture Unmakes Worlds
5. Thinking Through Torture's Temptations, Part One: Arguments for Torture
6. Thinking Through Torture's Temptations, Part Two: Arguments Against Torture
7. The Psychology of Torture
8. The Politics of Torture: Orwellian Themes in the Bush League
9. Hope Amid Pessimism: Concluding Reflections on Ending Torture
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About the Author

J. Jeremy Wisnewski is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Hartwick College, New York.


J. Jeremy Wisnewski’s excellent – and excellently titled – Understanding Torture … would be a wonderful text for classes about torture or state violence. Indeed, the book is a fine example of how philosophical analysis can clarify and advance the discussion of critical issues… One of the best of the many recent books on torture and the one that comes closest to clinching the case for an absolute ban on torture without relying on religious arguments.

- J. T. Parry, Lewis & Clark Law School, Journal of Moral Philosophy

Wisnewski has written a wonderful book to serve as a basis for seminar discussions. The level of detailed discussion of standard arguments and the richness of the references and substantial quotations make this an ideal primer; and the impassioned, principled stance combined with a clear intent to be fair minded about the reach of arguments makes it a great example to students. Those minded to agree or disagree will have received plenty of material to help them form and refine their positions and arguments.

- Brian Feltham, University of Reading, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews


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