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Torture and DignityAn Essay on Moral Injury$
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J. M. Bernstein

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226266329

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226266466.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Torture and Dignity

J. M. Bernstein

University of Chicago Press

In “Modern Moral Philosophy”, Elizabeth Anscombe argues that philosophers have been wasting their time doing moral philosophy because moral obligations based on moral principles make no sense in the absence of the religious setting in which “ought” statements appear as laws commanded by the creator of the universe. What is untoward in traditional morals is the idea that moral wrongness is essentially about breaking rules and commandments. For us secular beings, what makes an action wrong is that it harms a person. If what makes an action wrong is that it harms a person, then the primary phenomena of modern moral life is moral injury. The claim, then, is not that there are no moral rules; it is, rather, that broken rules stand for broken bodies and ruined lives. Moral injury is best comprehended from the perspective of the victim, the one suffers the injury, rather than from the perspective of the agent tempted to commit the injury. Torture and rape are paradigm cases of moral injury; interrogating them will lead to thesis that what is harmed in moral injuries is the dignity of the wholly embodied human subject.

Keywords:   Anscombe, moral injury, moral rules, torture, victim

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