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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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The Harm of Rape, the Harm of Torture

The Harm of Rape, the Harm of Torture

(p.116) Three The Harm of Rape, the Harm of Torture
Torture and Dignity

J. M. Bernstein

University of Chicago Press

At a crucial moment, Améry states that torture is like “a rape, a sexual act without the consent of one of the two partners.” Comparing Améry’s analysis of his torture with Susan Brison’s philosophical account of her rape, this chapter opens by demonstrating that rape and torture have the same fundamental structure. It then seeks to analyze the harm of torture through the analysis of the harm of rape. Following Jean Hampton’s lead, harm is here theorized as moral injury. Hampton takes Kant’s idea of persons as ends-in-themselves and turns it toward the victim of wrongful action: moral injury is done when an individual is the object of behaviour that represents her value as less than the value she merits as a member of her community. In rape and torture this devaluation occurs through dispossessing the victim of her bodily autonomy and integrity. To be so dispossessed, violated, causes devastation. This analysis assumes that persons both have a body that is the instrument of their actions in the world, and they are their living, sentient body. Torture and rape work to deprive victims of their voluntary body and to leave them with only their sentient, living body.

Keywords:   Améry, being a body, Brison, devastation, dispossession, Hampton, having a body, moral injury, rape, torture

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