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Confronting TortureEssays on the Ethics, Legality, History, and Psychology of Torture Today$
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Scott A. Anderson and Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226529387

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226529554.001.0001

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Stoic Equanimity in the Face of Torture

Stoic Equanimity in the Face of Torture

Chapter:
Chapter 3 Stoic Equanimity in the Face of Torture (p.70)
Source:
Confronting Torture
Author(s):

Nancy Sherman

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226529554.003.0004

While Stoicism is taught as both an ethics and a strategy for confronting life’s troubles and bodily pain, the effect of torture on the victim’s psychology is often beyond what Stoic training can protect against. This chapter briefly describes the development of ancient Stoic philosophy among Greek and Roman writers such as Epictetus and Seneca, and then considers whether the equanimity and apatheia (freedom from emotion) it teaches suffice to provide invulnerability against the pain and degradation involved in torture. The aim of modern torture in war is, as David Sussman has argued, typically to turn its victim’s will against itself, and thereby to force upon its victim a sense of collusion and self-betrayal. Based on interviews with former wartime captives and the testimony of other survivors of torture, the chapter argues that Stoicism does not typically provide its victims of torture invulnerability against capitulating to the demands of their torturers, but it does provide some guidance for how survivors of torture can achieve a “self-acceptance” that may aid in dealing with the almost inevitable capitulation that torture elicits.

Keywords:   apatheia, emotions, Epictetus, pain, psychology of torture, Seneca, Stoicism, Sussman, David, torture, will

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