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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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Torture, Self-Defense, and Fighting Dirty

Torture, Self-Defense, and Fighting Dirty

Chapter:
(p.219) Chapter 10 Torture, Self-Defense, and Fighting Dirty
Source:
Confronting Torture
Author(s):

David Sussman

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226529554.003.0011

This chapter argues that part of what makes torture a distinctive ethical problem is that it impedes relations between people when one tortures another. In a way similar to how Thomas Nagel describes tactics of “dirty fighting,” torture as a means of combat attacks human weaknesses of its victim, rather than addressing one’s enemy directly in that person’s capacity as a threat or combatant. Even if one is licensed to harm another as a means of self-defense, the techniques one is permitted to use should provide for possibilities of reconciliation if both parties survive past hostilities. That is, techniques of self-defense should be constrained by principles of reciprocity, such as might be agreed to in a contractualist bargain. However, if one’s enemy has engaged in torture toward oneself or one’s loved ones, this may license torture as a defensive measure, since reconciliation may already be beyond hope. If terrorism is similarly unjustifiable in general as torture is, then this might then might also license torture in self-defense there as well.

Keywords:   contractualism, dirty fighting, ethics of torture, Nagel, Thomas, reciprocity, reconciliation, self-defense, terrorism, torture

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