For Torture

For Torture : A Rights-Based Defense

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Stephen Kershnar's take on torture is unique for four reasons. First, it provides a distinct analysis of what torture is. Second, it argues that on non-consequentialist grounds, specifically rights-based ones, torture is sometimes permissible. Third, it argues that torturers are not always vicious. Fourth, it argues that it is plausible that these conclusions apply to some real world cases. In short, it fills the following gap: it evaluates torture from a rights-based perspective and finds that in some cases it is permissible. Kershnar's moral evaluation of torture sharply differs from the rest of the literature. The evaluation focuses on the non-consequentialist approach to morality, that is, it assumes that what makes an action right is not solely whether it brings about the best results. Using the central feature of non-consequentialism, moral rights, Kershnar argues that torture is justified in a number of theoretical contexts, including defense, punishment, and when the person to be tortured consents. He then looks at the actual world and argue that it is plausible to think that there are real-world cases where torture is justified.
Kershnar's analysis also looks at whether torture is virtuous in an attempt to get at what intuitively repels us about torture. His analysis is not only the first look at the issue, but it also ties in with recent developments in virtue theory. As in the analysis of the permissibility of torture, he tries to show that my findings with regard to virtue are not merely of theoretical interest, but are plausible given some real-world cases.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 162 pages
  • 154.94 x 228.6 x 17.78mm | 408.23g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • black & white tables
  • 0739167774
  • 9780739167779

Review quote

Kershnar makes a thorough, tightly argued, carefully delineated case for torture by governments not merely in unlikely scenarios but in instances which Kershnar shows are remarkably like real cases, such as the Bojinka plot, in which thousands of innocent lives are at stake. For, this is a subtle, nuanced account with which thinkers who have reached the politically correct conclusion will be struggling for some time to come. -- George Schedler, Southern Illinois University With this provocative book, Kershnar may be on his way to becoming the Saint Anselm of legal philosophy. -- Michael Davis, senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions and professor of philosophy, Illinois Institute of Technology
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About Stephen Kershnar

Stephen Kershnar is professor in the Department of Philosophy, SUNY College at Fredonia.
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Table of contents

Introduction Chapter 1: A Minimalist Account of Torture Chapter 2: Defense and Torture Chapter 3: Punishment and Torture Chapter 4: Side-Constraints and Torture Appendix to Chapter 4 Chapter 5: Virtue and Torture Chapter 6: The Trading-Down Argument Chapter 7: Trading Down and Hazing
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