European Journal of Philosophy 27 (1):211-226 (2019)

Johnny Brennan
Fordham University
J. M. Bernstein argues that to capture the depths of the harm of torture, we need to do away with the idea that we possess intrinsic and inviolable worth. If personhood is inviolable, then torture can inflict only apparent harm on our standing as persons. Bernstein claims that torture is a paradigm of moral injury because it causes what he calls “devastation”: The victim experiences an actual degradation of his or her personhood. Bernstein argues that our value is given to us through mutual recognition and hence can be lost. In this paper, I argue that if our human value can be lost, then it first must be built up. If it must be built up, then the question of our status before the building begins must be answered. Bernstein faces a problem of human beings who fall outside relations of mutual recognition and hence are valueless. His best option for answering this problem is to point to the centrality of the body in his account of recognition, but doing so reveals a notion of intrinsic worth implicit in his account. I call for a revision of Bernstein's account that can hold on to devastation without eschewing intrinsic worth.
Keywords recognition  personhood  intrinsic worth  torture  moral status  ethics
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DOI 10.1111/ejop.12370
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What's Wrong with Torture?David Sussman - 2005 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 (1):1-33.

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