Introductory remarks

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2016
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My book is about the significance of torture and rape for the meaning of moral life generally, for the very idea of what morality is and why we care about it.  Torture and rape are, I claim, paradigm moral injuries, paradigms of moral wrongness; at one level, they are even more morally prohibited than killing.  Even as we allow a wide range of circumstances in which killing another human being, even a wholly innocent human being, might be justified, there are no circumstances of justifiable rape. And everyone regards the requirements for the use of torture, if ever justifiable, to be more stringent than those for killing: if an intruder violently breaks into my home, I might well be justified in killing him; no matter the level of threat, however, I would not be justified in dragging him into my basement and then torturing or raping him.  For us moderns, if rape is never justifiable, and torture is either never justifiable or justifiable only when the threat is of such magnitude and imminence that for the purpose of collective self-defense there is no conceivable alternative, then it becomes natural to consider torture and rape as exemplars of moral wrongness, of what is morally wrong if anything is utterly morally wrong.