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Because It Is Wrong: Torture, Privacy and Presidential Power in the Age of Terror Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 6, 2010
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
The father-son writers responsible for this lucid, meticulous text draw on their individual scholarly backgrounds to scrutinize the ethics of torture and privacy violations in the Bush era. Charles Fried, professor of law at Harvard University, and son Gregory Fried (Heidegger's Polemos), chair of philosophy chair at Suffolk University, eschew a consequentialist approach in favor of determining the inherent ethical value of the "the two signal controversies" of the age accompanied by examples gleaned from visual arts, film, and history. The authors conclude that torture, insofar as it violates the physical and psychological wellbeing of human beings, can be considered "absolutely wrong." Conversely, they do not see privacy as absolute and sacred, and they make allowances for situations in which the government might need to violate it. While the authors agree that the Bush administration's torture program constituted a clear offense, they disagree about prosecuting those responsible--one advocates for prosecution as a moral imperative, the other frames it as a practical and political matter--in an impasse that provides a fitting conclusion for this intriguing academic inquiry.
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Fried, a philosophy professor, and his father, legal scholar Charles Fried, here team up to offer an uncommon—and uncommonly insightful—critique of the legal and philosophical arguments for government-sanctioned torture and pervasive electronic surveillance. At its core is a bold deontological assertion: torture is absolutely wrong because violating a human being “grossly offends the bedrock premise that every human being is a locus of inestimable value,” and it profanes the dignity of torturer and tortured alike. Privacy, by contrast, is an important value that also arises from respect for human dignity, but violations of privacy are quite different from violations of a person’s physical integrity. In part a rejection of Alan Dershowitz’s suggestion that torture might be productively and hygienically deployed though judicial “torture warrants,” the Frieds are also motivated by a visceral reaction to the inhumanity of torture as elucidated by art, a theological belief that humans are the reflection of the divine, and a concern that the future of everyday ordinary morality may itself hang in the balance of these debates. Compelling, wise, and complicated enough to invite serious discussion, this selection elevates an important debate. --Brendan Driscoll