What is called physical torture comprises methods of producing severe pain. What is called psychological torture comprises methods to produce exhaustion, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, desperation, psychic disorganization, loss of control of mental states and acts, and extreme dependency. Physical torture aims to arouse intense fear. Psychological torture is the torture of the future, not only because it is “no marks” torture but also because its aim is different from physical torture and more radical. The victim is not simply reduced to impotence, helplessness, but to a state of ever-greater dependency on his or her torturer. We have to distinguish between informed and deliberate conversion of a detainee’s political convictions, through a kind of hard bargaining that appeals to the detainee’s rationality; inducing a detainee to betray his or her convictions and his or her community and bringing that about by deceit and deception; and inducing a detainee to betray his or her convictions and his or her community by the deliberate destruction of the detainee’s identity and sanity.
The Future of Torture
Alphonso Lingis is professor of philosophy emeritus at Pennsylvania State University. He has published Excesses: Eros and Culture (1984), Libido: The French Existential Theories (1985), Phenomenological Explanations (1986), Deathbound Subjectivity (1989), The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common (1994), Abuses (1994), Foreign Bodies (1994), Sensation: Intelligibility in Sensibility (1995), The Imperative (1998), Dangerous Emotions (1999), Trust (2003), Body Modifications: Evolutions and Atavisms in Culture (2005), The First Person Singular (2007), Contact (2010), and Violence and Splendor (2011).
Alphonso Lingis; The Future of Torture. Cultural Politics 1 July 2017; 13 (2): 150–155. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-4129101
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