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  • Author: Jay Bernstein x
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Moral modernity, including political modernity, is founded on the series of acts whereby, throughout Europe, torture was banned. Torture became the paradigm of moral injury, of what must never be done to an individual because it is intrinsically degrading and devaluing. The body of the torture victim is the meeting place of state and citizen: either the rule of law recognizes bodily autonomy as its own moral basis - broken laws standing for broken bodies - or the law becomes a vehicle of sovereign authority that knows no limit. Thus, it is the morally charged conception of the rule of law that holds together the ban on torture with the recognition of human dignity: remove the prohibition on torture and neither the liberal state nor modern moral life is intelligible. The connections between the abolition of torture, the rule of law, and the institution of human dignity was forged in the once enormously influential and now virtually unknown On Crimes and Punishments by Beccaria.