Jeremy Wisnewski's "30 Rock and Philosophy" and "Understanding Torture."

Wisnewski Explores Torture, ’30 Rock’ in New Books

November 10, 2010

Hartwick College Associate Professor of Philosophy Jeremy Wisnewski has diverse scholarly interests. These are clearly expressed in his latest books, 30 Rock and Philosophy (Wiley) and Understanding Torture (Edinburgh University Press).

Though the subject matter may be miles apart, Wisnewski's enthusiasm is clearly evident.

30 Rock and Philosophy, which Wisnewski edited, is the latest in the expansive Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Wisnewski also edited Family Guy and Philosophy, The Office and Philosophy, X-Men and Philosophy, and Twilight and Philosophy. Arrested Development and Philosophy is forthcoming.

"The continued aim of these books is to bring philosophy to a wider audience--to people who didn't have the opportunity to take philosophy classes, or didn't think to," he explained. "The idea is to show that philosophical reflection can bubble up anywhere and is worth investigating."

As for 30 Rock, Wisnewski said the "smart" program helps illuminate a number of philosophical questions.

"Clearly the writers have thought about particular issues, like gender issues and issues involving sexuality," he said. "There are ethical questions that arise in the workplace involving those subjects and many others that are covered in the show. And frankly, it's just really funny. Who doesn't want to work on something that's fun and funny?"

On a more somber note, Wisnewski has continued his exploration of ethical minefields with Understanding Torture. He has written extensively on the subject throughout his career, including in The Ethics of Torture (2009), which he co-authored with R.D. Emerick.

At its most basic level, Wisnewski said, torture is wrong because it "undermines the dignity that we have come to recognize as being part of human existence, and that we have enshrined in a number of domestic and international statutes."

Despite what Wisnewski sees as a clear ethical imperative to end the practice, torture persists throughout the world.

"A lot of it frankly has to do with an unwillingness on the part of military and political leadership all over the world to actually look at the lack of efficacy of torture on one hand and becoming blind to the moral atrocity of torture on the other," he said.

"People tend to think that force will work in all cases," he continued. "As the empirical literature shows, that's simply incorrect. And they tend to forget that all of our actions, regardless of efficacy, should be constrained by a respect for human dignity."

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,500 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes a uniquely experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a unique January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for the world ahead. A Three-Year Bachelor's Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Christopher Lott
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