Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Precious Oxygen of Citation

Sometimes, it's not what goes into a piece of writing that makes it great; it's what the author leaves out. A good example can be found in John Kleinig's article "Ticking Bombs and Torture Warrants" [PDF format] which appears in the current edition of the Deakin Law Review. It's one of the most piss-elegant pieces of academic writing I've ever had the pleasure to read:

The 'ticking bomb' argument is frequently advanced to justify the use of torture. But its terms can be taken either as setting the bar too high to justify any actual torture or alternatively as opening the door to torture in other cases as well. The paper explores both uses of the argument but suggests that any official sanctioning of torture is likely to erode moral constraints on its use. There are reasons why torture is special and, even if it will continue to occur, it should not be officially countenanced. This includes the use of torture warrants, supposedly intended to limit the intensity and frequency of torture.

After a fairly close reading of the article, especially the footnotes, I find myself thinking about the curious affair of the dog in the night, haunted cafes in the Rive Gauche (as described in Sartre's Being and Nothingness) and Derrida's dictum (in Of Grammatology) that "There is nothing outside of the text". Maybe that's just me; check out the linked article and see for yourself.

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