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Professor David Luban Receives PROSE Award from American Publishers Association

February 19, 2015 —

Professor David Luban Professor David Luban

The American Publishers Association has honored Professor David Luban with its 2015 PROSE Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence in Philosophy for Torture, Power and Law (Cambridge University Press, 2014). 

Established in 1976, the PROSE Awards “annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 40 categories.” A complete list of 2015 winners is available here.

In the book, Luban warns that human rights abuses in the fight against terrorism can become dangerously normalized when public opinion is driven by panic and rage. According to Luban, this includes torture, a practice it took millennia to outlaw, but the prohibition of which could unravel as public debate distracts itself with ticking time bomb fantasies. He develops a conception of torture “as the use of severe pain and suffering to communicate the torturer’s absolute dominance over the victim’s absolute helplessness.” This conception, he argues, helps us understand the distinctive threat torture poses to human dignity.

Luban contends that government lawyers abused the law to justify torture and explores the ethical obligations of professionals in government service. He also questions the morality of the Obama administration for failing to hold torturers accountable for their actions. 

Luban is university professor and professor of law and philosophy at Georgetown University. His areas of expertise include international criminal law, jurisprudence and philosophy, professional ethics, national security, and just war theory.  He is currently the Class of 1984 Distinguished Visitor in Ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy. In 2012-2013, he co-directed the Center for Transnational Legal Studies in London. He has also directed Georgetown’s Center on National Security and the Law.

Luban’s other books include Lawyers and Justice: An Ethical Study (1988), Legal Modernism (1994) and Legal Ethics and Human Dignity (2007). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been a Guggenheim fellow, a Woodrow Wilson fellow and a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies (Israel). He has held visiting chairs at Fordham, Stanford and Yale Law Schools. 

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