HYPOTHESIS AND THEORY ARTICLE

published: 12 June 2014
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00585

The cruel and unusual phenomenology of solitary
confinement
Shaun Gallagher1,2,3 *
1
Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA
2
School of Humanities, University of Hertfordshire Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK
3
Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Edited by: What happens when subjects are deprived of intersubjective contact? This paper looks
Hanne De Jaegher, University of the closely at the phenomenology and psychology of one example of that deprivation: solitary
Basque Country, Spain
confinement. It also puts the phenomenology and psychology of solitary confinement to
Reviewed by:
Matthew James Ratcliffe, Durham
use in the legal context. Not only is there no consensus on whether solitary confinement
University, UK is a “cruel and unusual punishment,” there is no consensus on the definition of the term
Lisa Guenther, Vanderbilt University, “cruel” in the use of that legal phrase. I argue that we can find a moral consensus on
USA the meaning of “cruelty” by looking specifically at the phenomenology and psychology of
*Correspondence: solitary confinement.
Shaun Gallagher, Department of
Philosophy, University of Memphis, Keywords: solitary confinement, cruelty, intersubjectivity, induced autism, self
331 Clement Hall, Memphis,
TN 38152, USA
e-mail: s.gallagher@memphis.edu

A number of legal declarations prohibit “cruel” punishments. The intersubjective contact? Here I’ll appeal to the notion of induced
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1791), for autism, and then look closely at the effects of solitary confinement.
example, declares: “cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] In the final section I return to the question of what constitutes cruel
inflicted.” From the beginning, however, the wording was thought punishment.
“too indefinite,” or “to have no meaning in it1 .” It is still difficult to
find a clear definition of “cruel” in the legal domain. The intent of BASIC CONCEPTS IN THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF
the present paper is in line with a recommendation made by Radin INTERSUBJECTIVITY
(1978, p. 992), that the courts “must search for a deeper moral con- Phenomenological philosophy, which can be traced to the work
sensus on the meaning of cruelty in order to determine whether a of Edmund Husserl at the beginning of the twentieth century,
specific punishment comports with current standards of decency.” has recently been incorporated into scientific studies of cog-
Rather than looking to legal history, “legislative enactments, refer- nition, including embodied and enactive approaches to social
enda or opinion polls” (Ibid), however, I propose that we look to a cognition (e.g., Gallagher, 2001, 2005, 2012; Ratcliffe, 2006;
combination of philosophical and scientific methods that include De Jaegher et al., 2010). Phenomenology, even in its classical form,
phenomenology, psychology, psychiatry, developmental psychol- emphasizes the constitutive nature of intersubjectivity. I’ll briefly
ogy, and neuroscience, to explicate the specific experiences of those discuss three concepts from classical phenomenology directly rel-
who undergo punishments, with a view to formulating a deeper evant to this idea: being-with, transcendental intersubjectivity and
moral consensus2 . intercorporeity.
My focus in this paper is limited to the practice of soli- Heidegger (1962) provides an analysis of human existence in
tary confinement. Solitary confinement may differ from one which being-with (Mitsein) or being-with-others is part of the
prison to the next in the precise details of how it is carried very structure of human existence, shaping the way that we are in
out. I assume, however, that the common element is some the world. According to this notion, the social dimension is not
high degree of isolation – the reduction or complete elimina- an external add-on or supplement to our existence. Being-with
tion of intersubjective contact between the prisoner and others does not signify that we are in-the-world first, and then because of
for a significant amount of time. Accordingly, I’ll begin with that we come to be with others. In other words, our social nature
an outline of some classic phenomenological concepts related does not depend on empirically encountering others; it is rather
directly to the notion of intersubjectivity. I’ll then show how an a priori structure – the fact that others are in the world only
these concepts are reinforced by developmental studies. The ques- has significance because our existence is structured as being-with.
tion then becomes: what happens when subjects are deprived of If one happens to be alone, one still has the structure of being-
with – and “only as being-with can [one] be alone” (1985, p. 238).
1 Granucci, (1969, p. 842); citing representatives to the First Congress, Smith and
Heidegger goes on to further emphasize that this particular way of
Livermore, respectively. Granucci provides a fine-grained history of the phrase.
2 This is clearly a different hermeneutical procedure than found in most legal consid-
being-with co-determines other aspects of our existence, includ-
erations where appeal is often to historical meaning or to evolving moral standards
ing our relations with the world around us: “By reasons of this
on such questions. with-like [mithaften] being-in-the-world, the world is always the

www.frontiersin.org June 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 585 | 1

Ontologically speaking. One’s own existence is something that one expe. emotional responses. the same objects. At 2 months. A certain form of derealization. or as fully objective as they should. 1962. as of being-with or transcendental intersubjectivity was followed up evidenced in experiments on neonatal imitation (Meltzoff and in the tradition of phenomenological psychiatry. Merleau-Ponty’s notion of intercor- 295). an internal relation which causes the other to appear as the with (see below). The world of [human existence] is phenomenon of depersonalization. (real or potential) perceptual perspectives that others can take on where “the transcendental descends into history” (Merleau-Ponty. and others. the loss of a basic self-experience. tive perceptual access to the emotional and intentional states can be analyzed as a disruption of transcendental intersubjec. as found in the Moore. 2012) interactions with others from the very beginning. Thus everything objective that stands before me in experience and primarily in perception has an apperceptive horizon of possible expe. 103). 107). and even in terms aspects of schizophrenia) as involving very basic disruptions in of what one perceives. in which one in which we find ourselves cannot be extricated from our rela. p.. For damaged. an estrangement from one’s body and even from mental Heidegger also makes the point that being-with shapes our own processes” (Varga. self-experience or ipseity (e. p. Phenomenologists have ana- a with-world [Mitwelt]” (1962. not as mere surfaces. may also be closely tied to the ments (Tronick et al. kind of motor resonance often described in the mirror neuron According to Husserl. The analysis Husserl gives is based on the perception of indistinct – we should not think of the facticity of embodi- our immediate environment. including my own and that of others. ment as external to subjective experience or cognition. Zahavi.g. Husserl. 1968. 352). also also have]. Husserl. as real and objective. but Merleau-Ponty emphasizes the dynamic inter- enced depends on others. 155/118). 289. the minimal self (Gallagher. Our basic experience of the world as having 1967. The subjectivity belonging to this experience of the world see Rochat. but the but as multi-sided objects based on an implicit reference to the place where the mind happens. nal world. 2007). 2004. studies. intended recipients and so on. translated in Gallagher subjectivity involves the sensory–motor capacities that shape our and Zahavi. This is what he refers to as transcendental change that one finds in the affective attunement that occurs intersubjectivity (e. being-with way of interacting with others. Hobson.g. Such experiences. alization are due to such privation). lyzed some of the symptoms of schizophrenia (including autistic ers primarily through one’s various projects. 1959. and gestures of the other person” (Gopnik and Meltzoff. our perception of others is interactional rather existence. 1977). and transcendental intersubjectivity are cashed out in very basic oriented. The term “hard-wired” is not a term that others. and this is an existential characteristic that makes human sensory-motor processes involved in our bodily interactions with existence what it is. to be sure. in the sense that it is poreity has been a special motivation for the more recently a condition of possibility for us to experience anything like a developed embodied and enactive approaches to perception and coherent and meaningful world. there exists the possibility of something going wrong in regard to being. 2012. one doesn’t come to have a social constitution by In terms of our actual engagement with others. 449. 2003). 2000. Merleau-Ponty calls this “intercorporeity”: “between this Heidegger would have used. 1997. to indicate phenomenal body of mine and that of another . p. “Such ple – as co-workers. of others. Further evidence for this is provided by still face experi- in instances of schizophrenia. A significant pri. infants are capable of interacting with others. it damages the very core of the individual’s human Merleau-Ponty. Blankenburg Throughout the first year of life. Noë. not all forms of dere. Just after birth. accordingly. 1978) and contingency studies (Murray and Frontiers in Psychology | Cognitive Science June 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 585 | 2 . intersubjective dimension of existence can lead to the loss of the riences in the kinds of pragmatic projects that one shares with sense of realness. found 131). 2001.Gallagher Cruel and unusual phenomenology one that I share with Others. So the world experiences may also involve dissociative features. Intersubjectivity is transcendental. second-person interaction tivity. for example. The best way to see the details of this kind reality or objectivity depends on a kind of tacit confirmation by of embodied intersubjectivity is by looking at developmental others. In effect. On this view. between interacting agents. part of an of the phenomenologists. 1979. The idea that something may go wrong with the basic structures for example. from the very beginning. p. as well as disturbances in what some have called others. This latter point is what Husserl’s concept 1991. We see things. to the point that real things may no longer feel real or with others is evidenced by the timing of their movements and familiar. or as he dramatically puts it.. Infants “vocalize and gesture in a way that vation of intersubjectivity. . 2004). p. infants develop an enac- (1971). and the actions of others elicit the activa- The notion of an existential sociality is not only relevant to tion of our own motor systems. 2008). for example. one is “hard-wired” to be other. DEVELOPMENTAL STUDIES rience. In this regard. 1973. One’s projects equally implicate other peo. than observational. may lead to an erosion of seems [affectively and temporally] “tuned” to the vocalizations the sense of reality (although. I introduce it. but also the developmental studies of open but not explicit totality of possible perceptions [that others may primary and secondary intersubjectivity (Trevarthen. To the extent that the Mitsein structure is completion of the system” (Merleau-Ponty. p. Merleau-Ponty suggests that of transcendental intersubjectivity adds to Heidegger’s notion of the borders of the transcendental and the empirical become Mitsein. however. the very objectivity of the world as experi.. One encounters oth. p. These processes involve the questions about social cognition and our relations to others. literature. Sass and Parnas. classic works of Jaspers (1997). experiences a pathological. and specifically to experience it intersubjectivity found in the cognitive sciences (Varela et al. . (Husserl. Reddy. subjective detachment from the exter- tions with other people – it is permeated with social relations. The interaction theory of social cognition draws on the work my perception of the world is.. Minkowski (1970). Primary inter- is open intersubjectivity.

interpersonal exchange. and our own nar. gestures and was responsible for these quasi-autistic symptoms. participant. often because of the extreme poverty of Pragmatic and social contexts start to matter and they enter into their parents. Hobson is less utterances of the other speaker. 31). it’s important to note that the capacities of primary and Additional studies show secondary intersubjectivity are not precursors. but continue to characterize our mature adult behavior – et al. mother. That is. establish relationships with caregivers. and it was and continue to sustain a relational sense of self. they found it difficult to maintain social interaction. life. but they remain • Little sustained. 1985) where infants become significantly upset when experiences of the world. show that adult agents unconsciously coor- in the recognition of facial expressions. proprioceptive processes. a sense not uncommon for children to be washed by being hosed down of self that is intricately coupled to others. in communicative • Disruptions in the development of the neural circuitry involved practices. (1999) showed that a small but much rative self. . p. and speech acts (Kendon.. left in orphanages. orphanages: 2007). Infants start to notice how others pragmatically INDUCED AUTISM engage with the world and they begin to co-constitute the mean. 203). (2013) puts it. 2004). and they would rarely turn to their adoptive parents for security All of these intersubjective dimensions are reflected later in and comfort (Hobson. . Lindblom and Ziemke. deprivation (Parker and Nelson. and what we take to be valuable or not faced with unresponsive behavior or mis-timed responses from the so valuable. Studies by Rutter et al.. they are not left • Emotional difficulties sustained through childhood (Colvert behind. fed by bottles that were sometimes left propped up for primary and secondary intersubjectivity are not only early devel. 2007. direction and intonation in the movements. 1978) is associated with the advent of joint attention dur. • Limited language and to-and-fro conversation 2003. 2000). minimal sense of self is tied to one’s embodied. Behavioral analyses of social interactions in joint actions psychosocially deprived in these orphanages (Levin et al. Long-standing tive practices shape who we are..frontiersin. Children from these orphanages tended to lack the reciprocal motor. is forecast and communication involving rehearsed with him or her by parents . our identities. this the interpersonal aspect of the self. 2014) and shared activities. We are. the social interaction which characterizes induced autism. . oping. In commu- nicative practices we coordinate our perception–action sequences. (1999) drew the tentative conclusion that pro- our movements and gestures are coupled with changes in veloc. One can think of dance or the be more specific about the embodied aspects involved in gen- tango as a metaphor for the kind of dynamic production of mean. these processes are fully involved to and fro of social exchange. cesses that support primary intersubjectivity. 2008). longed experience of such terrible social and non-social privation ity. as Guenther and empathy.org June 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 585 | 3 . it results in something (the creation of meaning) that 2004. no opportunities to essential aspects of our continued adult existence with others.Gallagher Cruel and unusual phenomenology Trevarthen. 1990. tentative: the circumstances of these institutions led to a form of Furthermore. The concept of secondary intersubjectivity (Trevarthen and WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SUBJECTS ARE DEPRIVED OF Hubley. our meaningful research based on the analysis of videos of infants younger www. most basic. Rutter et al. These developmental facts suggest the importance • Preoccupations with sensations and other cognitive character- of the role played by narratives in our understanding of self and istics of autism – including strong interest in abnormal patterns others – and they continue to be important throughout our adult and objects (problems in perception of Gestalt). in processes of primary intersubjectivity we develop • The physical environment was also extremely harsh. characterizing our existence from infancy. INTERSUBJECTIVE INTERACTIONS? ing the first year. . If one’s primary. In contexts where infants are already interacting with higher than expected proportion of these children developed an their caregivers in personal and pragmatic relations.. the way we start to form our self-narratives. in working together. In the tango something dynamic is that autism involves problems with basic sensory–motor pro- created that neither individual could create alone. 2005) Issartel et al. There is extensive evidence to suggest ing involved in interaction. they showed limited social awareness in intersubjective interactions from the start. and so on. relationally constituted. and “the child’s own experience . Again.. without toys or other play- The important point made by interaction theory is that both things. A variety narratives are elicited from 2-year-olds by questions and prompts of studies found severe problems with social relationships and (Howe. due to psychosocial dinate their movements. Neisser (1988) called with cold water. These interac. gestures. Moreover. During the Ceauşescu regime in Romania young children were ing of the world through interactions with others in joint actions. Autism (naturally occurring or induced) involves primary and secondary intersubjectivity goes beyond each “a disorder of the system of child-in-relation-to other” (Hobson. sensory. supplemented and transformed via communicative and narrative • Negative effects on motor development in children who were practices. erating social deficits. beginning atypical (or quasi) form of early childhood autism. goes beyond what each individual qua individual can bring to the By looking at studies of naturally occurring autism we can process (De Jaegher et al. use. Hobson (2004) summarizes the conditions in these situations of participatory sense-making (De Jaegher and Di Paolo. p. [C]hildren of 2–4 years • Poverty of eye-to-eye gaze and gestures in social exchanges often “appropriate” someone else’s story as their own” (Nelson. • Infants were confined to their cots. 2010). 2008).

both of Another confirmed sensory disturbances: these groups are. flexible transitions between intentional and spontaneous associated with solitary confinement: anxiety. everything gets darker. the normal. the consequences of their own impending movements in a timely Studies of 100 inmates in California’s Pelican Bay Supermax fashion. difficulty in concentrating. describes it as becoming “unhinged”: “[Pris- as problems and delayed development in lying. You can’t see – you’re blind ASD and those that have a form of induced or quasi-autism. or come to be. and autistic subjects had difficulty distinguishing confinement in American prisons. 2013. confusion. 1983. 16). tion of the sense of time. and aggression. inferiority. cited in Guenther. 1983. 99. stomach and muscle pains. is a disruption in the maturation of this form of propriocep. They can’t sign their names Frontiers in Psychology | Cognitive Science June 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 585 | 4 . the point is simply that some of the same motor diffi. . 70% “felt themselves on the verge of others during real time social interactions – entailing a disruption an emotional breakdown” (p. p. One visitor.Gallagher Cruel and unusual phenomenology than 1 year and later diagnosed with autism shows asymme. noisy (unreliable). 2006). sitting oners subjected to solitary confinement] see things that do not (Teitelbaum et al. derealization. the corresponding to younger typically developing children. solitary confinement who may develop similar motor problems (see below). righting. and teries of the brain . looking at the phenomenology associated with tries or unusual sequencing in crawling and walking. headaches. likewise. severe boredom. To Dickens’ observation a prison guard replied: autism or induced autism. when visiting an American prison. Guenther (2013). exist. their cringing posture and nervousness . we’ll see that prisoners in solitary con. apathy. their difficulty in meeting his eye or sustaining conversation. He documents high motor system. 1983. Grassian. Indeed. in the nineteenth century. it’s unlikely that individuals with ASD can anticipate body” (1957. distor- clear contrast to typically developing individuals. learn about it. of all participants with ASD. problems. and impaired memory ized peak (micro-movement) velocity and noise-to-signal ratios (Smith. and they fail to see things that do. 2003) found 91% of the prisoners suffering from nations to the actions and emotional facial micro-expressions of anxiety and nervousness. fatigue. paranoia. and Well it’s not so much a trembling. withdrawal. my appeal to the data on motor problems in ASD is I went to a standstill psychologically once – lapse of memory. depression. rage. but reflect similar motor problems. 1998). 18). It’s also unlikely they could apply fine-tuned discrimi. p. xi).. starting input was random (unpredictable). 133). In contrast.. And another confirmed memory problems. 2013. accompanied by behavioral variability in motor control. tion. and this clearly differentiates them from prisoners in you feel you are losing your vision (Grassian. 441). dizziness. solitary confinement as “slow and daily tampering with the mys- Accordingly. p. because proprioception is random. proprioceptive) sensory feedback that usually contribute to tinguish their own pain from that of others – erodes to the point the autonomous regulation and coordination of motor output. 1453). awareness is very bad (Cited in Rather. trem- Torres shows that across the entire autistic spectrum there bling. . culties that correlate with problems in social or intersubjective experience can be found in both groups. I didn’t not meant to suggest an equivalency between individuals with talk for 15 days. the author Charles Dickens. immeasurably worse than any torture of the restricted. Melting: Everything in the cell starts moving. refers to 2013. and non. – block out everything – disoriented. Hearing about new practices of solitary diversified. embedded in socially rich envi. but for many prisoners.” (Grassian. Prisoners who are subjected to solitary confinement show symp. toms and describe a phenomenology that is not equivalent to either 19). 1453). in the tion). behaviors. some individuals with ASD who engage finement reveals symptoms that involve serious bodily and motor in social interactions improve their social performance and achieve problems. Proprioceptive rates of mental illness resulting from solitary confinement. ronments. although they do quiver – as a com- often times more extensive and serious disruptions of experience. is that motor problems that can under- Bodily and motor problems mine social interaction can be induced by social and physical privation. noisy. p. 1452). One prisoner reported the following experience: To be clear. Their sense of their own (2013) show in great detail disrupted patterns in re-entrant (affer. including adolescents (14–16 years Peter Smith notes: “whether and how isolation damages peo- old) and young adults (18–25 years old). In anger. p. I couldn’t hear clearly. . prison (Haney. You feel you are losing something you might not get intersubjective contact. The important point. as well solitary confinement. hallucinations. where they are no longer sure if they are being harmed or are harm- From an early age. Dickens. they sometimes develop very basic motor back. context of this paper. bodies – even the fundamental capacity to feel pain and to dis- ent. and self-dissolution (or depersonaliza- a high level of intersubjective activity. oversensitivity to stimuli. insomnia. plete derangement of the nervous system. noise overpowers signal in ASD. Recent studies by Elizabeth Torres et al. 77% experience chronic of intercorporeity. depression.” (Guenther. across different ages ple depends on duration and circumstances and is mediated by and across verbal or non-verbal status remained in the region prisoners’ individual characteristics. isolation. children who show signs of quasi-autism often improve once they are introduced into social and caring A systematic review of the phenomenology of solitary con- environments. There is a long list of experiences fluid. feelings of inadequacy. In the adverse effects are substantial” (2006. . delegates from Europe came to goal-directed from goal-less motions in most tasks (Torres et al. finement are moving on the opposite trajectory: deprived of Memory is going. this feedback supports volitional control and ing themselves” (2013. Furthermore. was curious about the trembling of the prisoners in solitary confinement – “their nervous SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ticks.

. . 2006. that is. own narrating activities – a temporality associated with the A-series of constantly changing relations between past. correlate with depersonalization and the are necessary for the proper working of episodic and auto- dissolution of the self. which involves the recollection of a past event and when it took place. These problems with derealization. Shalev. then solitary confinement. in social exchanges. 1957. Both the capacity for to sustain meaning. to make sense of their perceptions were tional. 1999.” That is. nothing to narrate that would be sufficient for the continuity Guenther (2013. in contrast. in a study of a woman who experienced solitary remembering it. limited language and to-and-fro conversation. 1992). . To form finement disrupts the relational self by disrupting primary and a self-narrative. To begin to form a It becomes difficult to tell what is real and what is only my imagination self-narrative one must be able to refer to oneself by using playing tricks on me. proprioceptive) sensory feedback that usu. p. p. for example. product of an interpretation of my past actions and of events tary confinement risks losing her self and disappearing into a in the past that happened to me. 2013. “That it makes the senses dull. in solitary confinement the transcenden. . cited and trans. possibility of primary intersubjectivity – leading to the experience Guenther is right that “it is precisely at the level of bodily percep. there must be more to selfhood than indi. and decide how they social interaction. (Guenther. 1983. sometimes they can’t even hold the pen . and the intercorporeity essential to events. The self who narrates about past things One also finds. 2009). of depersonalization – goes to the very basic level of the minimal tion. the experience of object boundaries becomes (B-series). . Solitary confinement works by turning prisoners’ of interpretation that ordinarily shapes episodic memories constitutive relationality against themselves. reports from prisoners in solitary con. 154). I am quite sure” (Dickens. as well as to primary intersubjectivity. all of which constitute my non-existence” (Christensen. 2013. see Guenther. Derealization present. (2) The capacity for minimal self-reference. itself. p. If. by undermining intersubjective diminished. then I have nothing to interpret. This involves two aspects ally contribute to the autonomous regulation and coordination of of temporality.frontiersin. . one needs to reflectively consider one’s life secondary intersubjectivity. The minimal sense of self. however. cisely what aspects of self are at stake in such a statement. writes: “The person subjected to soli. pp. p. citing embodied and agentive) sense of differentiation between self Grassian. memories of my life history. . this kind of undermining of embodiment is similar to the sensory– In addition. self-narrative practices require four distinct capacities motor problems described by Torres (2013) in terms of disrupted (Gallagher. 1957. uncertain. Whatever degree of unity my life has. “How could I lose myself by being confined to myself? For (4) The capacity for metacognition. . reflective distance from one’s own experience. (1) The capacity for temporal ordering. .Gallagher Cruel and unusual phenomenology to the book. to specify pre. 497). the Self-dissolution specification that the past event involves the person who is Christensen. any specification. and the ability to maintain a temporal perspective on one’s a variety of sensory-motor problems.”– a rehabilitation through isolation with oneself (Smith. 2007): patterns in the peripheral nervous system – disruptions of the re-entrant (afferent. and with temporal ordering and the capacity for minimal self-reference sensory-motor processes. deliberate on their meaning. solitary con. 35). a way for the prisoner to return context and sees in it significance that goes beyond the event www. The observed the narrative) – a temporality associated with what McTag- symptoms do seem similar: poverty of eye-to-eye gaze and gestures gart (1908) called the “B-series” of earlier-than and later-than. by life history (Ricoeur. Self-narrative depends on having It’s a question open to future empirical investigation whether something to narrate. and by degrees impairs relationality. 2006. and self-narrative would have no starting tal intersubjective basis of the experience of the world as real and point. correlatively. from a present perspective (A-series). undermining the capacity (3) Episodic and autobiographical memory. Sometimes they . stagger as if they were drunk.org June 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 585 | 5 . 108–109). and having someone to whom to narrate. A life event is not meaningful in The practice of solitary confinement is not. rather it depends on a narrative structure that lends it nal prison administrators thought. . Without the basic (and basically or the surface of the wall seems to bulge. their capac. It completely ied existence.. into a narrative structure depends on this capacity. 45. as some of the origi. sensibility and affectivity that prisoners find their relation to embodied self. It also affects the narrative self. p. biographical memory. closely tied to embod- objective is structurally undermined (2013. If I am unable to form or access Smith.. p. Stripping away the the bodily faculties. The process viduality . the self is rela- ities to see and hear clearly.. the world undermined” (2013. p. and non-self I would not be able to refer to myself with As Guenther suggests. The ability to order events serially (within motor output. and future. an ability to gain a this to be possible. sometimes they into self – “The inmate was expected to turn his thoughts inward get up and down again twenty times in a minute. 456. it is the confinement in Denmark. that benefits from introspection. 105–106). leads to a destruction of the self. xvi). they’re so bad (Dickens. the wire mesh on [the] door begins to vibrate the first-person pronoun. Such a proposal reflects a tra- the fence. ditional concept of self as an isolated individual substance or soul Dickens adds that the prisoner’s sensory awareness. It is important. needs finement reflecting a derealization – undermining their relation to to be able to enact a serial order in the narrated events the world. is what gets extended and enhanced in the closes down the possibility of secondary intersubjectivity and self-narrative. fit together semantically. xiii) gives a better indication when she asks: of self-identity. Thus. and sometimes are forced to lean against p. therefore of participatory sense making. pp. and self-attribution. 35.

A breakdown in some signifi. Justice Brennan thus suggests that these principles need [etc. con- interpreted the phrase in terms of disproportionality (Radin. Pellegrino (2008. defined four principles that determine when a certain pattern of characteristic features constitutes an individ. inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. On the pattern domain. psycholog- 3. and for oth- torture). p. When a severe punishment is “obviously inflicted in wholly The pattern includes minimal embodied and experiential aspects. in Furman v. Such patterns may change over time. 4 The concept of dignity is not well defined in the law either (see McDougal et al. 860). 1972).” For more on the history and background on the legal issues even eradicate the pattern that constitutes self in any particular concerning cruel and unusual punishment and solitary confinement.g. a case involving is necessary or essential to any particular self.” The test. affective aspects (e. 584 [1977]). The American interpretation.” On the “cognitive governance” that allows for disambiguating and British side.g. 1995). . 3 In Coker vs Georgia (433 U. Berkson. the US Supreme Court psychological/cognitive aspects (e. however. still leaves us with the question of what constitutes cruel. but his clothes and his house. When the severe punishment “is clearly and totally rejected ical/cognitive aspects. intersubjective or relational aspects (e. in most cases. taking on different 1. social rejection. memory problems. 1969.S. also Wedekind. extended aspects (e..” The term in used in a variety of ways. will ordinarily be a cumulative one: if a The evidence reviewed above suggests that solitary confine. a the death penalty. however. 2013). see Dayan and case. then. all four capacities are under threat in the crime (Granucci. p. MacReady personal property). isolation).d. 1978). however. narrative aspects (e. they also appear in meaning of the term.. confusion) that will clearly affect cruel. violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. 2013). ued infliction of that punishment violates the command of the Clause sory problems. It’s not clear. As initially noted. Madrid v Gomez (889 F. physical more effectively than some less severe punishment. Supp. 3. in The Lancet. “Substandard prison health care is deemed a circumstances in prison cells). 2013. punishment is unusually severe. narrative aspects. a case in which a district court judge came close to condemning solitary CLARIFYING THE NOTIONS OF CRUEL AND UNUSUAL confinement as cruel and unusual. 1975)3 . Frontiers in Psychology | Cognitive Science June 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 585 | 6 . Georgia (408 U.. principles 2.. which can clearly affect the capacity Unfortunately. but it the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1791): is often associated with the concept of respect for the human person.” affective aspects.. sen. 279) suggested: “a man’s Self is the Unlike the first principle. xi). Most legal fusion). p. Taken together. human dignity. Extended aspects include 4. what we call self consists of a complex pattern of a In 1972. and narratival aspects. extended aspects. that the State may not inflict inhuman and uncivilized punishments anxiety). When the severity is degrading to human dignity (including weights and values for the individual they define. distortions interpretations of this phrase are tied to the death penalty. making prisoners the only group of Americans who are guar- cant number of these aspects would be sufficient to alter. and cognitive (A/RES/217. theory of self. man or degrading punishment. (or “degrading to human dignity”4 ) remains obscure can be seen ily structure and environment where we grew up. 708) reports. cultural and in how it is glossed in the following explanation. 2.). ety. Thus. The words “cruel and unusual punishment” first appeared in the 1980). generally signified punishments that were disproportionate to the As it turns out. relatively dire (2009. his reputation and works of cruelty. As Donald (2006) puts it. 238.g. convergence that will justify the conclusion that a punishment is “cruel and unusual. if it is substantially rejected by contemporary soci- medical personnel. United States Supreme Court Justice William Bren- sufficient number of contributories. normative practices that define our way of living. and lack of necessity define the concept children. and 4 are easier to sum total of all that he CAN call his.g. intersubjective or relational aspects. inhu- One can understand the self as a pattern of various aspects (Gal.g. derealization). and situational aspects (e.g. in context of solitary confinement. some cruel and unusual punishment is not so for temporal ordering.S. 2011 and Solitary Watch (n. lack of control over tation of what constitutes “cruel and unusual” is wide. there is no universal agreement on the English Bill of Rights in 1689. 1146 – Dist. and as noted at the start it is lagher. unusual – so we may prefer the wording of the Universal Dec- so that differentiation between self and non-self is compro. basic disruptions in bodily integrity. inflicted arbitrarily.g. Reports from prisoners. then the contin- health and motor problems).. if there is a strong probability that it is ment negatively affects all of these aspects.Gallagher Cruel and unusual phenomenology itself. or anteed medical care. Court. That the concept of “cruelty” or minor) role in shaping who we are. laration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly mised (Guenther. and throughout society.” situational aspects (Gallagher. Dayan (2007). Among the commonly reported contrast.g. relational aspects. ers. and. psychologists. metacognition provides the “cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted. lack of concentration. including the kind of fam. the term “cruel” was synonymous with “severe. The range of interpre- in time sense).. but even the physical surroundings that offer affordances or disaffordances for [These criteria are] interrelated. that on their own.” and differentiating events within the narrative. his wife and trariness. arbitrary fashion. Situational aspects include aspects that play some (major to be applied in a convergent fashion. focused on identifying cruel methods (and specifically symptoms that result from solitary confinement are distortions torturous methods) of punishment (see e. not only his body and measure or define. experiential aspects (e. 1948): “No one shall be subjected to torture or to difficulties (concentration. When a severe punishment is “patently unnecessary. as James (1890..” those things that an individual has invested in or considers his own. ND California. none of which on their own nan. arbi- his psychic powers.g. . his ancestors and friends. p. and psychiatrists suggest seri. impaired memory. it will be their action. and if there is no reason to believe that it serves any penal purpose ous problems with minimal embodied aspects (e. some of which we have named as minimal embodied still difficult to find a clear definition of these terms in the legal aspects.” This metacognition. in the sense of time. depression.]”.. who normally have an influence on how the pattern unfolds.. punishment is cruel and unusual: ual self. xi) states: “.

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