Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A poll for philosophers and torture apologists

tick ... tick ... tick
There's a bomb somewhere in New York, and it's about to go off. Unfortunately, you don't know where it is.

Given no other choice, how many saved lives would it take before you would consider the following actions justified?

  • Torturing someone.
  • Torturing someone who might not be guilty.
  • Torturing their wife and child.
  • Torturing their wife and child in front of them while we forced them to watch.
  • Raping and torturing their wife and child in front of them while we forced them to watch.
  • Torturing their wife and child as above, to death.

Make the number of lives saved high enough, and you can justify anything. Is that the correct way to go about making functional national policy?


Blogger zazou said...

Hi,linked and copied to Make SOme Noise.

I REALLY like this. Hopefully this will make people think.


10:25 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

I'm going to say this once, there is NEVER any justification for bringing children into this. EVER! I am more passionate about protecting children than I am about adults, and I wouldn't even want to see anyone tortured.

But children. We dont' go there.

Hurting one to protect another is not the answer. But you know that already.

11:53 PM  
Blogger elendil said...

Thanks zazou. Angie, I agree with you. I think once we start going down the road of justifying policies like this with the most contrived hypotheticals we can come up with, there's no end to what we can justify. I think it's a sign of how truly abhorrent it is that we need to use such an unlikely event to justify it.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Davide Simonetti said...

Excellent! that puts the argument very succinctly.

I've just completed a post on Tony Blair's Government intervening in the case of four men tortured in Saudi Arabia in order to prevent them suing the Saudi regime or the officials reponsible. Why would he do this?

Money, oil and weapons.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Cyberotter said...

Hey everyone sorry I have not posted int he last three days. I promise to make up the lag. Today I thought I would take a different angle on the stories of torture and killings.

Stupidity - "To do the same thing over and over and expect different results"

My article is titled "Warcrimes and Massacres? This isn't War is It?" In this article I discuss the obvious point, you can't have these types of atoricities without war.

"I did not support the move to military action in Iraq because "war is hell" and no one should be sent to hell and then be condemned for not acting like it."

9:49 AM  
Blogger moi said...

Interesting way to look at it. I just wrote a post on the US policy of "extraordinary rendition" which is basically sending suspects to other countries where torture is a common way of extracting information.

Keep up the great work. Together, we can make a difference.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Phillybits said...

Wow. Playing catchup.

Up this goes on my end.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Aunty Ism said...

One who knew where the bomb was located would probably be in a senior position in an organized plot. You don't get to know things unless you are an important asset to the group.
Terrorists, either as members of large groups or loose cannons, usually have either such a strong belief in the "cause", or such a strong belief that what they are doing is of great significance (read Robert J. Lifton, "Destroying the World to Save It, or Jessica Stern, "Terror in the Name of God")that they are very resistant to torture.

In most cases, people with this delusional thinking won't be broken by torture. Check out the works of Alfred W. McCoy on his studies of CIA torture techniques, the KUBARK manual, and the current techniques employed by our soldiers. No, there must be some other reason people do this. Torture doesn't work on the real hard cases. So, why do it?

8:45 PM  
Blogger elendil said...

Torture doesn't work on the real hard cases. So, why do it?

It's a good question. Here is what Naomi Klein had to say about it:

This is torture's true purpose: to terrorize--not only the people in Guantánamo's cages and Syria's isolation cells but also, and more important, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist--the individual prisoner's will and the collective will.

This is not a controversial claim. In 2001 the US NGO Physicians for Human Rights published a manual on treating torture survivors that noted: "perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill treatment by the need to gather information. Such conceptualizations obscure the purpose of torture....The aim of torture is to dehumanize the victim, break his/her will, and at the same time, set horrific examples for those who come in contact with the victim. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities."

I think that might be the starting place to understand why we do it.

5:01 PM  
Blogger De said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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12:27 AM  

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