Ethics Essay On Torture

As such, the innocence of the person being tortured is of no concern, only the information he may have. Wouldn’t we be just as obligated to torture, even more so since the girl never signed up to put her life on the line? What if gang members kidnapped the girl, or worse yet pedophiles?

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It’s the greater good of staving off the attack that matters. Why shouldn’t torture be standard procedure in all kidnapping cases?

The fact is, we are much more approving of torture if it is a terrorist on the receiving end of our maltreatment.

The very set-up of the “Ethics 101” scenario is flawed. (If you haven’t seen the 1970s vintage movie starring Clint Eastwood, then substitute any recent tough-guy cop movie – they all use the same formula.) A very, very evil killer/rapist/terrorist is on a rampage and our hero the tough-guy cop is on his trail.

Not to be bothered with the niceties of civil liberties and police department rules, he tortures and otherwise abuses the bad guy, and other bad-guy witnesses that have information he needs, much to the chagrin of his wimpy boss the police captain, and the even wimpier mayor who is worried about his poll numbers.

If we are honest with ourselves we must admit that we really do want revenge.

Take the terrorist out of every one of these scenarios and all of sudden our convictions in favor of torture weaken dramatically.

There is no real moral justification given, and the inclusion of this second case seems to be nothing more than a rather weak apologetic for the Bush administration’s current behavior.

Finally, he claims that his analysis “establishes the principle: Torture is not always impermissible.” Is Krauthammer’s logic sound?

In the “Ethics 101” scenario quoted above, absolute knowledge of events is required to make the conclusions seem clear-cut, and to give us the moral wiggle room we need to condone an otherwise impermissible act. How many innocent people are you willing to torture in order to successfully extract lifesaving information from one true terrorist?

What if the scenario were presented as a potential torturer would actually see it: Intelligence sources that have sometimes been reliable in the past indicate that a terrorist has planted a bomb, possibly nuclear, in New York City. To go from the realistic scenario here to the absolutist one Krauthammer presents requires us to judge the information source to be absolutely credible and the information to be perfectly accurate, to instantly judge the suspect to be guilty and involved, and to presume that any information that might be gleaned from torturing our prisoner will in fact prove lifesaving. Do you create a mathematical formula weighing the evil of torture against some probability-weighted potential death toll?


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