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Torture and the ticking bomb argument

Torture and the ticking bomb argument



Torture and the ticking bomb argument

Torture and the ticking bomb argument



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    Torture and the ticking bomb argument Torture and the ticking bomb argument Presentation Transcript

    • The Little Door to Hell Torture and the Ticking Bomb Argument Filip Spagnoli, http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com Filip Spagnoli, http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com Filip Spagnoli, http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com Filip Spagnoli, http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com
    • moral torture
      • the so-called "ticking bomb argument" (henceforth TBA) is an attempt to justify the use of torture in certain circumstances
      • benevolent torture, well-intentioned torture, or even moral torture
      • not terrorizing and subjugating; saving
      • reluctance to engage in it would endanger, and be immoral
      • torture is lesser evil
    • TBA is flawed because...
      • untenable assumptions
      • starts with an exceptional case and ends up condoning widespread torture - it proves too much
      • not just “slipper slope”; destruction of democracy
      • hence it is a “little door to hell”
    • what is the TBA?
      • a terrorist is captured; we know that he knows where a ticking time bomb (or equivalent) is hidden that will soon kill thousands or millions
      • this person will only reveal the information under torture; there is no other or alternative way to extract this information
      • morally allowed to use torture in order to get the information and save lives; morally forced to torture given the enormous benefits for large numbers of people compared to the limited costs for the tortured individual
      • given the choice between inflicting a relatively small level of harm on a wrongdoer and saving an innocent person, it is moral indecency to prefer the interests of the wrongdoer
      • utilitarian
    • untenable assumptions
      • 1) a real-life case
      • 2) knowledge and knowledge about knowledge: we know that there is a TB, the captured terrorist knows where, and we know that the captured terrorist knows
      • 3) torture works: it can help us to find out what exactly he knows
      • 4) no alternative: urgency, no evacuations, no other non-torture techniques available or opportune
      • 5) exceptional
      • 6) the Greater Good
    • assumption 1: real-life case
      • extremely improbable assumption
      • most terrorist attacks are not like TB
      • most terrorists are not arrested before the attack, if at all
      • even if: unlikely that we know that something is about to happen
    • assumption 2: knowledge
      • assuming assumption 1 is correct, for argument’s sake: we have arrested a terrorist just before the attack takes place, and we know that an attack is about to take place
      • again, extremely improbable assumption: unlikely that there is enough information to know that the person arrested has the information that is required for us to stop the attack
      • how can we be sure that the person under arrest has this information? and if we are not sure, can we start torturing this person in order to know that he or she has the information? ... slippery slope
    • assumption 2: knowledge, ctd.
      • we do not just torture in order to get life saving information, we torture in order to know whether someone has or does not have such information
      • we have to torture many people who do not have information before we find the right person
      • we may be torturing innocent people, or at least people who, although accomplices, are not justifiable objects of torture since the TBA claims that torture is justified because it is necessary to obtain life saving information
    • assumption 3: it works
      • again, let’s assume assumptions 1 and 2 are correct, for argument’s sake: we find ourselves in a TB situation, and we have identified the person holding the vital information
      • the TBA still needs a further assumption, namely that torture is an efficient tool to extract reliable information
      • widespread evidence that it is not
      • counter-productive: people say anything, hence “wild goose chase”
      • terrorist, knowing that the attack is imminent and that time is of the essence, will deliberately give false information so as to misdirect the torturers long enough for the bomb to go off
    • assumption 3: it works, ctd.
      • torture will not work because terrorist knows that the attack is imminent and is therefore highly motivated to endure what he knows to be a relatively short "session"
      • if torturing the terrorist does not make him or her speak, the TBA must also justify torturing the terrorist's family, children and friends
      • the utilitarian cost-benefit analysis on which the ticking bomb argument is based justifies torturing the family; benefits of torture still outweigh the costs ... slippery slope
    • assumption 4: no alternative
      • no alternative because of urgency?
      • urgency gives the tortured terrorist motivation to withstand, and opportunity to waste time with false information
    • assumption 5: exceptional
      • already a lot less exceptional than in the beginning of the argument
      • unexpected nature of the attacks, the urgency and speed with which we have to act, and the fact that this element of surprise and urgency gives the terrorists an advantage, means that we have to have a professional class of torturers, constantly available and highly effective
      • institutionalized professional "torture squad" becomes an opportunity for abuse and a danger to democratic society which cannot survive the institutionalization of torture
      • infect the entire society to know that there are people among us who torture for a living
    • assumption 5: exceptional, ctd.
      • further expansion of torture and perhaps even the destruction of a democracy and a free society
    • assumption 6: the Greater Good
      • utilitarian or consequentialist: unacceptable to risk great loss of life for the sake of a principle ("lost lives hurt a lot more than bent principles")
      • moral absolutist, moral perfectionist or deontologist: reject any type of torture under any circumstances ("let justice be done though the heavens fall")
      • not obvious, as assumed by TBA, that the first position is the best
      • terrorists also assume that they fight for a greater good and that they are allowed to sacrifice some in order to save others; torture then puts the torturers on the same level as the terrorist, especially is the torturers find it necessary to torture innocent relatives of the terrorist; this is pointless