Saturday, January 16, 2010


There's an interesting coincidence of philosophical justifications among those who approve of torture. They tend to make the following arguments:

1)Because of the nature of their alleged crimes, they are beyond the rule of law. "These people are terrorists!"

2)The information they might have is worth the sacrifice of their rights. The "ticking-bomb" scenario.

These are two distinct philosophical positions. The legitimacy of each is independent of the other. While the two together form a more substantial case for torture, neither is dependent on the other for legitimacy. Either may be accepted regardless of the truth of the other.

For instance the gravity of the situation may not require the use of torture, even as the nature of their crimes overrides their claim of human rights. And likewise, if the information they hold requires the administration of torture, the nature of their crimes may not be sufficient to deny their rights.

Yet both are almost always accepted together. One would expect to find more people willing to admit that while one may be legitimate, the other is not. The fact that torture advocates are in near lockstep agreement on both counts, and frequently make the case for one or the other - while not directly refuting either argument, calls into question the intellectual honesty, and thus integrity of those who would appeal to the justification of torture on moral grounds.

On its face, one would assume that advocacy of torture would alone determine one's moral integrity. But the fact that not just one, but two very contentious propositions are so frequently argued together seems telling.

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