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Torture

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Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:20 pm
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Attolia says...



Tricky subject, in my opinion.

If you have a man linked to terrorist acts in custody, and he knows information relating to a future attack/the location of the rest of his cell, what do you do? Is it okay to torture him to get the information, provided he didn't respond to any other means of extracting the information?

I know I'm probably going to get a hard time for this, but I believe you do torture him - if it's between either torturing him or risking dozens/hundreds of civilians getting hurt or killed. I think you forfeit the rights of civilians when you enter into the spheres of espionage/terror/intelligence. It's a different game for those involved. I understand the flip side - people may use the "if we don't, innocent people will die" excuse to abuse torture. So, granted, you have to have the right people in charge, which you can never really guarantee. But I believe if you have the ability to prevent deaths and violence, you have to do whatever is in your means to stop it, including (the horrible use of) torture. But, I could really benefit from hearing more opinions on this and I'll be super receptive to personally exploring the opposing viewpoints.

So, when is it okay to break standards of humanism? Or is it ever?
I'm pretty sure torture is outlawed under international law in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
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Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:45 pm
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inkwell says...



Not very substantial but interesting real world history:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/ ... 4687.shtml

A bright moment by McCain, who reminds us that our country hanged the Japanese for water boarding our soldiers in the past.

Now, onto the substantial:

This is an incredibly powerful example of a moral dilemma. I think what you should reconsider, is how easily you endorse consequentialist utilitarianism. If you follow your logic through, then it's a slippery slope. Everything becomes dictated by the result, by the better good for all.
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Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:47 am
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Pigeon says...



I oppose torture in any situation (for now, but I'm interested to see what everyone else will say). I don't see how it can even be a reliable method of obtaining the truth; surely people will say whatever they think the torturer wants to hear, rather than necessarily telling the truth. I know that if I was being tortured I would say anything and confess to anything if I thought it would make the torture stop.

I find it hard to believe that there is any situation which justifies the removal of someone's human rights.

This is an incredibly powerful example of a moral dilemma. I think what you should reconsider, is how easily you endorse consequentialist utilitarianism. If you follow your logic through, then it's a slippery slope. Everything becomes dictated by the result, by the better good for all.
I agree with Inkwell, and I think consequentialism is dangerous, because humans are bad predictors of outcomes. If we could accurately predict what the outcome of any given situation would be, then perhaps these ethics could work (although I still wouldn't like it), but I believe that humans are generally not very good at predicting outcomes, so trying to live by consequentialist ethics would be very hit and miss.
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Tue Jan 24, 2012 3:40 am
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Attolia says...



Liked the article and agreed with McCain.

Also I agree with you Pigeon that it's not reliable.

how easily you endorse consequentialist utilitarianism. If you follow your logic through, then it's a slippery slope. Everything becomes dictated by the result, by the better good for all.


consequentialism is dangerous, because humans are bad predictors of outcomes. If we could accurately predict what the outcome of any given situation would be, then perhaps these ethics could work (although I still wouldn't like it), but I believe that humans are generally not very good at predicting outcomes, so trying to live by consequentialist ethics would be very hit and miss.


For sure for sure. I do understand what you guys mean. Once you start playing God and deciding what's best slash when the ends justify the means, you can never go back. Which is why I understand the definitive-ness behind the principle of never torturing. Because say you have a situation on one extreme end of the spectrum - say you know with complete assurance that if you merely physically assault a man you have in custody, he'll tell you the location of the bomb that he set to explode and kill a hundred people tomorrow - once you start physically assaulting him, then the next month you may be waterboarding some man who is only vaguely associated with the enemy and may not even know the information you are torturing him for.

^^Thus, I think that's why you can never officially endorse torture, because then you're allowing the 99% of cases where torture is just unwarranted, sick violations of human rights and does not produce any information that will save lives.

So I guess I've redirected/specified my stance on torture. However.

Say I'm in some unrealistic, movie-like situation where my mortal enemy and I have been battling it out for years and I've finally just beaten him and have him tied up in a safe house somewhere. Or if it were just some random person I had captured. Anyway, this is a personal face-off between me and this person. I have him tied up, and I know for sure that he is related to and has information on some plot that will result in my family and other innocent civilians dying. (He's obviously the "bad" guy.) I have this person here, and the lives of my family and other innocent people are contingent on whether I am able to get the information out of Bad Guy. If I succeed, they survive; if I fail, they all die. I would torture him.

I know that's an extremely fanciful, unrealistic situation that depends on relative morality and a form of assurance neither of which are ever guaranteed like that, but if a torture situation were in my complete power of determining such things, I don't think I would keep the option off the table. And basically: I'm more or less okay with the knowledge that CIA operatives (or such people who in my mind are my betters and would know exactly when it'd both be necessary and work, and restricted only to that sphere) might be using torture in some extreme situations.
well you'll work harder
with a gun in your back!
for a bowl of rice a day




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Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:30 am
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Lapis says...



It depends of what action brings the best outcome. If a man's torture means a saved life, even one, then it is worthwhile, but only if no other means of data-extraction work. But if a man's torture could only lead to some money to be lost... No. Should not be done at all.
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