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TOK PRESENTATION: The Ethics of Torture
Transcript of TOK PRESENTATION: The Ethics of Torture
Torture being used as an interrogation method by US army officials in the War on Terror, such as the events at the Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 where Iraqi captivates were tortured (some to death).
Can it ever be justified to use torture (on humans) as an interrogation method, if the victim in question may hold information that could save lives?
How do we know what is/how can we justify violations of human rights in cases of war (that itself consists of a series of human-rights violating acts?). Consider the consent to war.
: How different ways of knowing contribute to different opinions in ethical questions such as the one about torture.
Image by Tom Mooring
AOKs & WOKs
The Ethics of Torture
Torture as an interrogation method for obtaining life-saving information
How do most people instinctively feel about the topic of torture? Why? How does our emotion affect reason?
How do arguments based on reason help formulate ethical opinions?
It is ever justifiable to violate human rights in this way, even if the victim in question has violated human rights himself?
What does human torture imply?
Where should we draw the line?
Should all people be treated equally?
If justified, who should carry out torture?
Can we then torture relatives/friends of the same victim?
Oxford English Dictionary
The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something
: If we imagine a situation like the "
ticking bomb scenario
": utilitarianism would support torture.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
: "utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good"
Actions are right if the outcome leads to increased happiness
Jeremy Bentham + John Stuart Mill
The "Ticking Bomb Scenario"
There is a bomb hidden in central London, placed there by a terrorist group
The leader of the group has been captured
He claims to know where bomb is hidden
Refuses to reveal information
Should he be subjected to torture?
If numerous lives are saved =greater happiness
Torture to save lives would therefore be justified
How can we ever know/ be certain beforehand that a person knows the truth, even if the said person claims to know?
We can never know whether a person will endure torture rather than reveal information.
Should we measure the ethics of an action through the outcome and ignore the means?
Should actions be judged by happiness?
Assumes torture is effective in extracting information: won't victim just say what torturer wants to hear for the torturing to stop?
Justifying torture on utilitarian principles would deny individual rights.
Is it okay to harm one person in order to save others, merely because there is a slight chance that this person may reveal life-saving information?
general happiness principle
May be suitable to consider other solutions to this question
Reason vs. Emotion
How do the two WOKs lead us to different conclusions about the ethics of torture?
Oxford English Dictionary:
The branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles:
REASON as a WOK
A logical approach to Ethics
justifying value-arguments/judgements with moral principles and facts
principle of measuring outcome of happiness
Would emotion change one's response/ justification?
Emotion & Ethics
: moral values= naturally subjective?
REASON should be considered prior to EMOTION: make general ethical statements
Torture should not be considered justified:
violate human rights
-impossible to draw line
-end in murder
-torture-victim is unable to defend self
: skilled interrogation techniques should be used
: impossible to draw line/can end in murder
-exactly what happened
RLS defends/ helps justify conclusion
Torture being used in warfare: reveals opponent's strategies
Torture used in crime detection: claims to not be used, many times concealed
"Definition of Ethics in English:."
Ethics: Definition of Ethics in Oxford Dictionary
British & World English
). N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
Driver, Julia. "The History of Utilitarianism." Stanford University.
, 27 Mar. 2009. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
Lagemaat, Richard Van De.
Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma
. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. Print.
"The 'ticking Bomb' Problem."
. BBC, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
"Why Is Torture Wrong?"
. BBC, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.