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TOK PRESENTATION: The Ethics of Torture

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Alice S

on 8 April 2014

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Transcript of TOK PRESENTATION: The Ethics of Torture

Real Life Situation:

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.

: Ethics

: How different ways of knowing contribute to different opinions in ethical questions such as the one about torture.

Knowledge Issue
Image by Tom Mooring
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


WOK: Ethics
Utilitarian Argument
: 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?
Utilitarian Perspective
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?

Rule Utilitarianism:
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?
WOK: Ethics
Oxford English Dictionary:
The branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles:

A logical approach to Ethics
Moral Reasoning

justifying value-arguments/judgements with moral principles and facts

Utilitarian Argument:
principle of measuring outcome of happiness

Would emotion change one's response/ justification?

Emotion & Ethics

Personal relations

Moral relativism
: 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
-various consequences
-torture-victim is unable to defend self

: skilled interrogation techniques should be used
Conclusion stated
: 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
Works Cited

"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.
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 News
. BBC, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.

"Why Is Torture Wrong?"
BBC News
. BBC, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
Full transcript