Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Moral Case for Torturing Terrorists

The moral case for torturing terrorists.
Copyright 2009 Michael S. Kochin all rights reserved

A1. Terrorism is a crime.
A2. It is the obligation of everyone with knowledge of a potential crime to share that knowledge with those that can prevent the crime.
A3. If someone is obliged to do something, there is a prima facie case that they ought to be coerced to carry out their duty.
A4. Torture is an effective means of extracting information
It follows:
C1. There is a prima facie case that those with relevant knowledge that can prevent terrorist actions ought to be tortured into revealing that information.

Discussion: Obviously, the required means of coercion depends on a whole host of factors. We must do things to prevent a murder that we must not do to prevent a shoplifting.
Also, this argument assumes that we know that somebody has relevant knowledge which they are refusing to share. Since in the real world we are are uncertain about this in any given case, we need to concerned about torturing innocent people. But in the real world we also need to worry about arresting innocent people, jailing innocent people, and executing innocent people. The answer to all these problems is the same as the answer to the surgeon: "try real hard not to make mistakes."