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Is Torture Ever Right ?


mistermack
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28 minutes ago, mistermack said:

The instinct to dehumanise other tribes and races flourishes whether there is slavery or not.

Does it? In war, every leadership makes an effort to dehumanize the enemy -for the same reason: it's easier to kill a ______ (insert national slur of choice) than a farm-boy just like yourself.

In slave states, after slavery was ostensibly abolished,  why was it necessary for officials to raise artificial barriers between children of different races? Why was it necessary to enact miscegenation laws? Why was it necessary to segregate people on public transport, in recreation areas, in neighbourhoods, even in the army....? If people instinctively don't want to mix, why go to all that trouble to keep them apart? And how come they went and mixed anyway?

Edited by Peterkin
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37 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

Does it? In war, every leadership makes an effort to dehumanize the enemy -for the same reason: it's easier to kill a ______ (insert national slur of choice) than a farm-boy just like yourself.

In slave states, after slavery was ostensibly abolished,  why was it necessary for officials to raise artificial barriers between children of different races? Why was it necessary to enact miscegenation laws? Why was it necessary to segregate people on public transport, in recreation areas, in neighbourhoods, even in the army....? If people instinctively don't want to mix, why go to all that trouble to keep them apart? And how come they went and mixed anyway?

You seem to imagine that everyone's the same. Or that people are consistent in their behaviour. Many slave owners, who treated their slaves as commodities, still had sex with them. But they wouldn't dream of treating them as equals. 

Others were more enlightened. But those were pretty thinly spread. 

The Romans made slaves of most of the known world. For them it wasn't skin colour so much as just being foreign that made you slave material. They always ran down non-romans as ignorant brutish people who lived in squalor. So did the early americans with the natives. They tried making them slaves, but when that didn't work out, they tried to wipe them out. They didn't need the commodity motive for that. Basically, people who look or talk different, or dress different, historically got singled out for dehumanising treatment. Even the same race, so long as you could be identified as an 'inferior' people. Like the untouchables in India. 

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1 hour ago, mistermack said:

Many slave owners, who treated their slaves as commodities, still had sex with them.

What!!?? You mean, like they might with an unpaid hooker or like an English lord might have with a milkmaid?

1 hour ago, mistermack said:

The Romans made slaves of most of the known world. For them it wasn't skin colour so much as just being foreign that made you slave material.

Nothing to do with being foreign! Prisoners of war were often enslaved, as were people taken as tithes from subject nations. But foreigners could also join the Roman army and become citizens.

1 hour ago, mistermack said:

They always ran down non-romans as ignorant brutish people who lived in squalor.

No, they didn't. They were usually quite pragmatic in their dealings with subject nations. The co-operative regimes were allowed a wide latitude in self-governance and freedom of religions. The rebellious ones were punished. Many legionnaires married local women and, upon retirement, settled in the occupied territories. 

 

1 hour ago, mistermack said:

So did the early americans with the natives.

That's different "they's" Spanish, French and English, with different approaches. Amerinds made poor slaves, it's true, but they sometimes - that is, some Native nations, in some regions - were relatively easy to convert to Christianity and worked voluntarily for the Spanish missions. Some French (and a few from the British isles) settlers got along so well with Natives that they created a whole new nation of Metis. 

 

1 hour ago, mistermack said:

They didn't need the commodity motive for that.

No, they just wanted the land. All of it. Motive enough.

1 hour ago, mistermack said:

Basically, people who look or talk different, or dress different, historically got singled out for dehumanising treatment. Even the same race, so long as you could be identified as an 'inferior' people. Like the untouchables in India. 

You don't see the contradiction there? Caste and class systems have nothing to do with difference and everything to do with exploitation.

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6 hours ago, beecee said:

Yes, as long as there is good reason.

In general, I havn't made up any stories, and simply focused on the two thought experiments. In fact I have given quite a few real life examples of crimes and criminals I am familiar with, and their victims...check out the justice/punsihment thread. 

And I certanly hope I am never in any similar situation, because I do know what I would do to (1) protect any child, and (2) thousands of innocent people.

Not me at this time. The world is what it is, and while I am mortified at some of the injustices around, I still have faith in humanity in general, and am doing my little bit in helping, including reducing my carbon footprint where ever practical.

+1

8 hours ago, Peterkin said:

Sure. In the same year that grandmother made her mistake, a few other people made mistakes.

No big deal compared to mad bombers, but still....

Do you actually know what those all possible information sources are? Neither do the police when they begin the investigation. In the imaginary two-dimensional scenario, B/W answers work. In reality, they do not.

 

And that's what you don't know when you make the decision you can't ever take back.

Yeah, but then, you're sure about everything. I'm not.

But you are focussing on all the maybe's if's and but's, many of which there are. There are and will be many unkowns in all situations. No one is saying torture is ok, we all agree that torture in any form is wrong and dehumanising and immoral... 

The question is, is it ever right to employ torture? I say yes, in extreme circumstances when all else has failed and there is nothing left to lose and you have one last ditch attempt to save lives. Regardless whether its statistically unlikely to be successful, at the very last moments when you are left with only one choice that will either work or it won't. If it works great, you save one or countless lives at the cost of a few who suffer (maybe for life). If it fails, well, at least All known available options were exhausted. 

There are 2 kinds of regret, either one you have to live with - the doing or the not doing. Which one would you live with?  

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17 hours ago, beecee said:

I'm pretty sure if what I did lead to the rescue of a child, or saved thousands of lives from a mad bomber, I would sleep very well, and also that those actions would be condoned and forgiven by a normalised society.

That's a very specific set of circumstances, to justify torture:

There's a time limit.

You would have to know, without doubt, that you have the guilty party on the table; or you're waisting time...

You would have to know, without doubt, that the information gained can be trusted; or you're waisting time...

I can't be sure that would even justify a 'B' movie...

 

 

6 hours ago, Intoscience said:

There are 2 kinds of regret, either one you have to live with - the doing or the not doing. Which one would you live with?

https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/abs/socratic-moral-psychology/wrongdoing-and-damage-to-the-soul/73B3EF2F0D93EC847489578AC0C03C69

Quote

 

Summary

THE MORAL PARADOX AND THE RISKS OF WRONGDOING

Damaging one's soul

At Apology 30c7–e1, Socrates cautions his jurors about the risk they face. The risk Socrates himself faces is obvious but, as he explains it, the danger he faces is far less grave than the one the jurors may inflict upon themselves:

Now, the claim that trying to kill a man unjustly is a greater evil than being killed unjustly may seem simply obvious from a moral point of view.

 

 

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8 hours ago, Intoscience said:

The question is, is it ever right to employ torture?

No.

8 hours ago, Intoscience said:

There are 2 kinds of regret, either one you have to live with - the doing or the not doing. Which one would you live with?  

I don't know.

8 hours ago, Intoscience said:

But you are focussing on all the maybe's if's and but's, many of which there are. There are and will be many unkowns in all situations. No one is saying torture is ok, we all agree that torture in any form is wrong and dehumanising and immoral... 

You already have the answer, many times over.

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2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

You would have to know, without doubt, that the information gained can be trusted; or you're waisting time...

 

Does the military only attack if they know they will win? Do you only apply for a job if you know you will be selected? Nothing is 100% in this world. Quit trying to set impossible goals.

I remember that time my son slipped on the river bank into the water, and I had to decide whether or not jumping in to save him would, without a doubt, be successful. After all, I didn't want to waste my time...

Edited by zapatos
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1 hour ago, Peterkin said:
10 hours ago, Intoscience said:

The question is, is it ever right to employ torture?

No.

To be honest, I find that quite disgusting. Treating the hypothetical nuke in London as really happening, and you are in charge of finding it, you would rather let five million people vaporise, than try torture on the perpetrator. I think that's not principled or high minded, it's mental cowardice, or a lack of caring for others, or both.

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13 minutes ago, mistermack said:

To be honest, I find that quite disgusting. Treating the hypothetical nuke in London as really happening, and you are in charge of finding it, you would rather let five million people vaporise, than try torture on the perpetrator. I think that's not principled or high minded, it's mental cowardice, or a lack of caring for others, or both.

Well, that's certainly an unequivocal opinion. London is about to be vapourized and it's all my fault. 

Fair enough....

Oh, wait, no, it isn't fair at all.

What I said from the beginning is that I can imagine situations in which I would resort to torture. I maintain that whether and when and in what circumstance I would or could actually carry out, I can't tell you, not even under torture (though, of course I'd tell you something, anything, everything), because I don't know. (I suspect you don't, either, never having been faced with a such a situation, but that's only a suspicion, since I know even less about you and your experience than you know about me and mine.)

If I did carry out a wrong and bad act, I hope it would be for a reason I could justify.

But I would not pretend that it was right and good. 

1 hour ago, zapatos said:

You're right. Let the kid drown.

Sorry, I missed the connection between The Impossible Dream and a drowning child.

Edited by Peterkin
the usual
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Well, it seems to me like you're confused about right and wrong. If you can say you would do it, even though it's wrong, you are just dodging the question, and having it both ways. 

To me, torturing the prisoner for no reason is very wrong. Torturing the prisoner to save five million people is right. The situation changes it from wrong to right. 

If that was the innocent child, from the other example, who knew where the bomb was, and wouldn't tell, and all other methods were not working, then I'd torture the child. Five million lives outweighs my normal principles in nearly every case. And I believe it would be right to do it.

Very wrong normally. Very right in that case.

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48 minutes ago, mistermack said:

Well, it seems to me like you're confused about right and wrong. If you can say you would do it, even though it's wrong, you are just dodging the question, and having it both ways. 

No, it's exactly one way, the only way it can be, and I'm perfectly clear on it. I've done a great many things in my life that i knew were wrong - and so, I imagine, have we all, not for life-and-death outcomes, but for trivial reasons: anger, avarice, fear, pride, spite, expediency... none of those reasons flip wrong to right and back again. 

A three-year-old knows when he's doing something wrong, and decides to do it anyway, for reasons that seem to him compelling at the time. Later, when he's being carpeted for it, he looks at the floor a stammers out a semi-coherent excuse. The adult either believes that the temptation was stronger than child could be reasonably expected to resist, and forgives him or doesn't and metes out some punishment she considers appropriate: either way, the wrong is cancelled and the child may go in peace. If he isn't caught, he carries the wrong action on his conscience, even as he's enjoying the ill-gotten gain.

  

48 minutes ago, mistermack said:

The situation changes it from wrong to right. 

Right and wrong don't change. The situation changes your priorities. In some situations, you're convinced that no right action would achieve the desired results, so you have to choose between wrongs.

48 minutes ago, mistermack said:

Five million lives outweighs my normal principles

Outweigh. Not wipe out.

Here's another thing I don't know:

Suppose the city is Wuhan, the bomber is English and the only witness is the bomber's nine-year-old daughter. Obiously, she's not going to rat her daddy out without serious persuasion. Is the right and wrong of torturing her still as readily flippable as it was in the other case?

Edited by Peterkin
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People seem to be talking past each other.  There is no real conflict between torture is generally wrong and torture might be an option where many lives are at stake.   There are many ethical rules that are shut down where great peril exists.  To do so doesn't make one immoral, it just means one has moral priorities -- violence is wrong but I might stick my foot out and trip a fleeing mugger who attacked a pregnant woman.  Vandalism is wrong, but I might smash open a soft drink machine to rescue a hypoglycemic slipping into unconsciousness (if I had no money, and no one was around who did).  

 

As for London nuker guy, I suspect he would plan ahead and carry a Deadman switch, so as to avoid torture scenarios that would foil his carefully orchestrated plan.  The realworld moral choice would probably be protecting WG plutonium caches and border crossings at the cost of some civil liberties so as to nip such conspiracies in the bud.  

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2 hours ago, mistermack said:

To be honest, I find that quite disgusting. Treating the hypothetical nuke in London as really happening, and you are in charge of finding it, you would rather let five million people vaporise, than try torture on the perpetrator. I think that's not principled or high minded, it's mental cowardice, or a lack of caring for others, or both.

Agreed. Although I see this more as an exersise in simply shoring up one's personal passive philosophical approach that is essentially unworkable. He has already admitted he would chose the lesser wrong, and is now simply playing with words, as per the following.....

1 hour ago, Peterkin said:

Outweigh. Not wipe out.

That among the "ifs" "buts" "what ifs" makes this debate laughable, as serious as it is. I'm 100% sure Peterkin, and even dimreeper, would do whatever was needed to obtain the needed result in both situations. This is just stone walling.

37 minutes ago, TheVat said:

People seem to be talking past each other.  There is no real conflict between torture is generally wrong and torture might be an option where many lives are at stake.   There are many ethical rules that are shut down where great peril exists.  To do so doesn't make one immoral, it just means one has moral priorities -- violence is wrong but I might stick my foot out and trip a fleeing mugger who attacked a pregnant woman.  Vandalism is wrong, but I might smash open a soft drink machine to rescue a hypoglycemic slipping into unconsciousness (if I had no money, and no one was around who did).    

Not talking past each other, more lacking the intestinal fortitude to shift from their "disgusting" hardline position. Otherwise nice post.

1 hour ago, Peterkin said:

 Right and wrong don't change. The situation changes your priorities. In some situations, you're convinced that no right action would achieve the desired results, so you have to choose between wrongs.

And it would be right to chose the "wrong" that saves the little child, or those thousands of people waiting for you to conclude your pontification. You have already agreed to that. Why all this beating around the bush? Why not just come out and say that in some situations one must chose wrong to do the right thing and avoid the disgusting consequence of a dead child, or thousands blown to smithereens.

Edited by beecee
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1 minute ago, beecee said:

He has already admitted he would chose the lesser wrong, and is now simply playing with words, as per the following....

What's so difficult about words like right wrong greater and lesser? There is a slight problem with "admitted" as a reference to a simple open statement. I've said what I said, as clearly as I could, and repeated it as many times as I was asked to. As a game, this quite tedious.

5 minutes ago, beecee said:

This is just stone walling.

This a simple statement of personal belief. Not everyone has the comfort of 100% certainty about everything, but at least I'm 99.9% convinced of what I consider right and wrong. If being unsure of my own capacity for evil is a disgusting hard-line position, I suppose it's one I'll have to live with until those limits are tested in real life.

 

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2 hours ago, Peterkin said:

If I did carry out a wrong and bad act, I hope it would be for a reason I could justify.

That IS just playing with words, trying to have it both ways. It's just morally cowardly. (in the context of debate)

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21 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

This a simple statement of personal belief. Not everyone has the comfort of 100% certainty about everything, but at least I'm 99.9% convinced of what I consider right and wrong. If being unsure of my own capacity for evil is a disgusting hard-line position, I suppose it's one I'll have to live with until those limits are tested in real life.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa....yes I am 100% sure that the life of a child and/or thousands of people, are worth doing wrong for, or on a criminal/terrorist. Please forgive me.

6 hours ago, dimreepr said:

That's a very specific set of circumstances, to justify torture:

You think so? In reality, and in any normal westernised society, it would be the topmost desired outcome...you know, implementing every possible means of saving a child, or the lives of thousands of people, rather then considering the harm or hurt on some low life dregs of society, the pedaphile, or that of some fanatical cowardly terrorist.

Edited by beecee
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22 minutes ago, beecee said:

yes I am 100% sure that the life of a child and/or thousands of people, are worth doing wrong for

I'm 99.9% sure of the same thing.

22 minutes ago, beecee said:

Please forgive me.

Why would you want my forgiveness? It's your own conscience you have to deal with. However, to that extent that it's within my purview, I would most willingly forgive you, even if you failed.

The only thing I refused to do here is lie under peer pressure. I don't understand why you want me to change my position, about which i was honest in the first post and have remained truthful throughout. I certainly never expected any of you to change your positions. 

Edited by Peterkin
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6 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

I'm 99.9% sure of the same thing.

I don't believe you. Just playing with words again...try the 100%

6 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

To that extent that it's within my purview, I would most willingly do so, even if you failed.

At least I could die a happy man, knowing I had implemented every possible methodology that was available, failure or not.

 

Edited by beecee
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56 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

i was honest in the first post and have remained truthful throughout.

No, you're the cop-out kid. All of this " I don't know till it happens " and "it's wrong but I  might do it" is just because you're incapable of giving a straight answer. 

What if it really happened? Would you be arguing "I was right to do wrong" ?

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Can anyone cite any case where torture actually produced actionable intelligence that led to a positive result, ie child rescued from pedophile or bomb found before detontion?

not from tv or movies!

  IF...any conspirators were to actually set a bomb to kill thousands of people, do you suppose that those same conspirators might have a FAIL SAFE of any kind?

Say, possibly that in the event that one of them might be caught, they have a ready response in the event of TORTURE?

like it may be that under duress, they give up a location that when acted upon, lets the other conspirators know that one of them has been captured,

or it may be an address that when accessed automatically detonates that bomb?

 

as far as the pedophile/s, it may be an address that is near the real address so as to let the other pedophile know that the authorities are closing in?

what do you suppose will happen to any child after that?

peterkin seems to be the only poster that has really contemplated the question and answered honestly

 

 

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2 hours ago, mistermack said:

No, you're the cop-out kid. All of this " I don't know till it happens " and "it's wrong but I  might do it" is just because you're incapable of giving a straight answer. 

What if it really happened? Would you be arguing "I was right to do wrong" ?

Yes, that appears to be the case. As I said earlier, Although I see this more as an exersise in simply shoring up one's personal passive philosophical approach that is essentially unworkable. He has already admitted he would chose the lesser wrong, and is now simply playing with words, as per the following.....That among the "ifs" "buts" "what ifs" makes this debate laughable, as serious as it is. I'm 100% sure Peterkin, and even dimreeper, would do whatever was needed to obtain the needed result in both situations. This is just stone walling, and less then a  fair dinkum or honest approach on both their parts.

And of course if either case was successful, any resultant court hearings for "the lesser wrong" would be looked on with compassion and reasonability, and total public support would be behind them...particularly that of the little child and those thousands of people that survived. 

It's a no brainer.

As I have said many times, Peterkin himself has admitted to possibly doing the lesser wrong, and in summing this debate has been a back and forth tussle between  doing whatever is necessary to save a child, and in the other case thousands of innocent people, as against some pretentious moralisitc concern for the low life pedaphile and/or terrorist. My sympathies are well known and presented.

In saying all that I decided anyway to google and found this......

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/torture/

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Torture:

First published Tue Feb 7, 2006; substantive revision Fri May 5, 2017

It is divide into headings, the fourth heading being.....

 

  • 4. The Moral Justification for Legalised and Institutionalised Torture
  •  
  • extracts from case studies......
  • 3.1 Case Study – The Beating

  • In this case study torture of the car thief can be provided with a substantial moral justification, even if it does not convince everyone. Consider the following points: (1) The police reasonably believe that torturing the car thief will probably save an innocent life; (2) the police know that there is no other way to save the life; (3) the threat to life is more or less imminent; (4) the baby is innocent; (5) the car thief is known not to be an innocent – his action is known to have caused the threat to the baby, and he is refusing to allow the baby’s life to be saved.

 

3.2 Case Study – The Terrorist and the Ticking Bomb

In this case study there is also a substantial moral justification for torture, albeit one that many moral absolutists do not find compelling. Consider the following points: (1) The police reasonably believe that torturing the terrorist will probably save thousands of innocent lives; (2) the police know that there is no other way to save those lives; (3) the threat to life is more or less imminent; (4) the thousands about to be murdered are innocent – the terrorist has no good, let alone decisive, justificatory moral reason for murdering them; (5) the terrorist is known to be (jointly with the other terrorists) morally responsible for planning, transporting, and arming the nuclear device and, if it explodes, he will be (jointly with the other terrorists) morally responsible for the murder of thousands.

In addition to the above set of moral considerations, consider the following points. The terrorist is culpable on two counts. Firstly, the terrorist is forcing the police to choose between two evils, namely, torturing the terrorist or allowing thousands of lives to be lost. Were the terrorist to do what he ought to do, namely, disclose the location of the ticking bomb, the police could refrain from torturing him. This would be true of the terrorist, even if he were not actively participating in the bombing project. Secondly, the terrorist is in the process of completing his (jointly undertaken) action of murdering thousands of innocent people. He has already undertaken his individual actions of, say, transporting and arming the nuclear device; he has performed these individual actions (in the context of other individual actions performed by the other members of the terrorist cell) in order to realise the end (shared by the other members of the cell) of murdering thousands of Londoners. In refusing to disclose the location of the device the terrorist is preventing the police from preventing him from completing his (joint) action of murdering thousands of innocent people.[14] To this extent the terrorist is in a different situation from a bystander who happens to know where the bomb is planted but will not reveal its whereabouts, and in a different situation from someone who might have inadvertently put life at risk (Miller (2005); Hill (2007)).

Some commentators on scenarios of this kind are reluctant to concede that the police are morally entitled – let alone morally obliged – to torture the offender. How do these commentators justify their position?

In conclusion, the view that it is, all things considered, morally wrong to torture the terrorist in the scenario outlined faces very serious objections; and it is difficult to see how these objections can be met. It is plausible, therefore, that there are some imaginable circumstances in which it is morally permissible to torture someone.

Finally under the 4th heading, which I most certainly am against.....

4. The Moral Justification for Legalised and Institutionalised Torture

Edited by beecee
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Peterkin and Swansont have brought up the argument of uncertainty.

Exchemist has brought up the argument of efficiency.

Prometheus has brought up (and insisted on, to no apparent effect) the argument of experimental evidence to support such alleged efficiency, so in some sense strongly complements Exchemist’s argument.

Those are all arguments I was thinking about myself before I started reading the comments. It’s taken me some time to start catching up. I’m not finished catching up yet.

Weighing the dubiousness of an extreme procedure against the urgency or compulsory character of an extreme case doesn't seem to meet the standards of a rational setup to discuss the ethical basis for a course of action. It more looks like trying to motivate loopholes for an inexcusable, unjustifiable procedure.

This last point has been dealt with by Phi for All. I can only add some aspects to why I agree with the previous opinions.

The least I can say is that torture(* Definition), as a system to extract information from an individual, strikes me as an extremely unimaginative, unscientific way to deal with this hypothetical problem.

Main arguments that resonate with my thinking:

Uncertainty

1) Are you sure this person did it? 100 % sure? Then: Are you sure they didn’t do it out of coertion? 100 % sure?…, etc. I can go on forever to argue about how the “method” could be at least disproportionate based on uncertainty. Uncertainty, I hate to break the news to some of you respected and respectable members, is universal. It's always there in some degree.

Efficiency

2) Would torture lead to information that's accurate enough, sure enough? Doesn’t seem like it would work. And not because it’s not been tried. History is rife with cases of false confessions under torture that lead nowhere useful to ascertain the facts.

Evidence

3) Where is the experimental evidence that shows that torturing a person will lead to obtaining useful information? Irrespective of the psychological profile of the tortured person? (Taken from history, of course, because we would find many an ethical problem with actually conducting the experiments.)

Alternatives:

Why not more imaginative strategies based in game theory (the prisoner’s dilemma comes to mind), use of computing power, biotechnologies, even linguistics, or combination of those? (I know of a kidnapping case in Spain that was solved because the expression “bolo”, used in a particular way, appeared in the background in a telephone conversation, an it narrowed down the possibilities to a cluster of small villages.) It sometimes surprises me how much our imagination is silenced when the visceral comes into play.

No, torture is never justified. It's never an intelligent solution. It's been tried to death --literally-- with no significant results to my knowledge. And worst of all, we know its realm is a part of the darkest recesses of the human mind that somehow still lurks there and we'd be much better off without, for good.

Summarising:

Not very imaginative!

Prompted by the emotional, primitive, retributional mind, rather than the rational/empirical.

Not experimentally borne out in any way that I know of.

What about some science instead?

 

* Definition: The act of causing somebody severe pain in order to punish them or make them say or do something.

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The problem with my argument seems to be not in the uncertainty of the prisoner's guilt, which was dealt-with in an "it's in the script" assertion, nor the uncertainty of the efficacy of torture, which was dealt-with by "we have to try anyway", and not even my uncertainty regarding my own capability and response to a circumstance I have not experienced. The main objection seems to be to my refusal to agree that a shade of grey turns white if you put it next to black. It may look white, but it isn't. 

Edited by Peterkin
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