Torture: The Lesser evil?

Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 68 (2):251 - 278 (2006)
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Although torture is prohibited in international law, a consequentialist justification of it has occasionally been professed on the belief that torture is indispensable andeven morally obligatory as an information-gathering device in so-called 'ticking bomb' situations. The author adheres to the conviction that torture is an evil that could never justifiably be done. Objecting to the moral stand of consequentialism, he emphasizesthe distinctive terribleness of torture, drawing attention to the victim's infinite preciousness or 'sacredness', which even the concept of autonomy, or the concepts of democracy and civilization never can reach. Of course, some might call this a question of the heart, and not of the head, and affirm — with Kant, for one — that cognitive content should be separated from resonant form if thought is to survive distortion. To this there is no argument apart from the vital testimony of goodness and pure love, where understanding involves head and heart inseparably combined. This is not just an appeal to the supererogatory, which belongs to a different perspective, as a feat of moral character. Saintly love not only affirms human dignity, it actively reveals and makes visible adignity that is inalienable from the victims humanity. Torture therefore never can fullfil the requirement that it be administered without degrading the intrinsic preciousness of each human being



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