Friday, January 16, 2009

Torture's Terrible Toll

After reading the two positions on the issue of torture by John McCain and Sam Harris, where do you stand on the issue? Why? Which justifications and Ways of Knowing were the most convincing to you?

7 comments:

Tae said...

I don't believe that torture is ever a valid means for the acquisition of information although I concur with Sam Harris in that in extreme and infrequent instances, torture might be justified (this does seem like a conflicting point of view, but hopefully it will become more lucid)...however, these circumstances are so infrequent that I cannot think of a single valid, real example of a time when torture would have been justified. Torture should never be put into policy, and nor should individuals admit that torture should be accepted- it seems that they ought to deny it fervently, since they will probably never encounter a circumstance in which they will have a genuine justification for the use of torture, it seems best to err on the side of never accepting torture as a mechanism for obtaining information, Especially since it is unreliable (as John McCain demonstrates) and painful.

christine said...

I didn't really know where I stood on the issue of torture before I read the articles. I read Sam Harris' first and it convinced me that torture might be necessary under some circumstances. I had to look for emotion and language in that article with some other people and I realized that while Sam Harris made a lot of logical points, (like how killing from a distance is the same as killing upfront but different for us mentally), I also realized that the majority of his argument had emotion. He also used a lot of words that we connect suffering with like starved, blinded, orphaned, etc. Because I read Sam Harris' article first, I felt myself countering some of McCain's points on the issue. I tried to step back from my opinion and see both sides, and I knew McCain's argument was perfectly reasonable. Many people don't give accurate facts under torture, and he gave us a personal example using inductive reasoning. I'm still not sure where I stand.

Fred said...

I struggled a lot with emotion and logic. Emotionally, I am completely against war and torture. I think they are both extremely distubing, disgusting, inhumane and hypocritical. However, logically, I can understand that an attack warrants a counterattack, that in order to help people sometimes one does have to harm others, and that there are certain situations where whoever is in a position to be tortured really would deserve it and truly does not deserve respect or life. So I'm stuck.

However, I believe torture, if done, should be a very personal thing, like "you stole my daughter and you're slowly killing her", not "my government told me to". Also it should be honest. If one is going to torture someone, one should be prepared to live with oneself after the fact. One shouldn't have to bandy lies about it, like our ex-administration. Sorry. Getting a little political here. I'll go now.

A-Dog said...

I have to say that I disagreed with torture before and I still disagree with it now. I feel that there is never an instance where anyone should harm another person offensively when there are other means of obtaining a goal. Logically, I figure that the United States has some outstanding government organizations such as the FBI, NSA, etc.,so if a suspect or criminal doesn't cooperate we really should have the ability to get our job done without resorting to violence. If torture is the only way to get the answer we need, then we've really lost our touch. We've done it before, so there's no excuse for why we can't continue. I guess McCain's logical arguments really made me see torture in that light;as an excuse. Besides, he even pointed out that torture doesn't even result in reliable answers or sources. The way he described America and its values, I suppose affected me emotionally, making me become even that much more confident in the honorable and dignified practices which we've traditionally carried out (meaning those which didn't include torture).

annelise gilsdorf said...

I was challenged by both of these articles. For me, the language used in both was strong and had underlying connotations which I had a hard time dealing with. I honestly am very conflicted about where I stand when it comes to torture. These articles both had valid points. The logical premise for collateral damage was an interesting idea which dehumanized torture to make it sound less awful. However, then there is the counterclaim that logically shows that we shouldn't use torture. I definitely do not like the idea of torture but I wonder if that is where certain ethical principles might come into play. What about the one that calls for us to do what benefits the largest amount of people? So, in summation, I suppose that I'm just very confused. The logical and emotional WOK's are conflicting and making it really hard for me to determine what the right thing to do in this scenario would be.

the bee gee said...

Prior to reading the articles, I had generally thought that torture was unnecessary and outright inhumane. Ironically, I remember hearing or reading somewhere that it is actually quite a human thing, as no other creature on earth practices a willing mutilation of its own kind for the exclusive purpose of inflicting pain -- which has nothing to do with the questions I'm supposed to be answering...

After reading the two articles, I have been somewhat swayed into condoning torture under certain hypothetical circumstances (I hope to never have to condone it in a non-hypothetical circumstance). It was Sam Harris' argument that proved more convincing, which made me rethink the logic behind my earlier decision. I had before thought that no person should be purposefully tortured, even for the purposes of extracting information. I had accepted the premises that not being tortured is a human right, and that even terrible terrible people have human rights. However, the kidnapped daughter example Harris described made me consider the situation from a more personal and less objective view. He made me convince myself that the safety of my hypothetical daughter was a more important concern than maintaining the kidnapper's human rights. This lead to a change in my logic. I still accept the premise that not being tortured is a human right, but now believe that when one person jeopardizes another's human rights (e.g. kidnapping, murder, etc.) then the former has waived his own.

the bee gee said...

^^^
Braden G.