How did we end up discussing torture on Christmas Eve?
Sorry about that.
Here is a stimulating comment by Zoebrain in the “Zero Dark Thirty” torture thread. I’m especially fond of it, because as theoretical and probably impossible as her resolution would be in practice, it neatly addresses the central problem conflict in the “torture is an absolute wrong but you might have to use it to save the world” scenarios, like the familiar “ticking bomb” hypothetical. In her analysis. one violates the absolute rule, but accepts a proportional penalty for doing so.
I advocate a similar approach in legal ethics in situations where a lawyer decides as a matter of personal conscience that he or she must violate core legal ethics values, like keeping the confidences of a client, in furtherance of a higher objective not recognized be the Rules of Professional Conduct, such as keeping a serial killer from going free.
Here is Zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Bob Asks: “Did Torture Lead Us To Bin Laden”? My Answer: “So What If It Did? It Was Still Wrong.”
“Taking the “ticking bomb” scenario – and torture alas does work sometimes in getting time-critical information…Torturers should be subject to condign punishment.
“If the only way to stop a nuke going off, killing millions, was for me to torture someone, I’d do it. I’d then insist that I be executed. Only by such drastic punishment can we be certain that we are acting in the least unethical manner possible. If it’s not worth dying for, doing it is more wrong than not doing it.”
I’m pretty sure Jack Bauer (“24”) would not agree.