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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 23, 2007

International Law and Justice

Matthew R. Silliman, David Kenneth Johnson
Pages 211-222
DOI: 10.5840/socphiltoday20072314

Tortured Ethics

This dialogue discusses a proposal for the legalization of torture under specific circumstances and contrasts it with arguments for a total ban on torture. We consider three types of objection: first, that the difficulty of having adequate knowledge renders the stock “ticking bomb” scenario such a low-probability hypothetical as to present no realistic threat to a policy banning all torture; second, that empirically the information gleaned from torture is so unlikely to be reliable that it could not justify the moral risk; and third, that sanctioning torture, even if only under the most extreme circumstances, would generate a ‘culture of torture,’ hence undermining fragile advances in international human rights rooted in unwavering commitment to human dignity. Compelling as these arguments appear, not all the conversants are wholly convinced by them; to this extent the dialogue ends aporetically.

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