I’ve posted here a few times about the legalities of torture. I’ve mentioned nothing about about the philosophical issues torture raises- perhaps that only refllects thirty odd years as a lawyer.
Last month The Philosphers’ Magazine website contained a piece in the Provocations section titled “Torture and Terror” by Michael LaBossiere. Having reviewed the evidence for and against the effectivemess of torture, he concludes:
“From a moral standpoint, if torture were to prove effective as a means of reducing terrorist activity then it could be argued that the use of torture is morally acceptable. The gist of the argument is that the moral harms of threatening and utilizing torture are outweighed by the moral consequences-namely a reduction in terrorist activity.
While this argument has a certain appeal, it faces three problems. First, it seems likely that adopting torture and the threat of torture as weapons would be morally harmful to the society in question. To see that this is likely, one needs to merely consider the nature of societies that have already embraced the use of torture. Second, the use of torture as a means of coercion and intimidation certainly seems to be a form of terrorism. As such, the reduction in one type of terrorism would be, ironically, offset by the increase in another. Third, terrorism is denounced as a moral evil and its alleged opponents, such as George Bush, seem to revel in claiming the moral high ground. However, a society that accepts the use of torture cannot claim the moral high ground-they are walking the same ground as the terrorists. Thus, it would seem that the use of torture is not morally acceptable.”
The entire article can be found here