Repost: Thoughts on torture

I ran out of time for writing anything decent today, so here are some of my responses from the VP thread on torture:


In moral terms this is a simple topic. Torture is wrong, so don’t do it. People are talking about “saving lives” with it. What good is a life? At best, 70 years awake and 30 asleep. Saving a life is a temporary thing at best, and negligible in a moral calculation of action. Morality has nothing to do with results, somewhat to do with actions, and everything to do with what’s in a man’s heart (which produces those actions).


ScuzzaMan: “Just as it is fascinating to see how determinedly people WANT to believe in the good intentions of their governments, it is fascinating to see how hard they WANT to justify positions that are morally reprehensible and yet retain the image of themselves as moral people.”

I’m guessing you missed my more recent comment:

“In moral terms this is a simple topic. Torture is wrong, so don’t do it. People are talking about “saving lives” with it. What good is a life? At best, 70 years awake and 30 asleep. Saving a life is a temporary thing at best, and negligible in a moral calculation of action. Morality has nothing to do with results, somewhat to do with actions, and everything to do with what’s in a man’s heart (which produces those actions).”

I advocate against torture on moral grounds. I would not push the fat man in front of the trolley to save the other people, in the classic thought experiment, because murder is wrong. The fat man has committed no sin deserving justice.

In a more extreme example, let’s imagine we’re all living in hell, families and loved ones and all, and there’s a button that instantly turns it into a heavenly paradise, but God tells us not to push it. It is immoral to disobey God and push the button.

This situation is not far removed from the real-life tortures inflicted on the saints and their families who gave up their lives and loved ones, rather than renouncing their faiths. A utilitarian might balk that this is impractical, whereas I merely state it as fact.


Discard presents a more interesting line of inquiry:

>Why is torture wrong?

I don’t know. God is weird, but then he’s also wonderful and good (which is pretty neat), so I think we did okay on the whole.

>Is it always wrong or only sometimes wrong?

Always wrong, seemingly. God has never commanded anyone in recorded history to do so, and it seems unlikely that he will contrive a sufficiently impractical situation where, if I pray for guidance, he will send an angel to tell me to torture someone. In the first statement, I included the word “seemingly” only to account for this particular possibility.

>Is killing always wrong?

No, God has commanded people to kill other people many times.

>If killing is always wrong, then I can see how torture might also be always wrong.
>But if killing is sometimes not wrong, why is torture sometimes not wrong?

I don’t know. But I don’t know why the sky is blue, either, and I still believe it’s blue even on cloudy days. One might say this is a matter of perspective, but so is morality (God’s perspective).

>How is torture different from killing?

Torture is a very unpleasant sort of manipulation, with the intent of changing a person’s mind (in the philosophical sense) through its connection to the immediate desires of its body. Killing, on the other hand, severs that connection between the mind and body.


I’d like to head off complaints that I’m setting up an impossible standard, or setting myself up as some sort of moral authority or paragon. To the latter: this is mere theology. To the former: that’s what Christ’s blood is for.

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About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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6 Responses to Repost: Thoughts on torture

  1. automatthew says:

    Do as you would be done by. If I’m your enemy in war, or in the establishment of order, I’ll kill you when required, and you should similarly kill me. I won’t torture you, because I don’t want to be tortured. Death, as you say, comes to all men.

  2. Aspiekid says:

    In my hearth I agree with you, but as a christian I find it hard to object morally to torture since God himself seems to inflict eternal torture in hell. Also I wonder why Lucifer, supposedly the most smart and wise being ever created rebel, because:

    1. Humans only can believe, but angels know. So angels can’t doubt.
    2. Since God is omnipotent, victory against him is impossible.
    3. Eternal torment means the only choices are unpainful submission or agonising submission.

    Then, even from a selfish point of view seems absurd to rebel. The only answers I can guess are:

    1. The pride of Lucifer is so big that blinds even his uncomparable (among creatures) wisdom and intelligence. I can’t understand a pride like that, and doubt any human can.
    2. The rebellion was involuntary. This is very scary, because means that if you want to obey the will of God but you can’t, you are damned anyway.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >In my hearth I agree with you, but as a christian I find it hard to object morally to torture since God himself seems to inflict eternal torture in hell.

      This strikes me funny. God gets to do all sorts of things we don’t.

      The rest of the comment, requiring angelology, is presently beyond me. I don’t know much about that stuff.

  3. Heaviside says:

    >People are talking about “saving lives” with it. What good is a life? At best, 70 years awake and 30 asleep. Saving a life is a temporary thing at best, and negligible in a moral calculation of action.

    That’s the spirit!

    “We believe in dialectics, and so we can’t not be in favor of death.”

    “When 900 million are left out of 2.9 billion, several five-year plans can be developed for the total elimination of capitalism and for permanent peace. It is not a bad thing.”
    – Mao Zedong

    My grandfather gave me a glass pendant with Mao’s image in it. Wish I hadn’t cracked it.

    I don’t envy the Chinese over much, but at least they have thousands of years of history to reflect upon when considering future efforts in the advancement of socialism. We Americans don’t have that luxury.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >That’s the spirit!

      That you say this makes me nervous. Conversely, I intend to give myself a proper education in philosophy in 2016. This should make you happy to hear, yes?

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