The Ethics of Torture Essay

The Ethics of Torture Essay

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The institution of torture has been in existence for quite sometime; however, it was not always seen as an ethical question. In antiquity, the Romans employed something known as “the cat-of-nine-tails,” which was a flogging instrument with nine sharp ends. However, the use of torture was not confined to the West, the Chinese utilized “bamboo sticks to beat people.” During antiquity, torture was used as a punishment, but during the Spanish Inquisition, this notion of torture evolved to a means to extract withheld information. Today torture is unofficially used to extract information; however, it is officially illegal according to the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions. Nonetheless, the issue of legality and morality are different and separate issues; therefore, is the institution of torture ethical? In short, torture is not ethical in any circumstance. Actions, such as torture, cannot be broken down into specific situations in which one situation is ethical and another is not. The action is what matters in morality, not the consequence. In addition, torture fails the all three formulations of the Categorical Imperative.
Many people are hesitant of torture; however, state that torture is only acceptable under certain scenarios. Some hold that torture is morally permissible under certain distinct situations. For example, say Al Qaeda has installed a nuclear explosive in London, and set it to go off in a mere two hours. Thankfully, this cell of Al Qaeda has been flagged by law enforcement, and is under intense outside supervision. Law enforcement has a strong suspicion that a nuclear attack in about to happen. Therefore, they round up one of the members of the London cell, knowing that he has planned...


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...he only determining factor is the consequence that would come from the act. However, an acts’ decency does not originate in its consequences, but from the act itself. Therefore, one is forced to look at the totality of an act in order to judge its morality. Torture fails all three formations of Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative and therefore humans have a duty not to torture. Torture cannot be made a universal, because that may lead to a society of tortures. Torture does not respect human dignity, but sees humans as a tool in on a tool belt. Torture inherent nature of pain would lead people to avoid it; consequently, the average person would not want it done to them. Therefore, torture cannot be broken down into situational bouts of ethical and unethical situations. Meaning that it is always unethical and humans have a duty not to torture their fellow human.

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