Sunday, June 22, 2008

Torture-Directed Cruelty

Cruelty as I have regarded it below could be linked with sadism -- we get our jollies by making the other guy suffer. Much more in the news these days is directed cruelty, or torture. the administration, for example, deprecates the idea of torture -- except when its necessary. I don't stick the electrodes into you to amuse myself, it's only to save lives, to enable our side to win. This makes a fairly interesting moral issue -- the desirability of hurting some human beings in order to avoid having other human beings hurt. Usually these other people would be hurt more seriously, possibly killed -- or at least they would be on our side. This is a tough issue -- so it tends to get stepped around: The New York Times today had an article about the terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in which it turns out that a friendly interrogator got much more information out of him than some others who used "harsh" methods. The moral here is, torture isn't the most efficient way of getting information anyway, therefore we shouldn't torture. I wonder if this argument isn't often wishful thinking -- nobody likes to face the tricky tradeoffs involved in violence to stop violence!