Amph Zero Dark Thirty

Discussion in 'Community' started by Adam of Nuchtern, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    But as I noted previously, the torture in this case has the instrumental value of saving the child. Murder doesn't. You can argue that the torture only might save the child(though, as I've said, I think that's a rather ludicrous proposition in this case), but I think even that argument displays a perverse attitude that I simply find impossible to adopt or truly justify: That torture is so evil that utilizing it even as a desperate, last-ditch attempt to save a dying infant is completely and totally indefensible and abhorrent.
  2. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    There are plenty of things that could conceivably be of some benefit in some circumstances. That doesn't make them right.
  3. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    I don't think torture is "right", just like I don't think petty theft and trespassing are right. But just like they are mitigating circumstances that make the latter two ethically justifiable, there are circumstances where the former can be construed to be as well. And by the way, I'm not deploying any of these arguments with relish. I would be perfectly happy to be unequivocally "against torture" in every conceivable circumstance. But I find that I cannot be whilst remaining intellectually honest.
  4. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 7
    I'm not trying to be snotty. I'm genuinely interested to hear your answer. Is there anything, as far as you're concerned, that is simply ethically and morally wrong, no matter the circumstance? Or is everything subject to the "mitigating circumstances" philosophy?
  5. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Child abuse and bigotry come immediately to mind.
  6. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    This is incredibly confusing, Condition. First, you present a utilitarian view of the ethics of torture, suggesting that torture is morally okay in the instance where the life of the child was saved. Since that line of argumentation didn't work, you're now presenting a Kantian view regarding the intentions of the torturer? Am I to expect a Virtue Ethics point once this fails?

    Determining the ethics of torture have absolutely nothing to do with what you're allowing yourself and you're allowing others. While I'm certainly glad that you're distancing yourself from a protagonist-centered morality, you're actually going all the way to the other end of the spectrum by suggesting that just because you, in a situation where your rationality is compromised, would do the morally incorrect thing, it suddenly isn't morally incorrect for anyone else to do. I'm hoping that you're simply a victim of poor wording, because to suggest that X isn't immoral for anyone to do simply because you decided to do X is ridiculous.
  7. AAAAAH Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2012
    star 4
    can't wait for this zero darks thrity
  8. Adam of Nuchtern Force Ghost

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    Sep 2, 2012
    star 4
  9. AAAAAH Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2012
    star 4
    yes! zero dark thristy!

    so close to bin ladens, no matter how far!
    Last edited by AAAAAH, Dec 14, 2012
    Rogue1-and-a-half likes this.
  10. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Didn't work? Nobody has yet sufficiently demonstrated that torture was unethical in this case. When I admitted my wording was clumsy, it was because you apparently drew the conclusion that the sum of my position was that if someone ever finds themselves sympathetic to torture in an extenuating circumstance, then it is by definition ethical. That is what I was retreating from. I have not retreated from my utilitarian justification of torture, nor have I yet heard any sufficient rebuttal to it.

    As I just said, I agree. Since we both agree this is irrelevant to the ethical status of the torture, please rebut the actual substance of my argument, which is that we know the suspect stole the car, we know the child will die if it is not found quickly, and there is a good chance--regardless of how much you want to quibble about how good the chance is--that by torturing the suspect, we can save the child, and perhaps most importantly, this option is the only hope of our saving the child.

    This simply begs the question of whether torture is, in fact, the morally incorrect thing to do. You have done nothing but declare by fiat that it is; torture is wrong because torture is wrong. As I invited you to do so in my last post, if you can truly say that you were to find yourself in the position of the parent in this scenario that you would absolutely would not torture the suspect because of ethical scruples, then you are being at least logically consistent and I can't quibble with the internal logic of your position. That's your prerogative. And it's subsequently my prerogative to find your ethical priorities to be askew in a way that I simply cannot understand, and there's nothing we can do but agree to disagree at that point.
  11. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    I think the rest of us thought it was pretty well demonstrated by the time they decided to beat an unarmed person who was already in custody and at their mercy.
  12. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

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    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Found a pretty good piece seems to elucidate my own position on this matter pretty clearly.
  13. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    Condition, I like how you completely sidestepped my observation that you're switching between ethical theories with no rhyme or reason.

    Nobody has yet sufficiently demonstrated that torture was unethical in this case.

    Wocky has that one covered.

    I have not retreated from my utilitarian justification of torture, nor have I yet heard any sufficient rebuttal to it.

    Then why the sudden switch to Kantian ethics? Are you simply throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks?

    As I just said, I agree. Since we both agree this is irrelevant to the ethical status of the torture, please rebut the actual substance of my argument

    Then why are you constantly bringing it up? You brought up about what you're allowed to do and what you're allowing others to do.

    and there is a good chance--regardless of how much you want to quibble about how good the chance is--that by torturing the suspect, we can save the child, and perhaps most importantly, this option is the only hope of our saving the child.

    1) You don't know this.
    2) Even if you did, you don't just get to declare that torturing is morally okay just because you believe it needs to be done to save someone. That's not have ethics works. That's practically the definition of protagonist-centered morality. "I NEEDED to do this act therefore this act is now morally okay." No, it's not. The morality of something is NOT a function of whether you think you need to do this for some benefit.

    You have done nothing but declare by fiat that it is; torture is wrong because torture is wrong. As I invited you to do so in my last post, if you can truly say that you were to find yourself in the position of the parent in this scenario that you would absolutely would not torture the suspect because of ethical scruples, then you are being at least logically consistent and I can't quibble with the internal logic of your position.

    If I were to torture someone, then I would be morally incorrect to do so. I could not just stand here and say "well it was the only way to save my child so I am morally correct." No, I'd still be morally wrong for doing this. This is because I do not live in a world of protagonist centered morality, where what I do is correct because I am the one doing it. The morality of it simply has nothing to do with whether I do it or not. Hint: it's possible for you do to something and determine that what you did was wrong, even if you gain something from it (your child's life).
    Last edited by Lord Vivec, Dec 14, 2012
  14. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Vivec, I'm neither impressed nor intimidated by your brandishing of formal nomenclature for ethical approaches nor does pointing out that my argument incorporates different ones suffice as an actual rebuttal. The fact that you have to resort to this to respond to my rather obvious and direct questions speaks volumes.

    Yeah, sure.

    Why was it wrong?
    Because they tortured him
    Why is torture wrong from a utilitarian ethics point of view?
    Because torture is wrong
    Why is torture wrong?
    Because torture is wrong.

    Of course, you do say as much yourself, "If I were to torture someone, then I would be morally incorrect to do so". Again, you have done nothing but declare by fiat that torture is wrong. If your argument is ultimately going to rest on such a facile tautology, please spare us from having to read any other superfluous argumentation.
  15. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    Vivec, I'm neither impressed nor intimidated by your brandishing of formal nomenclature for ethical approaches.

    I wasn't aware there was anything else to call them but their formal names. If you'd like to present alternatives, I'll take a look.
  16. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Well part of this, on our part, is the same confusion that Vivec has tried to address. His use of formal terminology was not meant to "impress" anyone. Instead, he was trying to describe the reality of your posts in these threads. If we keep reverting to the same refrain, it seems as if you keep shifting about wildly. It doesn't like discussing whether torture is ethical or unethical as simply trying to find an ethical framework where torture may be allowable. If we were clear about how you considered these issues, we could either say talk about your reasoning or about your starting assumptions. But it's hard to do either at the moment.

    Fundamentally, I also don't see what either these "what if you ended up torturing someone once" and "one time a guy got tortured and his torturers got what they wanted" stories are supposed to demonstrate.
  17. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Fair enough, let me try to be as explicit as possible then.

    My "support" for torture(a grotesque and misleading, but inevitable and I suppose accurate locution) is utilitarian in nature. Indeed, based on that framework, it seems difficult to justify not torturing the person.

    The issue of "intentions" arose because of a clumsy post I made in response to Vivec's first post. He gleaned from my post that I was arguing that as long as someone has good intentions when they do something, then it is ethical. I neither believe this nor is that what I meant to convey. I meant to convey that I think such smug, unequivocal dismissal of torture in any circumstance betrays a sort of willful lack of curiosity regarding scenarios that could challenge one's ethical beliefs("I'm a good person. Of course I think torture is always wrong!"), and I made the challenge under the assumption that Vivec would actually agree that torture is a reasonable option in this circumstance. Frankly, I would hope he does, and I would find his rationale perfectly sound. If he doesn't I am interested to know why he thinks torture is wrong in this instance, and no, saying that it's wrong because it's wrong is not a sound answer.

    Which ties directly into your last point and the article I posted. When I first asked what was wrong with the use of torture in this instance, I was met with a barrage of empirical arguments by Rogue and Sai regarding the efficacy of torture. This was entirely nonsensical, because in this instance, torture empirically worked. Period. Any misgivings about the inevitable amount of false positives, along with any other concerns, were and are entirely irrelevant. The article I posted explicates the nonsensical nature of this coupling between the moral argument against torture and the pragmatic argument against torture pretty well. Nobody in this thread has demonstrated that it was in principle ethically wrong to torture the car thief, or would be, in principle wrong to torture someone whom we knew beyond a reasonable doubt had operational knowledge of an imminent nuclear terrorist attack.
  18. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    I don't see how either your article or your earlier discussion really negate Ender's point. Saying that something "Empirically" worked in a single instance doesn't really have any meaning. There's no way to tell if the outcome is wholly serendipitous and disconnected from the intervention you thought you made, or whether that outcome could have been reach through alternative means. It is just a "post hoc ergo propter hoc" style proposition. Ramesses II outlived modern life expectancies, but that doesn't mean it makes sense to talk about his biography as empirically proving that constant soldiering and eschewing 21st century medicine "works" to give one a long life. It's just something that happened.

    The question is not whether torture can sometimes yield positive results. Most anything can "sometimes" work. The technique is poor quality, and doesn't yield reliable results. There's not really a circumstance where, even from a coldly practical point of view, it makes sense to try and use poor quality techniques for interviewing a subject.
  19. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 5, 2012
    star 4
    Again you are conflating the pragmatic and moral arguments, but even still, pragmatically, it is attendant in both the car thief scenario and a ticking bomb scenario that there is a temporal deadline one is up against. Appeals to other more humane techniques that "might" yield the intelligence down the line are meaningless. In this instance, a poor quality technique is better than no technique at all when it's the only one on the table.

    This is so silly I wasn't going to respond, but I will just to inoculate myself against the later charge that I "ignored" this argument. How were they able to find the car? Because the thief told them where it was. Why did he tell them where the car was? Because he was being tortured. Are you seriously arguing there wasn't a direct nexus here? Dogmatically refraining from torture to prevent a death when we know that someone has the desired information seems obscene to me, and even the notion that we shouldn't because the suspect "might lie" seems an absurd misallocation of moral culpability. In this case, though the suspect has the pertinent information, he is withholding it and forcing his captors to choose between two awesome evils: to either let the child die or torture him in a desperate act to extract the information.
  20. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    The serendipity is not that they found the car, but that the he told them where the car. You don't have any reason to say that torture caused, because studies have shown misinformation is often given.
  21. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8


    I've not conflated arguments in the last post, because I didn't even make any moral arguments. I simply made a nod to their existence in a single dependent clause. But let's examine this claim for a second. You said there was a twenty minute window before brain damage during which active interview occurred. They successfully located and retrieved the child before this was expired. They also tortured the suspect during this period. This went on so long he was semi-conscious by the end of it. Exactly how thoroughly could all these other techniques have been tried, in light of this? Further, how is this the "only" option on the table? If you're arguing that we could just use any number of poor quality techniques, there's a ready, and near endless supply. They could have prayed to any number of deities that he be compelled to tell them. They could have tried offering to let him go completely free. They could have paid him a ransom in small, unmarked bills in exchange for the child's location. They could have tried intoxicating him with various illegal drugs, and hoping that in his altered mental state he would let the location slip. They could have had a female police officer enter in a state of undress and try to seduce him into revealing the information.

    All of these techniques have "worked" before on one occasion or another. They are also all stupid. But so is torture. So why are you arbitrarily picking it as the most preferred low quality method over all these others?

    Vivec has covered this. But to reinforce the point, let's just return to the parameters of the scenario you described. They had twenty minutes. If the guy had lied, the kid would be dead. And he would be dead as a direct result of their decision to act on a interview method that is known to be poor quality. That's not really something you can hand-wave away.

    Also, may I just comment on the atrociousness of your other article? They tortured a guy when there was no suggestion the kid was in any imminent danger that required rapid response. What they in fact found was a long dead corpse. How does this meet even the weak standard you are trying to offer for excusable incidents of torture?
  22. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    I just watched another Kathryn Bigelow movie recently, Strange Days with Ralph Fiennes. If Zero Dark Thirty is anything like that movie....ummmmm.....well....
    Uhhh....
  23. AAAAAH Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2012
    star 4
    that movie is not very good. hurt locker would probably be a better point of reference.

    that or point break. YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
  24. Rogue_Ten Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 18, 2002
    star 6
    has anyone made a katheryn bigelow: male gigolo joke itt yet?

    no? you're welcome.
  25. AAAAAH Jedi Grand Master

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    Nov 8, 2012
    star 4
    good one, rouge tan!