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I'll be less vague because this interests me:

It is a use of force. Force may be used only in self-defense and only against those who initiate its use. This applies to physical force, not some vaporous notion of "mental force."

Given that, torture may not be used in certain situations (to gain a confession, against alleged criminals, against individuals who have not initiated force, against individuals who are not violating rights) because it has no self-defense value in these uses; but it may be used in certain other situations (against an individual who has initiated force in order to prevent a rights violation, against savages that hold someone's life in their hands, against rights violators that have information that will save a life) because it has a specific self-defense usage.

What do Objectivists think about that?

Peikoff suggested torture be used on Al-Qaeda members, for example, in order to give up information on bin Laden and other top terrorist leaders. [source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9sdQcwmdCs]

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Physical torture is of dubious value. A tortured person will say anything to make the pain stop. Intense interrogation techniques coupled with sleep deprivation and other "mental tortures" (as defined by amnesty international and bleeding hearts the world over) are much more reliable.

BTW if sleep deprivation is torture, been there, done that. :lol:

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I'm against the use of torture, full-stop. It has no self-defense value as far as I can see and so is merely sadism. As Zip alluded to, any "intelligence" you are likely to get from inflicting physical pain is going to be garbage - the only thing torture is really good for is securing a false confession, which is traditionally how it was used by, say, the Catholic Church.

What I always feel is lost in the torture debate is the effects on the people who inflict torture as part of their jobs, as well as those they torture. I think that when a person becomes accustomed to inflicting pain on a helpless person (because I don't think it can really be considered torture if the victim isn't bound or otherwise detained), they inevitably start to lose their humanity and become indifferent or, worse, hostile towards others. I don't want these people in my society. I don't want them "protecting" me.

The US should absolutely not torture any people we have detained, even terror suspects. Interrogation techniques are one thing but it should stop when it comes to physical pain or body damage (I am not, however, against the use of drugs like thiopental if it helps). We are better than that. It's one thing to kill a man. Sometimes that has to be done. But torture is another matter entirely. It is something done by brutes, not men. I lump those who justify torture into the "ends justify the means" camp of utilitarian thinking. What do you hope to accomplish in the way of protecting rights by destroying rights and the rule of law?

I may be labeled a "bleeding heart" for this but I don't care. It's something I feel strongly about. As for the scum we've caught who we know, for a fact, were involved in direct action against US citizens or plotting terrorist acts at the highest levels, get what you can out of them and then just shoot them. Don't make any fanfare about it, don't give their dogs another martyr, just take them out back, shoot 'em, and dump 'em. Problem solved.

I'll be less vague because this interests me:

It is a use of force. Force may be used only in self-defense and only against those who initiate its use. This applies to physical force, not some vaporous notion of "mental force."

Given that, torture may not be used in certain situations (to gain a confession, against alleged criminals, against individuals who have not initiated force, against individuals who are not violating rights) because it has no self-defense value in these uses; but it may be used in certain other situations (against an individual who has initiated force in order to prevent a rights violation, against savages that hold someone's life in their hands, against rights violators that have information that will save a life) because it has a specific self-defense usage.

What do Objectivists think about that?

Peikoff suggested torture be used on Al-Qaeda members, for example, in order to give up information on bin Laden and other top terrorist leaders. [source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9sdQcwmdCs]

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Physical torture is of dubious value. A tortured person will say anything to make the pain stop.

So, as long as what he's saying can be verified (like what's the address of the rest of your terror cell?), physical torture is not of dubious value at all. If a person being tortured will say anything to stop the pain, and it is clear that only the truth will stop the pain, then he is guaranteed to tell the truth.

(I do agree that in situations where a testimony isn't immediately verifiable, physical torture is pointless, and the techniques you describe are probably more useful.)

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What I always feel is lost in the torture debate is the effects on the people who inflict torture as part of their jobs, as well as those they torture. I think that when a person becomes accustomed to inflicting pain on a helpless person (because I don't think it can really be considered torture if the victim isn't bound or otherwise detained), they inevitably start to lose their humanity and become indifferent or, worse, hostile towards others. I don't want these people in my society. I don't want them "protecting" me.

It seems you're saying torture is bad in an absolute sense, no matter what. You can't assume anyone inflicting torture will always become psychologically harmed. Yes, I would say that the risk is very high, but it isn't a guarantee. I'm unsure if you're saying torture is bad when used against ANY person, or if you're saying torture should only be permitted on rights violators.

To me, torture (in all senses of the word), like all kinds of force, can only be morally permissible in response to initiation force. However, I think it's a waste of time except in the most specific circumstances and for specific sorts of information.

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Physical torture would include acts such as fingernail removal, reopening old scars, crushed glass in the eye, amputations, etc.

Mental torture would include sleep or sensory deprivation, pharmalogical torture, and listening to Vogon poetry.

I consider some atrocities, such as rape, to count as both.

I consider torture to be among the most terrible inventions of mankind. If we torture, we are stooping down to the level of our enemies, and we can lose our sense who we are. (Imagine if Batman went down to the Joker's level as Two-Face had in The Dark Knight).

However, if for example, thousands of lives are at stake, althogh I consider it to be immoral, torture may be necessary (as the lesser of two evils) to prevent the loss of life, and the best method for this would be mental.

Using evil to fight evil is itself evil.

Jake Ellison - for most fanatics, they would be willing to die for their cause in the hope of becoming seen as a martyr, rather than tell the truth. And many times, physical torture can lead to false answers. For example - when the Black Death was rampant, many people (especially Jews) were tortured into admitting that they cursed everyone else or started the plague with dark magic, etc.

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Jake Ellison - for most fanatics, they would be willing to die for their cause in the hope of becoming seen as a martyr, rather than tell the truth. And many times, physical torture can lead to false answers. For example - when the Black Death was rampant, many people (especially Jews) were tortured into admitting that they cursed everyone else or started the plague with dark magic, etc.

Look up the word verifiable.

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Physical torture is of dubious value. A tortured person will say anything to make the pain stop.

The problem with such assertions is there is no empirical evidence to back them up.

Yes, it makes sense that a totally innocent person would confess to terrible crimes in order to get the pain to stop. But would a guilty person make up fake crimes? Lying isn't easy, especially not qhen you're pressed for specific details. Lying requires a great deal of concentration and mental effort. That's hard to keep up under the stress of intense physical pain.

Intense interrogation techniques coupled with sleep deprivation and other "mental tortures" (as defined by amnesty international and bleeding hearts the world over) are much more reliable.

There are documented cases where police obtained confessions from innocent people using such methods. The principle is the same as that of physical torture. the subject just wants the torment to stop. Of course the integrity of such police officers is highly dubious.

I don't favor physical torture because it's a barbaric practice that hurts those who practice it as well as those who receive it. In short, I'm not willing to ask anyone to torture a suspect, no matter what the stakes.

As to bleeding hearts, some consider any offensive remark to be even worse than torture. I've heard people say seriously that throwing a Koran in the toilet is torture (I don't see how, no matter hos fanatical a Muslim can be). Yet for some reason dipping a crucifix in a vat of urine is not a means to torture Christians, go figure.

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There are ways to verify a torture subject is indeed telling the truth. One way is simply to guarantee worse punishment upon acting upon their misinformed testimony.

Another way which I have heard is considered effective is retrieving information that they don't think you know about, and seeing if they tell the truth. For example, if you knew the whereabouts of certain weapons then interrogating him on the matter and getting good results, would indicate he is cooperating.

Anyway, I'm fine with torture in the ticking time bomb scenario and when we know the person is indeed a guilty party and privy to intelligence. How often that ticking time bomb is actually in effect is questionable, though.

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However, if for example, thousands of lives are at stake, althogh I consider it to be immoral, torture may be necessary (as the lesser of two evils) to prevent the loss of life, and the best method for this would be mental.

And what if only one life were at stake? Would torture not be permissible to save one innocent life?

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The reason why savage countries torture individuals, for any reason related to finding out information or gaining intelligence, is to replace their minds with their brute hands. I don't accept torture ever, because if the idea is to gain intelligence on some matter important to national security, then the goal should be to use our minds to gather this intelligence. In no way will lowering ourselves to the brutish level of the person we're torturing help matters, and it will likely get confessions out of people that are false, and worse yet, will incite more hatred towards us. When we watch savages beheading American citizens on TV, it makes us angered and incite more force upon these types of individuals. This doesn't matter to them, because they're OK with dying. They're so propped up by religious propaganda that they have no fear of death. They want to die. When the savages hear of us acting savagely, though, it may bring about more violence and harm to American people or interests, and of course, we love our lives and fear death. The trade-off is not in our best interests.

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A couple of problems I have:

What do you hope to accomplish in the way of protecting rights by destroying rights and the rule of law?

What rights are being destroyed if the torture has a self-defense value? You have already said that you would be okay with just taking them out back and shooting them, so by your own admission, they are outlaws that can claim no rights to their own life. Why then would you be destroying their "rights" by torturing them?

What I always feel is lost in the torture debate is the effects on the people who inflict torture as part of their jobs, as well as those they torture. I think that when a person becomes accustomed to inflicting pain on a helpless person (because I don't think it can really be considered torture if the victim isn't bound or otherwise detained), they inevitably start to lose their humanity and become indifferent or, worse, hostile towards others.

This is not an argument against the ethics of self-defense. If it were my life, or the life of a loved one at stake, you can be absolutely certain that I would do a bit more than pouring water on someone's face. I would do it with complete moral conviction.

I don't want these people in my society.

Your society? Isn't this an incredibly collectivist statement?

I consider torture to be among the most terrible inventions of mankind. If we torture, we are stooping down to the level of our enemies, and we can lose our sense who we are. (Imagine if Batman went down to the Joker's level as Two-Face had in The Dark Knight).

The whole "we are no different than the terrorists if we torture" argument is completely rediculous argument for pacifism. I am not the one initiating acts of barbarism against people because they have not accepted the teachings of some witch doctor. I don't want to torture, I want peace. I want to be left alone. If you want to violate my rights however, I have a moral imperative to defend myself. If I have to torture you to save my life, or a life of someone that has value to me, or the life of someone I am protecting, then I also have a moral imperative to torture you if that will prevent it.

This is not "what makes us different from the terrorists" or "forgetting our sense of who we are" or "losing sight of our nation's principles," or whatever other pacifist slogan you can come up with. This is self-defense. What "makes us different" from fascist Muslims is that I did not initiate force, not what I do to defend myself from their violence.

And by the way, the actual point where I totally lost interest and became completely disgusted with The Dark Knight was when Batman decided he would rather let the heroine get blown up and let other innocent people die adhering to some completely pointless "principles" than force The Joker into giving up the information or rather than just killing him when he had the chance. That is complete altruism and you should know it.

However, if for example, thousands of lives are at stake, althogh I consider it to be immoral, torture may be necessary (as the lesser of two evils) to prevent the loss of life, and the best method for this would be mental.

Using evil to fight evil is itself evil.

This sounds like a Pragmatists' slogan to me and can be used by a mystic or a dictator to violate individual rights. There is no "using evil to fight evil" under Objectivist ethics.

Either it is a rights violation and you may not take that action, or it is not a rights violation and you may take that action. There is no agnosticism when it comes to good and evil.

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The reason why savage countries torture individuals, for any reason related to finding out information or gaining intelligence, is to replace their minds with their brute hands. I don't accept torture ever, because if the idea is to gain intelligence on some matter important to national security, then the goal should be to use our minds to gather this intelligence. In no way will lowering ourselves to the brutish level of the person we're torturing help matters

You don't explain why preventing a terrorist attack by coercing information out of a captured terrorist is immoral. Instead, you're spewing some metaphor about "lowering one-self to some undefined level" you picked up from some talking head. It is completely meaningless, irrational rhetoric.

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Every single discussion on torture I've ever seen suffered from a complete lack of context.

There is no intrinsic good so if torture is in support of life, then it is good, it is moral. In fact in certain situations (depending on the context) it might be morally obligatory, when considered for use by a member of the government.

We aren't talking about the kind of North Korean torture where we try to get someone to renounce their ideas. You don't torture someone unless you have some reason to think they know the answers to the questions you are asking. You operate as a police detective or scientist, you follow the evidence; along the lines of "reasonable search and seizure".

In this vein the following post is extremely prescient:

So, as long as what he's saying can be verified (like what's the address of the rest of your terror cell?), physical torture is not of dubious value at all. If a person being tortured will say anything to stop the pain, and it is clear that only the truth will stop the pain, then he is guaranteed to tell the truth.

(I do agree that in situations where a testimony isn't immediately verifiable, physical torture is pointless, and the techniques you describe are probably more useful.)

Of course the rest of the context that is missing from the discussion is: why should torture be necessary? Someone may be able to describe a legitimate hypothetical in which domestic torture might be necessary, but I doubt it. The only context I can think of in which torture might be necessary and proper is a war context.

And if we conducted a proper war to totally defeat our enemies, no torture would be needed.

Edited by Marc K.
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You don't explain why preventing a terrorist attack by coercing information out of a captured terrorist is immoral. Instead, you're spewing some metaphor about "lowering one-self to some undefined level" you picked up from some talking head. It is completely meaningless, irrational rhetoric.

As I said in my post, I think you're more likely to CAUSE a terrorist attack, not prevent one. Once your enemy learns you're torturing, you bring them up to a point of anger which they can never return from.

We use torture to get information out of somebody because there is no other way to gather it. We hear proponents of it being termed a "last resort." If this is so, and if you say coercing information out of somebody is the way we are to prevent a terrorist attack, then wouldn't you say that's a pretty clear indication that we have some very troubling holes in our intelligence community? Why can't we pick this information up? Why can't the legal CIA get information that illegal torture methods can? Simply put, if a nation is torturing, then there is something wrong with its utilizations of modern technology - technologies which come from the mind, and not brutal actions that stem from the barrel of a gun or the clenched fist of some mindless soldier.

In an objectivist government, nobody would torture. Their intelligence systems would be stellar enough that any information we'd need to gather would be sufficiently done so by those groups. They would understand that the people they're torturing have pathetic, useless minds, which will not give in to this kind of pain. They would understand that the irrationality of the Middle East, and of religion in general, is not something we can deal with. Self-defensive force, a rational foreign policy, and active intelligence communities would be enough to thwart any potential attacks.

And if we conducted a proper war to totally defeat our enemies, no torture would be needed.

This.

Edited by Andrew Grathwohl
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The reason why savage countries torture individuals, for any reason related to finding out information or gaining intelligence, is to replace their minds with their brute hands

Well, not always. Sometimes the "brute hand" is used as a result of the application of our reasoning in a specific context. War is a perfect example. When reasoning ceases to stop your attacker, brute force is the reasoned response.

Edited by RationalBiker
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As I said in my post, I think you're more likely to CAUSE a terrorist attack, not prevent one. Once your enemy learns you're torturing, you bring them up to a point of anger which they can never return from.

What's that psychological condition called? Never returnedness from a point of anger over bad thing America did?

Go ahead, point me to the relevant scientific literature that proves that condition exists. Or stop mentioning it, because it's more mindless, baseless rhetoric.

Simply put, if a nation is torturing, then there is something wrong with its utilizations of modern technology - technologies which come from the mind, and not brutal actions that stem from the barrel of a gun or the clenched fist of some mindless soldier.

Right. Technologies that turn the enemy sent to kill you into a peaceful state of bliss. We should replace all brutish guns and mindless soldiers with happiness cannon wielding pacifists right away. Where can I purchase that wonderful technology again?

This.

But you're against total war, remember?

Also, the word "This" adds nothing, so it's against the rules of the forum.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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As I said in my post, I think you're more likely to CAUSE a terrorist attack, not prevent one. Once your enemy learns you're torturing, you bring them up to a point of anger which they can never return from.

This is a groundless statement, it is complete supposition stemming from a leftist point of view. Evidence actually supports the opposite conclusion.

And if we conducted a proper war to totally defeat our enemies, no torture would be needed.

This is weird, you seem to be voicing agreement with me here but I get the impression that you and I have entirely different ideas about what our self-defense entails.

Self-defensive force, a rational foreign policy, and active intelligence communities would be enough to thwart any potential attacks.

I propose the destruction of our enemy's will to fight so that there are no "potential attacks" to thwart.

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Once your enemy learns you're torturing, you bring them up to a point of anger which they can never return from.

Once our enemy knows we won't convert to Islam it brings them to a point of anger from which there is no return. We're there.

Their intelligence systems would be stellar enough that any information we'd need to gather would be sufficiently done so by those groups.

Since you seem to state this as factual instead of speculative, how did you derive this conclusion?

Self-defensive force, a rational foreign policy, and active intelligence communities would be enough to thwart any potential attacks.

Again, how have you derived the conclusion of a future potential context with such certainty?

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Are there any specific examples where torture "worked", the information attained was positively verified, and was "necessary" as opposed to regular interrogation? And what are we saying qualifies as torture? Physical mutilation? Roughing up? Sleep/food deprivation? All three? Just the first 2? Or the first one?

I'd think that any enemy who really holds to their convictions, though, wouldn't confess positive information no matter what the torture, and an enemy who didn't hold quite so much to his convictions would eventually give up the info under regular interrogation.

Once a man is under police or military custody, away from the main battlefield, away from the emergency of "my life vs his life", I don't think it's necessary in any case to resort to torture. Once a man is physically in your custody, it becomes your reason vs his irrationality, not your scalpel and pincers to his nipples and testicles. And if one knows enough to ask certain questions in a round of torturing, one probably also knows enough to find out the rest or has the resources to find out the rest of the information.

Also, if you torture a prisoner, you would never know if it was effective until he gives the answer you were looking for and can verify as positive. And until he gives that answer, you either keep torturing until he dies, or until you get tired and stop completely (not stopping to start again later) under the assumption he knows nothing. And if you stop under the assumption he knows nothing, how do you come to that conclusion?

Edited by Chris.S
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Jake Ellison - Done. What is your point?

gags - If only one life were at stake, and torture were my only means, then it is absolutely permissible.

2046 - When did I say that I was a pacifist? I am not a war hawk either.

What truly makes us different from terrorists is that they operate through fear and violence alone, whereas we (non-terrorists) are not so limited. If we do not adhere to our principles and morality in all situations (I am not saying that we should offer terrorists cookies and milk), then they are not truly our principles or morality.

Did you watch The Dark Knight all the way through? Batman had already gotten the information from the Joker and was trying to save Rachel. When he abdicated his responsibility as Batman, he inadvertantly caused Rachel to be taken, and through her death, helped cause Harvey Dent's transformation into Two-Face. However, by the time of the interrogation scene, he had re-assumed his responsibility.

One of the most terrifying things about the Joker is that since he had no rules and does not fear pain nor death, Batman's stregnth had no effect on him during the interrogation. Quoth the Joker (to the best of my memory) "You have nothing... nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your stregnth. Don't worry, I'll tell you were she is. That's the point. You'll have to play the game."

To all - It is much easier and safer to win hearts and minds through psycological means than through violence. (I am not saying that violence is never permitted. It certainly is in self-defense or when lives are at stake). All wars are won by making the opposing side belive they cannot go on, whether or not they actually can. If we had put the full force of the United States into the war effort, Vietnam would have been won. However, from the Tet Offensive onwards, in most Americans' minds, the war was lost, and our society became disillusioned.

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All wars are won by making the opposing side belive they cannot go on, whether or not they actually can.

Whether or not they can go on is irrelevant when a death in service of your god is rewarded and you absolutely believe your enemy is the devil. We aren't talking about a war to take some land here or there, we're talking about a war in which the enemy hates who we are and everything we stand for. They don't want our country, they want our minds or our dead bodies.

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