6 October 2012

Harris on torture

In chapter six of The End of Faith, Sam Harris argues that torture is justified in any circumstance in which we would be willing to cause collateral damage. The argument goes that, barring an ideal world: armed conflict is sometimes necessary, armed conflict may inflict harm on non-combatants, and that harm may be as painful as torture techniques. If we accept this sequence, then we accept that torture is allowable. The context is unimportant; killing is an end without intent.

Earlier, he contrasts foreign offenses against us with our reaction to US soldiers in the My Lai massacre. Our actions are different because what distinguishes us from many of our enemies is that this indiscriminate violence appalls us. Ah. Here, context is important.

If soldiers torture and we revile them because of that, we are holding a higher moral ground. What then does it mean when torture is institutionalized and we don't revile that fact? To Sam Harris, it means we are intellectually honest. This is laughable.

[ posted by sstrader on 6 October 2012 at 12:20:57 AM in Culture & Society ]