Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
If I recall correctly, this was one of the provisions put forth by the Patriot Act - that the military can indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, on suspicion of terrorism without trial. Unfortunately, the bill itself is over 600 pages, so I am only able to go on what other people say is in this bill rather than report on what exactly is in it. But my main question here is why anyone would/could support something like this? We've brought up in class the idea of the State of Exception, but what exactly is the appeal? Certainly it can't be security, because the person is endangered now only only by whatever is threatening the nation, but also the nation itself. Back when the Patriot Act was a new thing, a lot of people were arguing if you weren't doing anything wrong, then there was nothing to worry about. However, you don't have to be doing anything wrong just be suspected of doing something wrong. So the American citizens are not made safer by such laws. Personal anecdote, in my High School had the scare of a school shooting. What happened was two students (Let's call them One and Two) were supposedly going to, according to police reports, "Snipe students from the trees with shotguns" and/or "Run through the school in a Nazi formation shooting students." If you have questions after reading that, you should. Student One and Two were the "scary goth" type, wearing chains and writing bad poetry, etc, etc. And apparently, Student Two told a student that he and Student One were plotting to shoot the school. All those who knew Student Two said he was a notorious liar. Anyway, the cops were involved and put Student One on house arrest while they searched for evidence (Reasonable.) However, after two years their lead piece of evidence was a drawing done by Student One of "two people standing back to back, shooting aliens," which the police deducted represented students. Student One was an amateur director and claimed that the picture was based on a film of his called Octoalien or something along that line. The Nazi running/shotgun sniping ws a speculation by the police. Was a two year detention (before any trial) while the police looked for evidence justified? Were we made safer or was this a gross example of someone's rights being trampled?
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011
In "Tortured Reasoning" Alan Dershowitz asserts that he believes that torturing is bad, but because people do it anyway he wants it to become more public by issuing torture warrants. In order to issue torture warrants, toroture would have to be legalized, which is impossible. To legalize torture, it would first have to be justified. But how do you justify something that is irrational? Torturing has been proven to be an unreliable method of obtaining information. When under duress the tortured will be willing to say anything for alleviation; therefore any information they give will be unreliable, and the practice of torture will have been irrational. Moral reasons will also prevent people from legalizing warrants. Do you think that it was Dershowitz plan to actually create torture warrants? -- which would be flawed by this logic that was presented today in class. Or do you think he suggested it with this falw in mind to emphaisize how torture is unjust?
I would like to bring up for our online discussion, what I already mentioned in class today. Personally, I have a really hard time understanding the merit of a discussion about torture after we learned that interrogational torture does not work. Of course, we can get engaged in a discussion about the morality and legality of torture, but I don‘t see the sense of it. Maybe, this is my fault and if so, please correct me. Nevertheless, it is a dictate of logic that a conclusion always has to be wrong if the premisses from which it was derived are wrong. In order to point that out clearly, I would like to give an example from our daily lives. In the last couple of weeks, I saw you guys working on your schedules for the spring semester. You decide what classes you want to take on the base of your interests and of what your major tells you to choose. Hence, there has to be some kind of information about the content of the classes and how you can count them. Based on these information, you finally choose your classes and with a little help of luck, you get them. But what if these information that you needed to make your decision were just wrong? Let‘s imagine, the syllabus of a class will be changed dramatically so that you cannot count that class anymore as the one that you need. Clearly, it makes no sense anymore to take that class.
Talking about the morality of torture by using the argument of necessity is analog to this example, because it is simply a logic fallacy to use a technique that causes wrong information (if it causes information at all) in order to get right information.
Additionally, Dershowitz‘ argument that we have to legalize it in order to make people aware of the immorality of torture does not convince me as well. Granted, it could be a practical way of preventing people from doing the actual act of torturing but that must not be the goal of a philosophical approach about torture. It could be a political one yes, but not a philosophical, but even here, as Tommy already pointed out in class, it is actually not a matter of laws, for torture is already illegal. It is more a matter of the enforcement of existing laws. Hence, rather than making this practical approach, we ought maybe think about, what kind of morality stands behind these actions.
I‘m curios to read your answers!
I found an article that discussed a conversation between Carl Schmitt, associated with the “state of exception” concept, and a man named Walter Benjamin. Benjamin stated:
“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of exception” in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which reflects this. Then it will become clear that our mission is the introduction of a genuine state of exception; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will benefit from it. Fascism has a shot in part because its opponents, in the name of progress, treat it as a historical phenomenon.—But the astonishment that what we are experiencing is “still possible” in the twentieth century is not a philosophical reaction. It is not the beginning of recognition, unless by recognition we mean that the conception of history on which it rests is unsustainable.”
–Walter Benjamin, Über den Begriff der Geschichte: VIII. geschichtshistorische These (1940) in: Gesammelte Schriften, vol. I/2, p. 697 (S.H. transl.)
We can see from this statement the importance of carefully examining our history and the validity of the state of exception to see if it has become the rule. In becoming the rule the government would be taking advantage of this “state of exception” and allowing a totalitarian rule to form. The article draws a parallel to America after 9/11 in which parts of the Constitution were suspended by the president as a precautionary measure which is something we discussed in class (with the airport situation and violation of people’s privacy).
I think it would definitely be important to consider this idea because it has been seen throughout history that people often take advantage of power, and eventually dictatorship and complete government control occurs. Although I am not sure we will see a Julius Caesar or even a Hitler in our time again, the possibility is always there. Of course after a tragedy such as 9/11 happens, the government is justified in wanting to help protect the people from any further harm, but who is to say that the government will not continue to invade people’s privacy and their rights? When is the right time to end the “state of exception” and bring back those rights given by the Constitution?
This idea can also apply to our discussion of torture. If we allow one state of exception for one instance of torture then we are giving people the notion that torture is sometimes okay. This cannot work in such an extreme violation of human rights. Once it is justified one time then it would surely become justified at other times and could lead to much worse conditions. Torture needs to be accepted as always wrong and not sometimes justified based on what people think; Varying people have different ideas of what could be warranted and, as humans are flawed, so would the system which establishes when torture is justifiable.
Here’s the article if you want to check it out. I thought it was pretty interesting.
At home it is called spanking, in the court systems it is termed corporal punishment, and in schools it is known as the “board of education.” These are the closest terms to what the majority of us have come to know as torture. But is it really torture? According to Dr. J, the first fact about torture is “torture does not ‘work’.” I may speak for myself, but for me, spanking did work and it was probably one of the most effective means to get me to behave. I may be the exception child, but I did not receive very many spankings. This was because the threat of a spanking from my parents was enough to be considered punishment for me. If a threat was said I would be sneakily running away from all adults present. I figured if I was out of sight, I would be out of mind; therefore, no spanking was necessary. I was still caught a couple of times and got a spanking; however, despite this horrific event, every year when I go to the doctor they have yet to tell me that I have chronic damage or a psychological problem as a result of my childhood. I am not suggesting that spanking is the only effective punishment for children. Like all cases, every child is different and responds differently to different punishments. In fact, certain school districts are bringing back the “board of education,” or the paddle.
In this article, it says that parents are requesting the school to swat their children. It is used most often in high schools than in elementary schools. Do you think this is an effective punishment? Spanking is a form of punishment that is used to condition individuals into learning what is right and what is wrong.
Comparing spankings to torture, they are two completely different things. Torturing an individual is a dehumanizing act for the torturer and the tortured, and it is not meant to teach an individual. Initially when presented with the idea of torture, it is seen as a necessary evil that falls in the gray area of right and wrong. The ticking time bomb case is what usually ends up coming to mind when I think of torture – you have 2 hours to find where the bomb is planted and to save millions of lives. It is hard to say that torture does not work, because if torture does not work, what does work? Are we to stand with our hands in our pockets? It is hard to comprehend the idea that we can do nothing and that we must wait to experience the worst.
Initially in class, I thought torture was an effective means to receive information, and it is hard to comprehend that it unconditionally wrong in every circumstance. A rational law cannot be created deeming torture to be legal because that would make it not only legal for the government but also for every individual in America. A form of torture is rape, and by legalizing torture you would be creating a higher law that would be legalizing rape. You cannot put a conditional statement to legalize rape. This rationing makes me think of legalizing torture in a black and white way. Torture is inconsistent with previously established laws, and to deem it legal would be to undermine other laws. Do you agree with this rationing?
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Many aspects of Kant’s philosophy can be used as arguments against torture. Firstly, it does not fit in with the categorical imperative which Kant says is, “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it becomes a universal law” (31). No rational person could will that torture should become a universal law. Someone may be okay with his or her enemies being tortured. However, if torture were turned on his or her friends or self, as it could be if it were a universal law, he or she would decry torture as awful and no longer be in favor of it.
Secondly, torture involves using people as means as opposed to ends. When a person is being tortured, he or she is being used as a means to a different end, whether it be so the torturer can get information, punishment, or the torturer’s enjoyment. With regards to torture, a person’s own faculties and feelings are used satisfy the will of the torturer. This point is made in David Sussman’s essay “What’s Wrong with Torture” when Sussman calls torture a “kind of forced self-betrayal” (4). Sussman describes torture this way because the torturer, by his actions, manipulates the victim’s own physical and mental feelings to make the victim feel extreme pain and accomplish whatever the torturer wants to accomplish. In this case, a person’s “affects and emotions,” which are arguably what defines his person, are used as a means to his own pain instead of ends.
Also, Kant would say that torture is wrong as it is a form of coercion which would be unacceptable. Kant says, “If a certain use of freedom is itself a hindrance to freedom according to universal law (that is, is unjust), then the use of coercion to counteract it, inasmuch as it is the prevention of a hindrance of freedom, is consistent with freedom according to universal laws” (152). Coercion is acceptable if it prevents a hindrance of a freedom, but in the case of torture, coercion is not acceptable because it does not necessarily succeed in stopping an injustice. If a person is tortured so he will give up information, it is not guaranteed that torture will actually lead to uncovering information. Also, torture cannot stop a future injustice from occurring because if a person is torturing another, according to Sussman, the torturer has asymmetrical power over the victim and can therefore prevent the victim from doing something without necessarily employing torture.
Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge UP, 1997. Print.
Westphal, Jonathan, ed. Justice. Hackett, 1996. Print.
Sussman, David. "What's Wrong with Torture." Philosophy and Public Affairs 33.1 (2005).