Monday, February 15, 2010

Opposition for the sake of proposition

In the comboxes, some have implied that taking a stand against torture makes one anti-American, pacifist, pro-terrorist, pro-abortion, and so on.

I expect that those who have studied Aristotelian logic will understand that these conclusions do not follow. To those who have not, I recommend starting with the Square of Opposition.

In any case, it seems to me that there are a few main accusations being made here. Others (such as Red and Mark and Tom and Zippy) have pointed this out before, but I think a reminder is not uncalled for.

  1. Guilt by association - The implication is that because many so-called liberals with pacifist or pro-abortion views also set themselves against U.S. policies of torture, that we also must be taking on the entire spectrum of liberal views and advocating against such basic Catholic teachings as the inviolability of human life.
  2. Supporting the terrorists - Because we refuse to support the torture of prisoners, this is said to imply that we are willing to permit terrorists free access to our country, to our persons, and to our property; perhaps we are even supportive of the terrorists' goals and hope for more attacks. After all, torture is seen to be a necessary weapon in this "new kind of war."
  3. Hatred for America - The U.S. government has approved these techniques, and therefore to criticize them is to take a stand against the U.S.A.
  4. It's not really torture anyway - The claim is that we have defined "torture" in too broad or open a manner, so that government and military forces are denied the necessary tools to do their job without being constantly accused of "torturing" someone.

However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, supported by other papal and magisterial documents, condemns torture in every case.

So, I would answer that we stand against torture, not as if it were some isolated policy decision, but because it is contrary to the good of the human person, both individually and socially. The United Nations defines torture as

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. (UN Convention against Torture)

Moreover, Article 2.2 of the same document notes that

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

Since the United States of America is a signatory to this convention, it's reasonable to say that the U.S. government, and the U.S. as a whole nation, holds itself to the standards expressed here.

The Catholic Church describes torture in a similar manner, and provides similar prohibitions in its Catechism (as noted on this blog's sidebar). So any Catholic, whether American or not, must stand by these principles both personally and as a church body.

Both the Catholic Church and the UN Convention base this prohibition on the idea of the dignity of the human person. This dignity is understood as a principle of natural law, and therefore applies to every human person under any condition or situation.

The notion of human dignity insists that every human person, simply by the fact of being alive, has the power to think and choose and act, has a value greater than any property, and therefore has the right to exercise these powers and to be treated with respect by others.

Torture is prohibited exactly because the suffering it imposes directly attacks a person's inherent value as well as their powers of thought and choice.

As to the specific allegations:

  1. Guilt by association - Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. It makes no sense to disagree with someone when he or she is right simply because most of the time he or she is wrong.
  2. Supporting the terrorists - The foundation of this argument is that torture is necessary to prosecute terrorists or to defend the country against terrorism. But all research to date demonstrates {PDF} that torture is completely unreliable as a form of interrogation or intelligence-gathering. For example, torture has not led us to the capture of Osama bin Laden. Moreover, other methods of pursuing terrorists and defending the country seem to be sufficient.
  3. Hatred for America - The U.S. has itself signed the UN Convention against Torture, so taking a stand against torture cannot be taken as an anti-American position. Moreover, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to speak freely on matters of political and social importance, including critique of government policies.
  4. It's not really torture anyway - This site has consistently taken definitions and descriptions of torture from published and authoritative sources. It has provided first-hand accounts that particular techniques, such as waterboarding, constitute "severe pain and suffering" and thus meet the definition.

In short, we are only anti-torture because we are pro-life, pro-America, pro-human dignity.

52 comments:

  1. "# It's not really torture anyway - This site has consistently taken definitions and descriptions of torture from published and authoritative sources. It has provided first-hand accounts that particular techniques, such as waterboarding, constitute "severe pain and suffering" and thus meet the definition."

    Definitions and descriptions leave out context. Without context, it's not possible to understand whether an act is proscribed or not. Just because an act intends severe pain and suffering doesn't make it an evil. As I just wrote elsewhere at enhanced parenting:

    if a strong man is strangling me, I can jamb my thumbs in his neck to cause as much pain as possible or I can even jamb my thumbs in his eyes to rip out his eyes in order to coerce his will to cease desiring to strangle me. Actions which would qualify as torture objectively looking solely at the acts sans context.

    I've only briefly looked over your site, but I didn't find much in the way of context.

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  2. @love the girls:

    Definitions and descriptions leave out context. Without context, it's not possible to understand whether an act is proscribed or not. Just because an act intends severe pain and suffering doesn't make it an evil.

    Right you are. Sort of.

    Saying, "an act which intends severe pain" is a problematic way of putting the matter. This is because intentions are important to the discussion. The UN definition of torture has the significant phrase, "for such purposes as etc." and the Catechism says torture "uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred" (emphasis added).

    The purpose, the object of the act, is what defines any moral action.

    So, yes, context matters. An act of legitimate self-defense, in a moment of helpless combat, where you can only remove yourself from direct harm by doing harm to the aggressor, is a whole other bag of chips. The moral action of the individual here constitutes a whole different act: the object is different. Pressing your thumbs into the eye sockets of an aggressor is different than pressing your thumbs into the eye sockets of your misbehaved toddler or from pressing your thumbs into the eye sockets of a captured terrorist tied to a chair.

    Welcome to the site, I'm glad you're here to engage the debate. But the acknowledgment that the object of the act defines the act is not really wanting if you read through the posts a little more carefully. The terminology might not be "context," but I think we're talking about much the same thing.

    If, on the other hand, we're talking about circumstances, then that's another matter - one that does not condition the act per se, and one which would be non-analogous with the situation you propose. Pressing thumbs into a criminal in the course of an attack is a different act altogether; it's not circumstances that make it so, it's the essentials of the whole scenario - the one is actively accosting and proposing a clear and immediate threat. Circumstances might be whether this happens in a dark alley or in a public park, whether he has reasons for what he's doing or is just maniacal, etc.

    Now take the notion of a terrorist tied to a chair: pressing your thumbs into HIS eyes is the same act, just as the above is the same act, in all circumstances. He is helpless to defend himself, and you are hurting him as a means to a less immediate end. Sundry circumstances, from a ticking time bomb on a train to a family kidnapped, do not alter the object of the specific act in question.

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  3. Yeah, what @Joey G. said. ;-)

    Seriously, @love the girls, I think you're spot on - and this maybe gets to the heart of the reason some Catholics think that torture falls into a "doubtful" category in moral theory. I think they confuse it with the "double-effect" reasoning that goes into self-defense and just war theory.

    Anyway, the short answer is: torture isn't about how painful something is (though that's one factor); essentially, torture is about attacking a person's dignity.

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  4. Joey G. writes : "Pressing your thumbs into the eye sockets of an aggressor is different . . . from pressing your thumbs into the eye sockets of a captured terrorist tied to a chair."

    That depends on whether or not there is a substantive difference. What is the substantial difference between the terrorist setting the timer on the bomb and the terrorist who refuses to deactivate the bomb that the just set the timer on?

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  5. @love the girls:

    But there is a substantive difference. Neither of the situations (setting a timer on a bomb or refusing to defuse the bomb) can in any way be rectified by squashing someone's eyeballs.

    If someone is attacking you directly, squashing his or her eyeballs is one way to halt their attack. The squashing of the eyeballs is the very act of stopping the attack.

    But if there's a bomb in the picture, what is needed is knowledge and persuasion, not violence. Squashing eyeballs has nothing to do with the actual threat, which is the bomb.

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  6. Robert writes : "can in any way be rectified by squashing someone's eyeballs."

    Let me clarify. The purpose of ripping the terrorist's eyes out is just that : to rectify the situation. A rectification which is intended by coercing the terrorist to reverse what he has just done and refuses to undo and which solely in his power to undo. And by refusing to undo, is continuing to will the same end as when he set the time in the first place.

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  7. Thus the question is, is the refusing to undo the act a continuation of the act?

    When I walk to the store in order to buy bread, each step is a separate act, but also and more properly all steps combined are a single act.

    Perhaps the act of the terrorist is likewise separate acts, i.e. setting the timer, and refusing to unset the timer, but more properly a single act, i.e. the final end of the bomb going off intending to kill noncombatants.

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  8. love the girls,

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that you are attempting to apply the principle of double effect to the issue of torture. (I'm making this assumption because of your analogy to self defense, which falls under the principle of double effect.)

    "The New Catholic Encyclopedia provides four conditions for the application of the principle of double effect:

    1. The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.
    2. The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.
    3. The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
    4. The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect“ (p. 1021).

    Taking each of the conditions into consideration:

    1. I would say that it fails this condition, as I see using force to torture someone and using force to defend oneself from an active attacker as two different acts. The former being intrinsically evil and the latter being morally neutral. This is a whole conversation in itself, and since as I see it torture fails two other conditions, I will leave that discussion for another time.

    2. In the case of torture, the agent DOES intentionally will the bad effect. Torture is not the only means of interrogation. The torturer chooses his actions instead of others that do not deny the terrorist human dignity. He chooses to inflict severe pain to coerce the will of the terrorist, instead of treating him humanely and attempting to get the information by other means. Torturing a terrorist in a ticking time bomb scenario fails this condition of double effect.

    3. The good effect here IS produced by the bad effect. The whole point of torture is to inflict pain and suffering upon the individual in order to get something from him that the torturer wants. This goes back to condition number 1, using a bad means in order to bring about a good end.

    4. Torture in a ticking time bomb situation may pass this condition, but it does not matter as it fails at least 2 of the other conditions (in my opinion, all three of the other conditions).

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  9. Leo Schwartz writes : "Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that you are attempting to apply the principle of double effect to the issue of torture."

    I'm specifically Not applying the principle to torture. Nor am I intending to argue according to double effect except insofar as all acts which somehow include an evil fall within the category of double effect. Torture specifically is an act of injustice against human dignity. What I have attempted to do is determine where lines can be drawn using justice as the means of drawing those lines. You shall no more find me attempting to justify torture than you shall find me attempting to justify hunting down and eating five year old children.

    In the following where Leo Schwartz writes torture, please read ripping a man's eyes out, Mr. Schartz obviously thinks my example does qualify as torture, but that is what is actually in contention. Unfortunately his mistake in language is a common one which does nothing but muddy the water.
    _________________

    Leo Schwartz writes : "2. In the case of torture, the agent DOES intentionally will the bad effect. Torture is not the only means of interrogation."

    No, ripping the man's eyes out is accidental and not willed per se except as accidental cause.

    Further, Mr. Schwartz assumes his conclusion when he assumes the chosen act is a denial of human dignity when he writes that a different and dignified choice could be made.

    What I am specifically arguing is that the ripping of the man’s eyes out is not a denial of his human dignity anymore that it would be a denial if he was strangling me. The ripping of the man’s eyes out in order to move him to diffuse the bomb is more remote, that is less knowable, example of self defense, but I content that it is none the less an example of self defense and is further a continuation of his prior act of setting the bomb in the first place.

    ________________

    Leo Schwartz writes : "3. The good effect here IS produced by the bad effect . . ."

    Mr. Schwartz mistakes accidental cause for final end.

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  10. Let me change the scenario just a bit, let's say a man is convicted of shooting an abortion doctor and is subsequently sentenced to death, but appeals for clemency with the alternate punishment being that he be instead subjected one weekend each month for the rest of his life to the most exquisite pain possible that technology can produce just short of ever causing him to become irrational.

    Is what the man is appealing for a violation of his own human dignity given that he could of just as likely appealed to be locked in a cage for the rest of his life which is also objectively a violation of human dignity.

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  11. @love the girls:

    Okay, I'm officially confused. You're not arguing double effect, but you are arguing an analogy with self defense? The traditional teaching on why self defense is permissible is based in the line of reasoning that goes by the short-hand "double effect."

    Thanks to Leo, I don't have to write out the whole double effect/self defense argument. I'll only note that the main objection I have is to requirement #3: the "good effect", i.e., the disarming of the bomb, has no direct connection to the evil action, i.e., the deoculation of Mr. Terrorist. The bomb will not magically cease to explode simply because Mr. Terrorist lacks eyes (unless the bomb actually is his eyeball).

    Also, check out Red's post on comic book apologetics (and I'd be flattered if you read my follow-up as well) regarding the absurdly extreme situations you're proposing.

    What point are you trying to clarify by proposing such extreme examples?

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  12. @love the girls:

    As to your new scenario, again, I ask what question you are trying to clarify?

    It seems to me that we have the same reason to deny his claim that we have to oppose and prevent suicide whenever possible.

    The fact that he's on death row has no relevance here, since the arguments about whether capital punishment is morally permissible are (again) seen under the umbra of double effect as a form of self defense. Hence JP2's admonition that modern states with secure incarceration have no just reason to impose capital punishment.

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  13. @ love the girls:

    The draconian dichotomy which you illustrate above is a red herring. The thing is that your example presumes a sort of necessary causality which is, in fact, not implied by the scenario. A person can live out a term in prison is a perfectly salutary way, even if it is until the end of his life: the resignation of the martyrs described in the Acts of the Apostles, or those interred in concentration camps by the Nazis, are examples of how they need not consent to have their human dignity denigrated although the may allow the punishment. If one were to carry your logic out to its terminal end, one might suppose that Christ's silence before his accusers, his allowance of being spat at in the face or stripped naked without protest, was somehow an intentional complicity in moral malfeasance.

    Further above, you suggest that the action of fighting off an aggressor with all means is somehow the same as attacking an already subdued criminal whose evil action is still to attain to its consummation. You go so far as to suggest that accidentally blinding an attacker in a moment of chaotic struggle is the same as the "accidental" removal of a man's eye by surgical precision when he is tied to a chair. Even the concrete circumstances of the activities are divergent enough to suggest real difference to anyone using common sense.

    For double-effect to attain, the intended good must flow at least as immediately from the action undertaken as the evil which is allowed. In the case of poking a man's eye out, a rapist is likely to be instantaneously distracted by that activity, and one would be justified to hope that he would, at least for a split second long enough to extract oneself from the ongoing attack.

    In the case of a terrorist tied to a chair, it is not certain and perhaps not even likely that the person will divulge the information of how to diffuse his ticking bomb when you gouge out his eyes. You say yourself, the end is more remote: and that's precisely what makes it illicit. He might simply begin praising God for his opportunity to suffer, rather than giving you his information. The good you have in mind is not immediately attached by any reasonable inference to the action undertaken (of depriving him of his eyes).

    Now let me admit that crime is complicated nowadays. It extends through times in ways which makes for messy moral situations. A "fuse" is an ugly consequence of our so-called "development" as a culture. But those are the brakes. We have to find the high road and take it amongst the exigencies of morality than modernity suggests.

    (To be continued....)

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  14. (continued...)

    The fact is that the rapist who is raping you is immediately and obviously intent upon his goal. He shows no immediate signs of repenting and the very shortness in time of the situation as it unfolds does become intrinsic content to the ethical situation. The moment of the evil is now, and the immediate action of gouging his eyes will make a difference in the moment.

    In the restrained terrorist's case, there are new cards on the table. Each ticking second of your ticking bomb adds new content to the situation. Granted that he MAY still be vociferously willing the self-same evil he once set out to do, he needn't NECESSARILY be doing so at every extenuating moment from the time that the fuse was lit. He might be becoming conflicted. He might be missing his mother. He might be wishing he could find a different way. Gouging his eyes out is an action that now must cope with all of these new criteria that have been introduced by the sheer extent and remoteness of the act. As I said, it's not a convenient reality, but it's a fact.

    If the fact is denied, then the problem becomes: where do we draw the line? At what point DOES he become capable of morally different standing? So, he repents of the individual bomb whose fuse he has lit: what about the others which he heard planned while at terrorist training camp? Can we remove other appendages to ascertain knowledge about those as well?

    No; the situations present different moral actions to be undertaken, and the immediacy of the event is part of its exigency as far as what makes a certain course of action licit in one place when it is not in another.

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  15. From the UN COnvention Against Torture (to which the US and the Vatican are signatories):

    "For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession...when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

    In the case you cited, ripping the man's eye out is done in order to obtain from him some information (be it the location and/or way to diffuse said bomb) by way of inflicting upon him severe pain and/or suffering. I am not sure how it is that I misapplied the term torture to this case.

    "No, ripping the man's eyes out is accidental and not willed per se except as accidental cause."

    It is willed because it is chosen over some other form of interrogation that does not involve causing the man severe pain and suffering. Or, are you saying that ripping the man's eye out is the only possible way to get the information you need?

    I will need to do some further reading on self-defense, but I do know that the use of force in self-defense must be proportionate to the means available. So, in the case of the man strangling you, if you have a choice between ripping the man's eye out or grabbing a gun on the table next to you and killing him, justice requires that you rip the eye out rather than killing him. I propose that even if the self-defense principle applies to the ticking time bomb (which I am not convinced that it does) justice dictates that you interrogate him with less harsh means, since he is bound and under your control, than ripping his eye out.

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  16. Robert,
    Any act of self defense includes by its nature the principle of double effect. But the ticking time bomb doesn't stand or fall according to that principle, but on whether or not it qualifies as self defense with the terrorist in custody continuing to be an aggressor.



    Robert writes "The bomb will not magically cease to explode simply because Mr. Terrorist lacks eyes"

    Nor will a strong man strangling me magically cease simply because Mr. Strangler lacks eyes. Nor will he magically cease because I've caused him severe pain by jamming my thumbs in his neck. But nevertheless both are justified means of coercing his Will to stop strangling me. Coercing the will to stop strangling me, similarly coercing the will to diffuse the bomb. Point is coercing the Will, not ripping out eyeballs which is accidental to the the my willed end of self defense.


    Robert writes : "What point are you trying to clarify by proposing such extreme examples?"

    I prefer to look at them as more knowable to us because they are extreme, and by means of what is more knowable come to a better understanding of what is less knowable. Which is why I started with an example which I thought most would agree with and have since moved to what is less agreed upon but which are better at coming to an understand of the nature of torture.

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  17. "torture is about attacking a person's dignity" Seems like a very broad catagory. I don't know how many times my dignity has been under attack, but it is often. Barry is torturing my dignity every time he opens his mouth or tries to steal money from my paycheck. Pro death baby killers attack my dignity by creating a culture of death society. Gays pushing for special rights and marriage attack my dignity by demeaning the value of the family. A person driving down the street who flips me off attacks my dignity. In fact, the terrorist seem to believe that an infidel even touching their Koran is attacking their dignity. Osama thinks infidels anywhere in the middle east attacks the dignity of the entire region and all muslim people.

    "Hence JP2's admonition that modern states with secure incarceration have no just reason to impose capital punishment" This of course assumes that a liberal judge or parole board does not let them out. Seems to me we have had people who should have been killed to protect society have found their way out to do harm again. Society has the right to protect itself. So if we do not have SECURE incarceration, then is taking someone out and frying them or shooting them with poison attack their dignity? Does keeping someone locked up for a lifetime attack their dignity.

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  18. Joey G. writes : "No; the situations present different moral actions to be undertaken, and the immediacy of the event is part of its exigency as far as what makes a certain course of action licit in one place when it is not in another."

    The terrorist wills the act of murder by setting the timer. Doe he likewise will the act of murder when he refuses to diffuse the bomb he set?

    The coercion is intended to coerce the will to cease the second or continuing act of murder, not the first act of setting the timer which is no longer immediate. So while the first act is not immediate, the second or continuing act of murder is immediate.

    Similarly, I will to go to the store by taking a taxi, and I continue to will to go to the store while I ride in the taxi to the store. Each moment of the drive is not a separate willed end of going to the store, nor is it necessary to continue to will the end, And when confronted with coercion to cease willing to go to the store, my willing to go to the store in spite of that coercion is not a separate act of the will, but a continuation of the same willed act.

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  19. Leo Schwartz writes : "I propose that even if the self-defense principle applies to the ticking time bomb (which I am not convinced that it does) justice dictates that you interrogate him with less harsh means, since he is bound and under your control, than ripping his eye out."

    warning, another absurd extreme example ;-)

    So let's suppose you and your daughter are locked in a room with a terrorist and have ten minutes to live unless the terrorist who put the both of you in that position does something about it and you have an ax and a chainsaw.

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  20. "So let's suppose you and your daughter are locked in a room with a terrorist and have ten minutes to live unless the terrorist who put the both of you in that position does something about it and you have an ax and a chainsaw."

    I suppose I'd grab the ax and get to work on the door.

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  21. But, I'm guessing that is not the answer you are looking for, and you will add in more hypotheticals about how the door is indistructable etc, etc.

    What you are looking for is that I grab the ax and start taking off the terrorists fingers one by one until he types in the magical code that lets us out of the room. I don't know whether or not I would do that, but I can say that if I did, I would be wrong to do it. And that's just it. I recognize that I am a human being capable of sin. I hope that I could have the moral courage not to succumb to the temptation to torment the terrorist, but I cannot be certain. But whether or not I have that moral courage is not the question here. I recognize that if I were to give in and torture the man, I would be wrong. I would be resorting to an intrinsic evil in order to bring about a good end.

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  22. Leo Schwartz : "But, I'm guessing that is not the answer you are looking for"

    I was only looking for how you would respond when the hypothetical was a bit closer to home.

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  23. Perhaps the act of the terrorist is likewise separate acts, i.e. setting the timer, and refusing to unset the timer, but more properly a single act, i.e. the final end of the bomb going off intending to kill noncombatants.

    St. Thomas teaches that willing the end and willing the means are two separate acts.

    So the refusal to help defuse the bomb is a distinct act from the wishing for the bomb to go off, though of course the end of the first act is a means to the end of the second act.

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  25. @ love the girls:

    "When the hypothetical hits a bit closer to home," it does not promise to reveal anything about the basic principles of morality upon which good decisions should be founded. If the situation hit close to home for me, I pray God I might act virtuously, but I might not: but I risk damnation if I don't. It's a tired canard that is played here very often, this trying to bring the hypotheticals "closer to home," but I don't see the use in it. The only relevance that argument usually has is helping Christians to empathize with a sinner and not to judge too harshly, or to help distinguish between the person and the crime: but there's a primary recognition of guilt.

    Above, responding to me, you write: "The coercion is intended to coerce the will to cease the second or continuing act of murder, not the first act of setting the timer which is no longer immediate. So while the first act is not immediate, the second or continuing act of murder is immediate."

    You compare this to riding in a taxi. But let's look at that scenario. Riding complacently in a taxi, if I want you NOT to be in that taxi, I need forcibly to rip you from it. I might need to pull the cab over and carjack it in order to get you out. But to stop you getting in the taxi in the first place, I might need only an instantaneous distraction. I could pinch you and cause you to miss hailing it and it will drive away, and you will have missed your taxi. The extension of time and the development of circumstances influence very much the kinds of action for a given situation.

    If you come across a terrorist in the very act of lighting a bomb, then by all means tackle him. Get his match away from the fuse, or his finger away from the keypad. If he's incidentally hurt, that's indirect, and the immediacy of the threat and the immediacy of the relationship between the violence allowed to happen to him and the removal of the danger of the bomb is sustainable by reason.

    But if you find him, and the bomb already lit, and you begin pummeling him and cursing him and spitting on him and deriding him and insulting his religion and cutting off his eyes, we're in a different scenario. The object of his potentially giving up the information is, by any stretch of the imagination, more remote from the violence your doing to him. You're not physically restraining him from the fuse of the bomb. You're trying to coerce his will and to insult his person as a means to the end of getting him to "spill" necessary information.

    If there were CERTAINTY, then we would be talking about a different exigency. But the fact is that your torturing him has no guarantee, or rather no great likelihood, of diffusing the situation.

    Now, if he had a bomb on his chest, and a detonator stick in his hand (one that is squeeze-activated, not squeeze de-activated), such that, by shooting him, you could remove the potential of the threat - then the immediacy an the likelihood of the good may justify the shooting. He has a weapon, you have a weapon. You're facing off. There's a here-and-now ultimatum, the same as the rapist on top of the victim, that may require even lethal force if nothing else is proportional to dissolve the attack: it's kill or be killed.

    But suppose he sets a timer and you hold a gun to his head and tell him to punch in his code. Where's your certainty that he'll ever do it? Where's your certainty even that he CAN!? What if he was only trained to set the bomb, not to diffuse it? To what levels of degradation of your own dignity (let alone his) are you willing to sink in order to try and coerce him. It seems like the same situation: he has his weapon, you have yours. But it's not. Run it out to its ultimate end: you shoot him. The timer continues to tick. The bomb will still detonate: all you've done in the meantime is beat a man up, cut out his eyes, and finally taken his life.

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  26. Joey G. writes : “It's a tired canard that is played here very often, this trying to bring the hypotheticals "closer to home," but I don't see the use in it.”

    The point of it is look at the situation according to duty. As you will note, I prefaced it with Mr. Schwartz’s reference to self defense. It’s worth noting that Mr. Schwartz didn’t consider neglect of duty of self defense of his daughter if he did not act, but did consider neglect of duty to the terrorist. And when all was said and done Mr. Schwartz considered his duty to the terrorist to out weight his duty to his daughter. Which is to look at the world backwards, because we first owe allegiance to our own, and secondly to the stranger.

    Or as Robert Frost once wrote : “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.”
    _____________________

    Joey G. writes : “If there were CERTAINTY, then we would be talking about a different exigency.”

    All that is required for self defense is a reasonable likelihood of success, not a great likelihood of success.

    Second, because a man’s duty is to defend those under his care and can err in favor of that duty, the burden of proof of the likelihood of success falls on those who deny there is sufficient certitude.

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  27. Tom writes : "the refusal to help defuse the bomb is a distinct act from the wishing for the bomb to go off, though of course the end of the first act is a means to the end of the second act."

    They’re the same act according to nature of the act because the nature is known through the final end. They’re distinct acts insofar as the latter act is a refusal of the terrorist to do his duty, i.e. to rectify the injustice which he first caused.

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  28. "And when all was said and done Mr. Schwartz considered his duty to the terrorist to out weight his duty to his daughter. Which is to look at the world backwards, because we first owe allegiance to our own, and secondly to the stranger."

    I did no such thing. My duty to my daughter does not require me to engage in intrinsic evil. I believe torture to be intrinsically evil, as I have said many times.

    It's not that I wouldn't try to save my daughter, I most certainly would. But what good would it do to save her life at the cost of my soul?

    Duty to my daughter must be in line with justice, as that is what it is founded in.

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  29. They’re the same act according to nature of the act because the nature is known through the final end.

    NO!

    The act is specified by the proximate end, the object of the will, not the end for which the will wills the object!

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  30. Leo Schwartz : "I did no such thing. . ."

    Look at what you wrote. Where is the argument discussing duty to your daughter? You did not even mention your duty to your daughter.

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  31. Sorry, I kind of assumed the duty to my daughter. It was my duty to her that had me working on the door with the ax in the firstplace.

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  32. Also, when I discussed not torturing the terrorist, I wasn't referring to any duty to him, but rather my duty to God which is what prevents me from engaging in an intrinsically evil act.

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  33. Tom writes : "The act is specified by the proximate end, the object of the will, not the end for which the will wills the object!"

    The acts are specifically different, but they are both directed to a further end. Just as a family is made of many parts but its nature is known by its final end.

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  34. @love the girls - you write:
    Nor will a strong man strangling me magically cease simply because Mr. Strangler lacks eyes. Nor will he magically cease because I've caused him severe pain by jamming my thumbs in his neck. But nevertheless both are justified means of coercing his Will to stop strangling me. Coercing the will to stop strangling me, similarly coercing the will to diffuse the bomb. Point is coercing the Will, not ripping out eyeballs which is accidental to the the my willed end of self defense.

    On the contrary, Mr. Strangler will naturally cease attacking you. In counterattacking one who is attacking you, you are coercing his body to cease the attack. His will remains to attack you; you are thwarting his will, not coercing it.

    You are not trying to change his will. You are trying to render him incapable of accomplishing his will. This is the foundation of self-defense.

    And this is where the ticking time-bomb example fails. You might, if Mr. Terrorist is in the act of setting the bomb, be able to prevent him from accomplishing his will. Brute force may be appropriate in such a case.

    But you cannot render the bomb incapable of exploding by brute force - or even sophisticated force - against Mr. Terrorist. You cannot convince, or even coerce, the will by inflicting pain. All you can do is overwhelm the senses and damage the integrity of his rational faculties. At best, this will gain you unpredictable results.

    And for unpredictable results, is it worthwhile to risk your soul?

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  35. @love the girls -

    Tom is right about the object of the act. The object is the concrete, immediate action you intend to take.

    The (possibly) abstract reason for an act is called the end of the act.

    Disarming a bomb is an act. Torturing a prisoner is an act. They are not the same act.

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  36. @ love the girls:

    The acts are specifically different, but they are both directed to a further end. Just as a family is made of many parts but its nature is known by its final end.

    I'm sorry, I have no idea what this means.

    But at any rate, you said above, "They’re the same act according to nature of the act because the nature is known through the final end." As Tom points out, the proximate end is what conditions the act. And I still think it's ludicrous to draw a simile between the man tied to a chair and the raging sociopath who is physically on top of you, and claim that the same physical act toward both persons might be undertaken in order to stop the respective attacks.

    But anyway, isn't this all once again a red herring? Why are we debating the act of the terrorist? It's the act of the would-be torturer that matters. What is the immediate object of that act? It is to cause pain to the detainee. This is so that he, coerced in mind and will, "spills the beans." Which he only might do. Which there is no certainty or even great likelihood as numerous sources have attested who have expertise in interrogation.

    The exigencies of modern war are ugly. Men dress up in business suits and drive to work in a warehouse on a Military installation in Nevada where they sit at video-game like monitors and pilot drones halfway across the globe that drop bombs and kill people. We've added a lot of mediation. Fuses and time-releases are one kind of mediation. Satellites and remote radio tech are another.

    It might seem like a losing battle, but we should focus our primary energies and ingenuity NOT on getting at the man in the chair - be he the terrorist in the interrogation cell or the businessman in the simulator in Nevada - but on disarming and constructing a different culture in which some of these terrible realities really do become a thing of the past.

    Perhaps I'm too much the optimist, but it seems like we're conceding defeat in a large way or letting the devil have reign in this world by shrugging in the face of the big challenges and grinding our gears on the small beans: like figuring out how we might put the screws to terrorists in order to get info out of them. Terrorists come from someplace, folks. It's the elephant in the room. There are roots to which we might put our ax, rather than hacking at limbs and becoming barbarians in the process. And even though it might seem idealistic, I think that this suggestion of a new way of looking at the situation can be much more easily reconciled with the Gospel, "love thy neighbor" and "turn the other cheek," than can most the current postures of our national defense...

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  37. Robert writes : "Tom is right about the object of the act. The object is the concrete, immediate action you intend to take.

    The (possibly) abstract reason for an act is called the end of the act."

    The act of building the bomb is a specifically different act from placing the bomb which is in turn a specifically different act from the setting the timer, but each act is likewise part of a single act. If the terrorist is sitting on a distant hill waiting for his handiwork to go off, does he remain an aggressor? Or is he only an aggressor while he is actively making the bomb and placing the bomb and setting the timer?

    Is it an act of aggression to not rectify the evil which has been done? A man who refuses to defend those he has a duty to defend commits a sinful act by his lack of action. Does the terrorist likewise commit a sinful act by his lack of action?

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  38. Robert writes : "You are not trying to change his will. You are trying to render him incapable of accomplishing his will. This is the foundation of self-defense."

    No. Not incapable, the stranglers hands are not affected and he can continue to strangle, what is given him is a choice, the choice to chose to strangle and suffer the pain or to not strangle and not suffer pain. The point is to coerce his will to cease choosing the object. Not to prevent him from choosing the object.

    Or take a different example, a judge orders a journalist to prison until he divulges a source.

    Being locked in a cage is against human dignity with the reason for locking the journalist in the cage being to force the journalist to divulge information. Is the judge committing an evil act. Tradition says no.

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  39. ....each act is likewise part of a single act.

    No, they aren't; they're each sequential means to a single end, which is willed by yet anoth act -- though I haven't picked up on why it matters. We aren't allowed to torture a terrorist while he's making the bomb, either.

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  40. Tom writes : “No, they aren't; they're each sequential means to a single end, which is willed by yet anoth act”

    And so the act of baking a cake isn’t really an act, but is instead a sequential means to a single end, which is willed by yet anoth act.

    Or the act of building a fire isn’t really an act, but is instead a sequential means to a single end, which is willed by yet anoth act.

    Of course we look at the cake as first being in potency and later in act. And we certainly live and speak and act as if baking a cake was somehow a single act.

    But let that be as it may. Because it’s the single end which matters, although not essential to the argument.

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  41. Tom writes : “though I haven't picked up on why it matters. We aren't allowed to torture a terrorist while he's making the bomb, either.”

    Nor are you allowed to torture a man who’s slowly roasting your live children over an open fire, but you do have an obligation to defend them. Which is the point. What is the nature of the obligation to prevent the terrorist’s bomb from going off? Much has been written on where doe legitimate means of coercion end, and where does torture begin? But what of the obligation to defend those threatened by the bomb?

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  42. @ love the girls:

    Of course we look at the cake as first being in potency and later in act. And we certainly live and speak and act as if baking a cake was somehow a single act. Granted. But cake making isn't usually a life or death situation. If you stood next to a cake maker with a gun and told them to "put chocolate chips in my cake," with each passing other ingredient they are making a choice to add or to forgo (at least for the time being) the chosen ingredient. Before the moment of consummation of the cake, they might repent and add the chocolate chips; or they might leave them out.

    Now this may sound trite, but it really is a purposeful analogy. Think of Christ receiving the thirty-nine lashes, or the five wounds. Granted, each of these sufferings was directed to the ultimate end of the full consummation of the salvific act of the Passion, but we venerate each lash and each wound separately in admirable and ancient liturgical traditions. Each drop of blood was sufficient, and it was also freely chosen. With each of the seven words, there's a choice of love to utter that thing: even though Christ had long before "set His face toward Jerusalem" and made His choice to suffer and die.

    Now, reverse this. The terrorist has every opportunity to repent, or to choose differently, as the action he set in motion unfolds. The extenuation in time is important, the choice isn't some kind of "fundamental option". This is important.

    Also, you said:[T]he stranglers hands are not affected and he can continue to strangle, what is given him is a choice, the choice to chose to strangle and suffer the pain or to not strangle and not suffer pain. The point is to coerce his will to cease choosing the object. Not to prevent him from choosing the object.

    This is begging the question. Okay, you're momentarily disrupting his will to act by kicking him in the groin or poking him in the eye: you're interfering with his active and immediate malicious will, in a way that is very likely to provide at least a momentary lapse of his self-control such that it might enable you to escape.

    All of these facts are important. In this case, a momentary lapse is useful: you are in imminent danger that you might escape through the lapse that your violence causes. The good (in this case) is immediate from the act: at least as immediate as the evil allowed. That is, you kick him, you gain the split second of his shocked tears that gives you your opportunity.

    On the other hand, the terrorist: you kick him, you slap him, you spit at him - and he cries. And what do you gain? Nothing, immediately. Over time, maybe your violence MIGHT lead to him repenting of his earlier choice and halting the impending attack. But it might not. The violence you do to him is immediate: more so than the possible good you hope to gain.

    And on top of all of this, it's bad science and psychology. All you do in this event is encourage his further disdain for you, at least immediately: you hit him while he's tied up - do you expect him to do anything but resent you?

    On the other hand, it's a common psychological fact that there is a likelihood for a captive to sympathize with his captor over time. There's better evidence that there are ways that work to get information from people and ways that don't. Torture is a way that doesn't. And, it barbarizes the torturer: simple as that.

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  43. @ love the girls:

    There's one more simple argument that I'd like you consider. Again, we'll start with an antithetical case from the position of virtue ethics.

    Ever hear of the principle of "complicating the act" of habitual sin? E.g., a man struggles with pornography on his computer. So he should move his computer to an open space, put a net-nanny on that requires a password, maybe tack a holy card in the corner of the screen. In short, he should create a scenario in which he must keep reiterating his choice once he starts being drawn by temptation. Sin is thus no longer a one-step process, but takes many conscious choices, or at least, a greater single act to remove multiple obstacles.

    Take the opposite case. People often make personal vows and commit themselves to things because they know that, if nothing else, the obligation will keep them in line later on. Suppose a person is trying to live a virtue of charity in speech. He might make a commitment to speak less in general to chastise himself. He knows that this will take great virtue day to day, so he makes a personal vow of commitment to the choice: thus, he has incentive and a further initiaitive for his continuation of his programme. When he thinks about failing, he's not merely giving into a possible temptation to malfeasance, but he's also failing in his vow: thus, he's made it harder for himself to act without the virtue he pursues.

    These are practices often counseled by spiritual directors, and they make good sense.

    Now, consider your terrorist. Granted, his choice has been to sin: he set a bomb. But there's a difference, a very big difference between the act of aggression in setting the bomb in the first place and allowing the action to continue. Perhaps the terrorist was a bit of a coward (most are). It took him one great effort, one surge of malevolence to set his bomb. But now, it's not so hard: sin has gotten easier for him.

    It's gotten easier>. This is important. Not only is it a helpful insight into why torture doesn't work so well as some hope it might, but it also shows that this ongoing choice of aggression is not the same irascible movement of will that is undertaken during the course of a rape, or during the course of roasting children.

    Comparing the two, and claiming the same means to overcome the acts of aggression in each case, is question begging. If children are actively being roasted, there's a very powerful, active, malicious, irascible movement of will in the roaster - an in-your-face violence that a contrary violence might at least momentarily interrupt and beneficially so.

    On the other hand, a terrorist whose bomb is already set might be cool, calm, collected and relieved. He has much less to worry about. Or he might be conflicted and repenting or whatever you will. But it is ludicrous to say that his will is operating in the same manner the entire time, as though he needs to sustain his action in perpetuity by choice the way God sustains us by His choice.

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  44. @love the girls -
    Tom and Joey G. defend me more ably than I can defend myself. (Thanks, guys!)

    But I think I see where you and we are on different pages. I'll try to explain as best I can.

    You keep returning to the will, to the intent of the aggressor. We keep returning to the specific act in the moment.

    As I understand it, the Catholic theory of justified self-defense is based on defending oneself (or others) against harm. It has nothing to do with the intent of the one committing harm.

    In other words, if I am about to be slashed by a knife, it doesn't matter whether the person wielding the knife is trying to kill me or is tripping over his shoelaces or is a narcoleptic who just fainted. What matters is that I am in sudden and immediate danger, and I have the right to take action to avoid that danger.

    Now, the action I take may end up causing some harm to the person with the knife. This is permissible, so long as the harm I risk causing is proportional to the harm I am avoiding.

    So, in your Mr. Strangler example, if you're unable to remove his hands from your neck, you're then allowed to attempt other means of freeing yourself. Causing him pain that would make him - voluntarily or involuntarily - release your neck becomes an option.

    (By the way, this really is an attack on his body, not his will. Have you ever been in a serious fight? Without strenuous training, a person cannot help responding to pain by, for example, bringing their hands up to defend themselves.)

    Once you have attained freedom - whether or not he continues to intend to attack you - your options have broadened: you can run away, you can call for help, you could even persuade him by words. Because you have all these other options, the option to do him harm goes away. You do not have the right to continue to pound him to a pulp, to pluck out his eyes, to break his fingers, or whatever.

    This is because self-defense is simply defense. It is not attack. It is a last resort measure.

    Finally, it is not a duty, but a permission. The martyrs had no obligation to defend themselves. They refused to take advantage of the permission to defend themselves, because they saw the greater good of joining our Lord in his self-offering.

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  45. Robert writes : "Finally, it is not a duty, but a permission. The martyrs had no obligation to defend themselves."

    A father has a duty to defend his wife and children. The king has a duty to defend his subjects.

    A man without dependents may choose not to defend himself, but he cannot choose not to defend those under his protection. To choose not to protect those under his protection is an objectively sinful act.

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  46. Catechism 2321 "Legitimate defense is a grave duty for whoever is responsible for the lives of others or the common good."

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  47. Robert writes : "You keep returning to the will, to the intent of the aggressor. We keep returning to the specific act in the moment."

    That’s because coercion of the Will appears to be the specific difference of torture. (although it could be that the causing of a man to become irrational is the specific difference.) Thus what I’ve been attempting to look at is what is the duty of the aggressor and what is the duty of the defender insofar as it comes to movement of the Will.

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  48. @love the girls -

    Re: defense of others. No argument here. Those who have responsibility for others have a duty to defend them.

    Re: coercion of will. I guess this is why it doesn't make sense to me that you are trying to put torture under a category of self-defense. Self-defense, as I understand it, has nothing to do with coercing the will.

    And, properly speaking, the will has no "duty": it is an appetite; it seeks the good. Period. A person has a duty, but the will (as if isolated from the person) does not.

    BTW, I'm not agreeing that coercion of will is THE specific difference of torture; as far as I can see, it's almost accidental.

    As far as I see it, torture is the abusive treatment of a person in one's custody. The "reason" or "purpose" can range from interrogation to sadism. What makes it torture is that it is abusive: it attacks and affronts the integrity and dignity of the person.

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  49. Robert writes : "What makes it torture is that it is abusive: it attacks and affronts the integrity and dignity of the person."

    Interesting. And so in turn, all that is necessary for it not to be torture is that it not be an affront, and that it not be an abuse. Just as it is not an affront or an abuse to execute the criminal who has committed a capital crime.

    And neither would it be an affront or abuse to demand that a man do his duty, such as demanding that terrorist diffuse the bomb he has just set. But yet there are limits to what can be done enforce that demand. Limits which would be relative to the graveness of the circumstance where the demand be met.

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  50. @love the girls -

    Yes, exactly.

    But, while some limits are relative to the situation, others are objective. These limits are based on what it is possible for us to do which actually does some good.

    There is no way in which torture itself actually does any good.

    It does not compel the prisoner to do anything. It does not disarm the bomb. It only dehumanizes the prisoner.

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  51. Robert writes : "There is no way in which torture itself actually does any good.

    No. Even if it did what it was intended to do, it would still be wrong to do it. Just as I couldn't shoot his children one by one even if I was successful by the fifth child because the means is disordered to the end.

    For instance, those who advocate waterboarding have the burden of proof to prove that it is not disordered. While those who argue that slapping a guy around is torture have the burden of proof to prove that that is disordered. The reason for the difference in burden of proof is by looking at tradition where the prior is not traditional where as the latter is.

    Other acts such as rape are obviously disordered to the end. While flogging is not so obvious, and could perhaps be used if the circumstance was sufficiently grave to demand it.

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