Monday, May 11, 2009


Like many, I have been following the discussion about torture. Bits of information, declassified memos and accounts of conversations are bringing light to this dark area. The discussion has taken a turn that makes me nervous. Did torture produce good intelligence and information?

Using this question as a measuring stick makes me queasy. Results cannot be the ultimate tool for evaluating methodology. If we employ this sort of logic, it becomes too easy to justify terrifying behavior. History is certainly replete with examples of this type of justification.

Diana Butler Bass posted an excellent piece on this topic on beliefnet.

America's Moral Conscience


Country Parson said...

It appears that you are off the hook. Torture did not provide good intelligence. But the point is made. Even if it did, it would still be torture and repulsive to our national and religious ideals.

Fr. John D. Alexander, SSC said...

Philosophically, the question really pits two rival schools of moral reasoning against each other: consequentialism and deontology. Are some actions inherently wrong regardless of the consequences (Kant says yes), or is the morality of an action to be assessed in terms of its consequences (J. Bentham, J.S. Mill)? Consequentialist reasoning is used to justify all sorts of intrinsically vicious actions, especially in war.