Presentation on theme: "Topics in Moral and Political Philosophy Terrorism and Torture."— Presentation transcript:
Topics in Moral and Political Philosophy Terrorism and Torture
Terrorism Conceptual question: What is terrorism? Normative question: Can terrorism ever be morally justified
Defining Terrorism Distinctive feature: This violence is not blind, but rather aims at achieving some further goals. Bauhn: “The performance of violent acts, directed against one or more persons, intended by the performing agent to intimidate one or more persons and thereby to bring about one or more of the agent's political goals. Primoratz: “The deliberate use of violence, or threat of its use, against innocent people, with the aim of intimidating some other people into a course of action they otherwise would not take”.
The structure of Terrorism NB. Crucial question is NOT: who the actor is what their ultimate objectives are What matters is the structure: A targets B in order to intimidate/coerce C NB: Terrorism can be adopted by different agents (state or non-state agents) and serve different goals (revolutionary or conservative goals)
Questions: Main question: Is violence against innocent civilians, intended to intimidate in order to achieve some further objective ever justifiable? Further questions: Actual violence or also threats of violence? Only violence against life and limb, or also violence against (some) property? Only violence directed against civilians or innocent people? Or anyone (including combatants).
Answers to the main question Two justificatory strategies: a)Although victims are non-combatants or common citizens, they are not innocent of the wrongs the terrorists are fighting against. b)Victims are innocent but attacking them is justified nevertheless.
Strategy a) Terrorist acts target random groups of individuals who happen to be in a certain place at a certain time. In what sense are these people not innocent of the wrongs the terrorist fights against? This argument presupposes a unconvincing conception of collective responsibility.
“Those good bourgeois who hold no office but who reap their dividends and live idly on the profits of the workers' toil, they also must take their share in the reprisals. And not only they, but all those who are satisfied with the existing order, who applaud the acts of the government and so become its accomplices … in other words, the daily clientele of Terminus and other great cafés!” (Emile Henry, 19th century anarchist )
“The American people should remember that they pay taxes to their government and that they voted for their president. Their government makes weapons and provides them to Israel, which they use to kill Palestinian Muslims. Given that the American Congress is a committee that represents the people, the fact that it agrees with the actions of the American government proves that America in its entirety is responsible for the atrocities that it is committing against Muslims” (Osama Bin Laden, 2005).
Surely different members of society are responsible to a different degree of the charges, if they are at all (surely some for them are just victims?) Surely, not every type and degree of involvement can justify liability to death. Is voting in elections or paying taxes is enough to become liable to the use of force?
Strategy b): Victims are innocent but attacking them is justified nevertheless Consequentialist arguments Terrorism is not wrong in itself, but only if it has bad consequences on balance. Justification of a terrorist attack depends on: the good to be promoted by the attack whether the terrorist attack will be useful as a means of promoting it. Objection: this justifies too much (any slight improvement in wellbeing would justify terrorism).
Non-consequentialist arguments Terrorism is wrong in itself, but : there are deontological considerations that justify resorting to terrorism under certain circumstances. considerations of justice may sometimes be overridden by extremely weighty considerations of consequences
Terrorism and distributive justice Virginia Held: If there is a society where the human rights of a part of the population are respected, while the same rights of another part of the population are being violated; if the only way of changing that and ensuring that human rights of all are respected is a limited use of terrorism; then terrorism directed against members of the first group can be morally justified
What is torture? Torture typically involves the intentional infliction of extreme physical suffering on some non-consenting and defenceless person.
Further questions Does torture require physical suffering or is mental suffering sufficient? does it have to involve a loss of autonomy? (Sadist torturer) Parallel with Terrorism: torture aims to coerce the victim into submitting.
One-off instances of torture Usual problems with consequentialist justifications ↓ Should we accept an absolute prohibition? Ticking Bomb Scenario 1.We reasonably believes that torturing X will probably save innocent lives; 2.We know that there is no other way to save these lives; 3.The threat to their lives is more or less imminent; 4.The victims are innocent; 5.X is known not to be innocent
Should we institutionalize torture? Even if we grant that there are one-off emergency situations in which torture is (all-things-considered) morally justified, It doesn’t follow that we should institutionalize it. Reasons not to institutionalize torture: Empirical evidence institutionalizing torture tends to abuses (the quality of investigations tends to go down; police tends not to respect other rights of suspects). Torture is at odds for the values of a liberal democracy.