A few words on the infamous “ticking bomb argument” in favor of torture: suppose we capture a terrorist, and we know that he knows where the ticking bomb is hidden that will soon kill thousands or millions. Are we not allowed to torture him in order to get the information which can save these people? Are we not morally forced to torture him?
I don’t believe this simple cost-benefit analysis (low-cost torture to individuals compared to enormous gains for large, threatened groups) is a realistic description of torture, given the facts that
- the example of the captured terrorist with information about a ticking bomb is unlikely to happen in real life, and
- most actual torture cases are very different.
One should also consider the consequences of allowing torture, even in extreme cases:
- installing a certain mentality in the minds of the torturers, sometimes destroying their mental health
- the damage to judicial and democratic institutions
- the reciprocity of our enemies (they will also use torture if torture is inflicted on them) …