TITLE

Political Obligation, Dirty Hands and Torture; A Moral Evaluation

AUTHOR(S)
van Erp, Herman
PUB. DATE
February 2013
SOURCE
South African Journal of Philosophy;2013, Vol. 32 Issue 1, p109
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
The example of a political leader who has to decide whether he would allow the torture of a suspect in order to get information about a ticking bomb has become notorious in ethical discussions concerning the tension between moral principles and political necessity. The relation between these notions must be made as clear as possible before a sincere moral evaluation of ticking bomb situations can be given. The first section of this article considers whether the concept of political obligation is different from moral and legal obligations or whether it is a special kind of moral obligation. In the second section, the idea that the dirty hands problem confronts us with the ambiguities of moral life is rejected because it would imply an untenable moral paradox. The thesis that is developed is, namely, if there is such a thing as political necessity, it must be some form of moral obligation. The third section analyses the concept of political necessity and concludes that it cannot overrule basic moral principles and that the international legal prohibition of torture must be considered to be a categorical imperative. In the last section, these ideas concerning political and moral necessity are brought in against the defence of torture, which should be tolerated in the 'War on Terror'. There it will be argued that the use of the ticking bomb argument not only supports a highly hypocrite political practice but is also deceptive as a moral and political argument.
ACCESSION #
85971007

 

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