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Flawed logic and shallow utilitarianism: Torture and the ticking bomb scenario

Simonette, Adam (2011) Flawed logic and shallow utilitarianism: Torture and the ticking bomb scenario. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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The debate over the efficacy of torture is ongoing. When faced with an emergency situation, such as a bomb about to explode in a densely populated area, should the state resort to torture if the suspect in custody refuses to divulge any information? Should democratic governments allow for the use of interrogational torture as a last resort? Does torture in emergency situations have the potential to maximise human rights and the well-being of the community? These are some of the important questions addressed in the thesis.

Some of the proponents claim that it can be morally justified, and that the use of torture could maximise the liberty of the citizens of the nation. However, torture is not a maximisation of liberty. It does not improve the common good. Torture cannot be justified by any government – morally or otherwise. I will consider the practical and moral arguments made by Dershowitz, Bagaric and Clarke. I will argue torture cannot be justified because of the problems with the ticking bomb scenario and the serious societal effects torture has. I will then consider the impact of interrogational torture on human rights and argue that it is an absolute violation of liberty. Finally, I will argue that the torture proponents’ arguments that are centred on utilitarianism are shallow and are a misapplication of utilitarian theory.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Dudley, Janice
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