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Ethical Theories on Torture

There are many theories about ethics and how humans should conduct themselves and how they should behave towards others as well as towards non-human beings and species. One ethical issue that has been approached using different ethical theories is the issue of torture. It has become one of the most controversial issue in the society especially where people are tortured in order to obtain important information. In the event where the United States is facing imminent terrorist threat within its soil and one of the terrorists, believed by the security force to contain information that could save many lives, is captured by the security officers but is resolved not to talk. After trying all the usual legal tactics to make him talk he still won’t talk. The officers believe that if they torture him he will most probably give the information needed. In this case, various theories like utilitarianism, Kantian duty-based ethics, virtue ethics, and Christian principle based ethics will offer different views as far as the issue of torture to obtain information is concerned. To start with, the theory of utilitarianism is based on the belief of holding the best moral action in order to maximize utility. This means that one or few people may be sacrificed for the good of the many (Holmes, 2007). In the case of the captured terrorist who has information about an imminent terrorist attack on US soil, the theory would support torture to be used on him in order to save many lives. The other theory is the Kantian duty-based ethics, otherwise known as deontological ethics and this one is based on being morally obligated to act according to certain sets of principles and rules regardless of the outcome. This means that some acts are wrong even if the ultimate outcome is admirable or leads to good(Holmes, 2007). Therefore, as far as torturing the terrorist to get information is concerned, Kant would argue that the act of torturing is morally wrong even though it is going to save a lot of lives. The third theory in this case is the Virtue ethics and unlike theories like deontology, is does not focus on identifying the universal principles that people could use to apply in a moral situation. Instead, it focuses on doing what one would want others to do to him or her or the intentions of doing a certain act (Holmes, 2007). In the case of torture, a virtuous person would want to first know the willingness of the torturer to tell the security officers about his character, the virtues and vices the torturer possesses, his intentions for acting the way he is acting, and what he thinks about his own reasons for action. Therefore, if the security officers will torture the terrorist because they enjoy the act of torture then it will be done for the wrong reason but if it is done to get the necessary information then it is right. The fourth theory is the Christian principle-based ethics and this one is based on the idea that what God created is good and the ends for which he created is also good (Holmes, 2007). As such, to torture the terrorist would be to deny them their dignity especially because they were made in the image of God. From all the four ethical theories discussed above, the virtue ethics would be the most appropriate theory to use to apply in the case of whether to torture the terrorist to obtain information or not. This is because even though the virtuous person sees torture as a bad act, there is still the room to choose whether to do it or not. The virtue ethics theory states that if one does a bad act for a good reason that is morally right, then there is no harm in it. However, if one does a bad act because he or she enjoys doing it, then this will be morally wrong(Holmes, 2007). As such, the security officers will be justified to torture the terrorist only if their intention is to get the necessary information needed to save many lives from harm. However, if they torture the terrorist because they enjoy doing it or because they hate terrorists, then the act itself will be morally wrong and hence unjustifiable. for more and such articles contact References Holmes, A. F. (2007). Ethics: Approaching moral decisions. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

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