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Unpublished Paper
Empirical Objections to Torture: A Critical Reply
ExpressO (2012)
  • Fritz Allhoff, Western Michigan University
Those who support torture in ticking-time-bomb cases are often criticized as failing to consider empirical objections to torture; however, torture’s critics often wield this charge uncritically, doing little more than throwing out platitudes without considering the role of those platitudes in the dialectic. I agree with the critics that more empirical engagement is owed than is typically on offer, but deny that such engagement vindicates their position. This essay therefore considers various stock objections to the actual use of torture, while ultimately arguing that those objections fail to undermine the use of torture in exceptional cases. In particular, we will consider the efficacy and reliability of torture (§1), the institutional requirements for torture (§2), the nefarious spread of torture (§3), and whether there are better alternatives to torture (§4). In each of these discussions, let us frame them against the associated contentions made by critics regarding the inapplicability of ticking-time-bomb cases to the real world. The last two sections of the essay consider where the burden of proof falls in this debate and, in particular, whether the proponent of torture needs real-world ticking-time-bomb cases to defend exceptional torture (§5), as well as what such cases might be (§6).
Publication Date
September 2, 2012
Citation Information
Fritz Allhoff. "Empirical Objections to Torture: A Critical Reply" ExpressO (2012)
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