Fritz Allhoff
International Journal of Applied Philosophy 17.1 (2003): 105-18
Publication year: 2003

Fritz Allhoff, “Terrorism and Torture”, International Journal of Applied Philosophy 17.1 (2003): 105-18. Reprinted in Understanding Terrorism: Philosophical Issues, ed. Timothy Shanahan (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Press, 2005), pp. 243-59. Reprinted (in slightly modified form) as “An Ethical Defense of Torture in Interrogation” in Jan Goldman (ed.), Ethics of Spying: A Reader for the Intelligence Professional (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 126-40.

Abstract: In this paper, I defend the moral permissibility of torture in ticking time-bomb-like cases. This defense is first made on consequentialist grounds, but a defense is also offered under the aegis of rights-based deontology. In particular, I argue that any serious accounting of rights needs to allow for the infringement of the right against torture assuming such a right exists for a guilty terrorist—in order to preserve the rights violations of countless others. Objections to this sort of “utilitarianism of rights” are considered, with particular focus given to those voiced by Robert Nozick. The final sections of the paper delimit the conditions under which torture can be justified, as well as what kinds of torture would be appropriate.