Mill, Kant, And Torture

An Analysis of the Utilitarian and Kantian Arguments for and against Torture

Alan Dershowitz expresses moral approval (with reservations) in his essay "Should the Ticking Time Bomb Terrorist be Tortured?" Dershowitz's argument is essentially that of a Utilitarian. But it also contains elements of Kantianism. While a Kantian, however, could argue against the moral correctness of torture, Dershowitz steers the argument away from a Kantian perusal of the moral correctness of the argument through universality, which Dershowitz describes as a "slippery slope" (297), and concludes with a self-centered Utilitarian perspective that approves of torture as long as it meets specific criteria (i.e., is "above-board," "recorded," etc.). In this paper I will analyze whether torture is morally acceptable from both a Utilitarian and a Kantian perspective and show conclusively how either could actually be used to argue for and against torture.

The reason that both may be...
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