A moral understanding of Utilitarianism and torture Essay

Published: 2020-01-25 06:10:42
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KSM is a mastermind terrorist who has been captured by the CIA. He refuses to reveal any information about his organization or the members thereof that could be fundamental to the welfare of hundreds of lives. Even under the presence of coercive methods such as sleep deprivation and water boarding, he has refused to talk. His nine and eleven year old children have been brought into custody and a suggestion has been made to torture the children.

Is the option ethical or moral in any sense? Utilitarianism provides two answers for the question; one asserting the general rule of utility, the other expanding on justice implicating that the notion that no harm should be inflicted on the children. Each case will be dissected and assessed to reveal the most feasible answer to whether or not the children should be tortured. This conclusion will also be questioned on whether or not the provided answer is approaching the situation in the best possible manner.

Utilitarianism in its simplest form distinguishes the difference between right and wrong by asserting that what is right is any action of good that will positively affect the common welfare of all. In short, the principle of utility implies that what is good is whatever promotes the greatest amount of happiness. This implies that the happiness of one individual is not as relevant or important as the happiness of a multitude of persons, or that the value of life can be measured in numbers and not by specific individuals.

The general idea is that if five people are saved as compared to saving one life, then there is more happiness being created and as a result more good is being created. In KSMs case, if the general rule of utilitarianism is to be applied, then the option of torturing KSMs children is a plausible means of coercion. This rule fundamentally subtracts the happiness lost by torturing the children in exchange for the gain of hundreds and thousands of lives that could potentially be saved resulting in a greater amount of happiness overall.

Therefore utilitarianism does advocate for the torture of KSMs children. The tactic will provide the necessary information that the CIA needs to save lives. The proponents of utilitarianism may come off as rash, insensitive, and unsympathetic beings for allowing a method such as this one to occur in order to save many lives. Injuring two lives for the benefit of thousands more is sound, but may not be ethical or moral. It is a difficult feat to assess what is ethical and moral especially when encountered with a situation like this.

An assumption that it is immoral to not torture these children could be proposed because not acting on the children could deter the CIA from attaining valuable information for the welfare and safety of the nation. Of course, it must not be assumed that torturing a child is acceptable in todays standards, and utilitarianism will attempt to answer why it is not right to torture the children to obtain information through the utilitarians understanding of justice.

Justice to utilitarianism carries with it great weight and resonance to the ideology. According to Mill, it is one of the sole features in which utilitarianism embodies. It is stated that justice contains in it the following rules: all beings must be treated with equality, and that each is given their just deserts; good for good, and evil for evil, that no one should be wrongly punished; that no life shall be valued over another, and that the punishment should be proportionate to the offense.

Another feature is that all commitments and obligations whether they be declared orally or written, should be respected and upheld and the failure to do so is performing injustice and is a moral fallacy. Therefore, when considering the KSM case with the application of justice under utilitarianism, it seems as though it is not logical to torture the children to obtain information from their father. The torturing of children violates the laws applicable to the definition of justice under utilitarianism.

If these children are tortured, the principle that all individuals are equal and to all their justice deserts, would be invalid. These children have done nothing wrong and do not deserve to be tortured, thus the punishment that would befall them is not parallel to the ideals presented in the definition of justice. Also, the lives of these children were not properly accounted for, for if justice states that all lives are equal and that none is more valuable than the rest, then it is rational and coextensive with justice to not torture the children.

By not performing the horrendous notion, these childrens lives are not placed lower than the rest, but the opposing view could also be taken stating that by not torturing these children they are placed above thousands of other lives, giving their lives more value than the multitude, and this is does not correspond with the definition of justice. Therefore, torturing these children is not a favorable option when considering the application of utilitarianism. But there is one exception that utilitarianism allows, which is when certain cases arise that requires expediency, thus suspending applications of moral justice.

Although both alternative methods of assessing the dilemma have been presented with each have a distinct approach. The first taking into consideration the principle of utilitarianism the latter using the principle of justice, both acting as derivatives of utilitarianism and paradoxically both approved of using torture to gain information. The principle of utility declared torture a necessary means to obtain a valuable resource that consequentially benefits the whole, and in turn increasing happiness and goodness increasing utility.

The principles of justice deemed the usage of torture an incompatible method of attaining the means in the presented situation. The equality of the children was not taken into account and disregarded, while the action of torturing them does not correlate with reason because the children did nothing to bring this suggested harm upon themselves. But, even justice allows for the possibility of torture to resume when extenuating circumstances do not allow for a well thought out procedure, and expediency is recognized as the only reasonable means of achieving a goal. So does utilitarianism allow for the torturing of children to occur?

According to the principle of utility and somewhat present in the exceptions of justice yes. This does not mean that this action is moral or ethical by any means. The intentional injury of children is wrong in many, if not all, philosophical and religious ideologies. It is not easy to accept this as the only method prescribed to remedy the situation. In this case, the means do not justify the ends. Although utilitarianism states that these children should not be placed higher than any individual and there sacrifice would benefit the greater good, the implementation of torture on children is not an attractive option.

Utilitarianism states that this viable option is right, but just because it may promote the general welfare and happiness of a multitude of individuals, does not necessarily indicate that it will, or that any information will be extracted from KSM, thus giving the impression that it may seem right to a utilitarian, but most would consider this an act of inhumanity and a relentless, unsympathetic, irrational attempt to validate assertions created on the basis of assumption and plausibility.

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