Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Ethics of Ethics

So it's a bit mean of me to pick on the Ticking time bomb argument (TTBA) in any of its forms, because it gets so much bad press. As it stands, I'm not really going after the conceptual problems with the TTBA, but more the practical realities of some of the empirical presuppositions I think it reast on.

Today's news article that brings all this up was on the cover of the wikinews site, which I use because its often a cross-referenced amalgam of a number of news sources, which I find intuitively somewhat more promising. At the very least it provides a convenient dump site for the big reports on the same issue across the massive news industry that sprawls the length and breadth of Interwebia.

The article, stating that Secret memos reveal Bush administration endorsed torture made me a touch cross. The kicker was when apparently Condeleezza rice, in all her obvious care and compassion, had questioned whether or not waterboarding was legal or not.


wait for it.



Honestly! How can these people live with themselves? How can they be so STUPID!? Legal? Did anyone stop to even look up what Waterboarding was? Who cares if its allowed (which I'm pretty sure its not, Condie)? TORTURE!

And yet, philosophers and lawyers alike persist in constructing scenarios which could give these people a foothold for legitimacy? I mean, we worry about the scientists doing the research to give the technology to build the weapons, but the ethicists are creating and legitimising the tools by which corrupt administrations will attempt to vindicate themselves! Should we be analysing the ethics of giving these logical tools? Its worse than guns, we're giving these people the tools to send our sense of decency back to a place that even cavepeople would look and go "Grarg? (translation: What the F***?)"

Maybe I should start another dissertation on dual-use ethics. Because sure, its a nice little set of thought experiments, but its like the bright idea of whoever it was to give George W. Bush the words "just" and "war." Should we as philosophers be culpable for giving evil people the tools to try and justify atrocities?

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