Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Michael Levin, “The Case for Torture”

Note: We will circle around to your recent performance—from missed opportunities to recent grades—next week.

Our next text was published on June 7, 1982, in Newsweek:

This moves us from the realm of fictional violence and obscenity and into a discussion of political torture. You can see the specific focuses of our discussion by loading this document:

Use the comments section of this post to continue that discussion; be sure, however, that you are basing your contributions on the photocopied annotations on adversarials that were distributed on Monday. Do not ignore that feedback.

If you use Google Groups to work out your responses to any of these concepts, include the link.

Advertisements

224 responses to “Michael Levin, “The Case for Torture”

  1. Andrew Genussa December 10, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Levin doesn’t introduce hard facts into his argument, but rather utilizes “the realm of imagination”. He uses hypothetical situations that have astonishing parallels to reality to support his cause. He speculates as to how the public would feel, or what we would do. That is a logical fallacy, and not a valid basis for argument. His imagination- his hypothesis, especially in the last paragraph, are shockingly true.

    • Jessica Lau December 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      Although I agree that Levin doesn’t discuss any known real-life situations or crises of terrorism that have ever happened for the law to resort to torturing a terrorist to be supported as a fact, but rather as the fallacy of false dilemma because he is using hypothetical situations, I really must agree with Levin that sometimes torture would have to be a completely necessary tactic to use on a terrorist. I mean, sometimes only one said terrorist can have the knowledge needed to disarm a bomb intended to kill millions of innocent civilians and torture can, supposedly, force information out of him. Sure, it can be said that torture is unconstitutional, but first of all, the terrorist did it all to himself because he willingly chose to put a bomb in course of his own chosen motives, and second of all, people need to face consequences for their actions and torture may be a necessary consequence because the terrorist hose for himself to be imprisoned and tortured since killing him would be like giving in to enemy since terrorists usually choose to die rather than fail a terrorist mission. You may think I am explaining a case of karma in modern global context. I guess you can say that I am, but all I’m saying is, the hypothetical terrorist chose his own course of action, he got successfully captured by the authorities who can do whatever they want with him, he has to face the consequences for his chosen course of action.

      • Andrew Genussa December 10, 2012 at 5:44 pm

        I agree that some torture is necessary. I, without a doubt, believe that sometimes “the good guy needs to do bad things to make the bad guys pay.” Levin should have made his argument based more on fact than his hypothetical stories. I do think he has a legitimate reason for concern and a decent argument, which is backed by popular belief, but i think that an argument as sensitive as human torture should be based more on deductive logic than a hypothesis.

        • Avery Pan December 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm

          If “the good guy needs to do bad things to make the bad guys pay,” the good guy is not technically a “good” guy anymore. Two wrong’s do not make a right, but I believe you are correct in that Levin should have based his argument more on fact. If Levin had provided factual, historical evidence that in the past, torture methods have solved problems, then his argument would most likely come off more persuasive to his audience. However, with only hypothetical evidence as support, there’s always room for uncertainty.

          • Nick Santamaria December 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm

            I disagree that if “the good guy needs to do bad things to make the bad guys pay,” the good guy is not technically a “good” guy anymore. Levin is not arguing that two wrongs make a right, his argument is much more complicated than that. Levin is actually arguing that in order to prevent an even greater wrong, sometimes good guys must weigh out the consequences of torture versus the outcome. Then in such scenarios when the consequences of the terrorist act outweigh the moral implications of torturing someone, a good guy must essentially become a “bad” guy in light of the greater good. What and who determines this greater good however, is an area which Levin doesn’t address. Is this public opinion which determines how to weigh options or is the decision left in the hands of those few leaders in positions of real power?

            • Jamie DiBella December 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

              I agree with Nick, he isn’t implying that the good guy has to become a “bad guy,” but in reality all he is doing is preventing further evil that would come from the original “bad guy”. Levin says in the fourth paragraph, ” Torture is barbaric? Mass murder is far more barbaric.” So in retrospect, by torturing or killing this “bad guy,” you aren’t becoming a “bad person” but you are actually doing a civil service. By taking down this evil force, you are preventing further torture that could be done to so many more innocent people.

              • Jamie DiBella December 11, 2012 at 10:34 am

                I would like to make a revision to my first sentence:
                I disagree with Nick, but I do agree with the fact that Levin isn’t implying…

            • Andrew Genussa December 11, 2012 at 10:30 am

              In our country, the American public should be the only body that has “real power”. This nation is a democracy.

              • Jessica Jackson December 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm

                The American public shouldn’t have all the power though, if we do and we have no higher power above us, this country would be chaos. You can’t expect people that have no real knowledge about what would be good for society and making a huge decision for society to make a political decision. We should have ‘real power’ about smaller things, like our rights and we should have a say. If it comes down to executing a terrorist or not though, I would leave that decision up to the president or military, someone who has more experience than I do in these scenarios.

                • Gabriella Maresca December 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm

                  I agree with you Jess, if the regular people of society, (no-one from political stand points or professionals) were to have a say, either everyone would be tortured, or everyone would get away with everything. Unless you fully understand the rights for an individual and you have the reasoning to punish this person, the “average” person should not make decisions on anothers fate. I believe there also needs to be a scale, on which crimes are worthy of death, torture or a second chance. But, who would create this scale? There could be many different individuals that would fight for the morals and rights of each side of the case.

                  • Andrew Genussa December 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

                    I agree that sometimes the public makes poor decisions. However, some information (that isn’t a matter of national security) is hidden from the public. If that information was free for people to know, and the people could decide what happen things would be more just. Politicians aren’t anything special. Politicians are people who are supposed to represent the public. Why can’t the public represent themselves? I understand some people have trouble representing themselves, but that is why there is anonymity. That is why we have closed voting booths. Sure there are many points of view, but the public has the right to come to a consensus on a plan of action, not be offered just two points of view, a republican and a democratic, and have to choose from one.

                  • Danny DePaoli December 13, 2012 at 10:37 am

                    If the average person should not get to make decisions on another’s fate, then how could anybody be against torture? If innocent people’s lives are at stake, at the hand of another, probably “average” person, then wouldn’t you all feel the need to step in and help those people? Even if by doing so, you do something not “morally acceptable” in the eyes of society? I will introduce a hypothetical that I have not used yet, and ask, if you were in that situation, would you advocate torture to save your own? That terrorist is now attempting to kill you, and if he is tortured, you will be saved. I would certainly advocate this kind of interrogation. To quickly jump ship from this topic, I cannot comprehend how in America, the people shouldn’t have the “real power?” This entire country was founded on the basis of the power in the hands of the people. To deny that fact is to deny America, and all that it stands for. I understand that you don’t want the mass of Americans making decisions, but if they shouldn’t, then who should? No matter what decision is made, there is going to be people who are unhappy with it. Its terrible that everyone cannot agree, but to quote Janet, we don’t live in a Utopia. The power in this country is with the people, and I hope that it will remain that way.

                    • Joseph Serrecchia December 14, 2012 at 11:02 am

                      I agree on the fact that this country was founded by the people and made for the people therefore the people should certainly be the ones in charge. One thing you must consider though is the threat the people have on their own country. The press and the internet are truly a double edged sword. They are great for attaining information and the are “great for attaining information”. One example of this is a current event, the death of Osama Bin Laden. The public knew nothing about this and the press never had a chance to release that information until the deed was done. If this were released and the plan was around the United states and on the internet, there is the strong possibility that the former number one terrorist in the world would have caught wind of it and quickly took action to protect himself. The public could have technically protected the man we had desired to kill for over a decade.

              • Joseph Oliveri December 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm

                I don’t think that torture should be completely discarded as an idea, but it should be an option rather than a default response. Yet, we need to ask ourselves what constitutes as a situation worthy of torture. Should we, as a nation, set universal standards as to what requires a certain method or amount of torture, if we are decide to , or are driven to use it? Since, is is very true that the democratic system is the pinnacle of what we call “choice” by our nation’s populous. If left to the up to the American people, would the decision wouldn’t reflect true wants of the “individual” but the collective opinion of a coincidental (large) group of people. As always, decision by vote will never end the dispute. Think about it…I find it hard to believe that there has never been an article, written like Levin’s, presenting reasons against torture.

              • Jessica Lau December 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm

                I don’t think the American public should have all the “real power”. Even though power is supposed to go to the people in this country, the majority of the populace might agree on handling a said captured terrorist immorally. I’m not saying torture is immoral because I think it is absolutely necessary at times, but the American public might agree on taking measures far worse that cross the line between moral enough and absolutely immoral toward said terrorist because first of all, said terrorist attempted to kill many American citizens, making the decision one-sided, and second of all, will feel that prisoners don’t deserve to be treated morally at all.

                • Ashley Monaco December 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm

                  I agree Jessica. Their does need to be some type of a higher power to keep everyone in line. Someone with a lucid, unbiased view that will do whatever it takes to keep the citizens safe. Their are many people who do not believe in torture…but on the other hand their are people who feel that torture is acceptable if necessary. Whoever is in charge of the particular country will choose what works best. Like Levin said, by utilizing torture it may save millions of peoples lives compared to just standing by. But like many people on this blog have argued, torturing is immoral and you may run the risk of torturing someone who is innocent. This is why a higher power is needed because everyone is biased and has their own opinion on what should be done with a sensitive issue like this one. However, by having a higher power, although many people may disagree with him, he will take all measures necessary even if that does include torture.

            • Jessica Lau December 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm

              I agree with you Nick. Sometimes, it is best for the good guy to take a morally controversial action in order to do the right thing. In certain cases, that morally controversial action can become moral if it is for the best, in this context this action being the torture of prisoners. The whole purpose of the torture done upon a terrorist is to get information out of him to protect the lives of the innocent not asking to die among many others in a day. Some may say that torture is hypocritical in America because some may say that torture is cruel and unusual punishment. To me, torturing a terrorist is not hypocritical to American beliefs since it is more for the greater good for millions of people by torturing this one person for information regarding his chosen action involving harming this large number of people.

          • Briana Beach December 11, 2012 at 10:21 am

            I agree with you, Avery, when you say there is always room for uncertainty with only hypothetical evidence. However, I do believe Levin’s use of the rhetorical device, pathos in his rhetorical questions and hypophras make his argument strong. “If you caught the terrorist, could you sleep nights knowing that millions died because you couldn’t bring yourself to apply the electrodes?” Here, Levin leads you to question yourself on how you would feel if you were responsible for a million lost lives, and families with lost love ones. By the DAMAGES format, this applies to style, manipulating the reader’s emotions, helping his message in the article.

          • Andrew Genussa December 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

            Sometimes torture is justified. What determines what’s good and what’s evil is the intention behind an action. People who are “bad” choose to destroy other people’s work and other people’s lives. People who are “good” choose to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. Torture as a means of interrogation is something justifiable when it helps protect the innocent

          • Brian Donnelly December 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

            I disagree with you Avery, if the “bad guy” is going to possibly kill hundreds of thousands of people, I think the “good guy” should do anything, anything at all to save those people, even if it means torturing the “bad guy” if you save two people by killing one you made the right choice. If the “good guy” saved all of those people at the price for one “bad guy” no one would think twice about torturing the “bad guy”. If it meant saving hundred of thousands of people I’d do it myself and i know I’d be sleep at night.

            • Kait Donohue December 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm

              Avery, I thoroughly agree with you that the lack of factual information caused for uncertainty in his piece. However, I found that the hypothetical situations worked to his benefit. Each situation he presented to his audience made you think twice. Even if you think torture is unjust, is it unjust for ourselves to allow someone committing crimes to get away with it? Levin uses the examples of punishing someone for the benefit of the innocent. When you think of torture, you automatically think of a “bad person” making the “good guy” suffer. This type of torture is shunned upon and is considered inhumane. But when presented with the “bad guy” being tortured, it somehow becomes “ok.” I believe that the example situations are the main cause for this conclusion and the reason his article is so persuasive.

            • Avery Pan December 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm

              I think we can all agree that there is no good answer or decision that can be made when faced with this sort of situation. I seriously doubt, Brian, that you would be able to sleep soundfully at night without the memories of yourself burning, branding, whipping, castrating, stabbing, etc. another person, regardless of who they are, puncturing your mind and forcing yourself to constantly ask if you did the moral thing. The possibility of nothing happening to other people even if you hadn’t gone through with torturing someone would always dwindle in your mind, causing you to feel guilty and inhumane. On the other hand, Briana is right in by asking rhetorical questions and providing a series of hypophoras, Levin forces the reader to place blame for the possibility of the death of more people’s lives on your shoulders. However, the decision to choose between these two options (torturing someone, or waiting for the possible consequences of not) is not any one individual’s responsibility, nor should they be held at fault if incapable of making a choice.

          • Jessica Lau December 11, 2012 at 1:50 pm

            Although it is true that “two wrongs do not make a right”, Levin’s argument is not that torture is actually right nor is it totally wrong in the case of getting information out of a captured terrorist, but rather it is sometimes a necessary measure. Yes, Levin’s argument cannot be totally validated since he only writes of hypothetical terrorist crises in his argument, but sometimes it is necessary to torture a person who has attempted to do something involving the deaths of millions of innocent civilians. Besides, the terrorist had done all of the torture unto himself since it was totally his choice of action to deploy a bomb or some other terrorist plot that got himself captured by the authorities in the first place.

      • Liam Lonegan December 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm

        Jessica, I agree with you that a terrorist “did it all to himself,” but you may want to reword how you talk about how “people need to face consequences for their actions…” You said that torture would “force useful information out of him/her” which is the right way to explain torture’s purpose but don’t fall into the trap of saying how torture is a form of punishment and terrorists deserve the torture. What each terrorist deserves enters into “opinion territory,” and you even caught yourself talking about “karma,” but didn’t fix it. So, Levin does not agree that torture should be used to punish terrorists, like you put. However, what you could’ve discussed in your post is what Levin talks about in ¶7, that the rights of the terrorist are immediately threatened when he willingly puts people into harms way, only because he is threatening the rights of innocent beings who didn’t ask for it.

        Also, just to clear up: the fallacy of false dilemma is when the writer gives a limited number of choices involving a situation, when in fact, both choices may lead to negative outcomes. Just the fact that Levin places a hypothetical situation in his argument doesn’t mean he is committing a fallacy of false dilemma so just be careful where you accuse. With that said, it is easy for a writer to cause a false dilemma situation so I can understand why you accuse Levin in some instances. In ¶3, Levin describes the hypothetical situation about a bomb-planting terrorist. He asks the question whether torture would be justifiable but where he goes wrong is when he introduces the question by saying, “If the only way to save those lives is to subject the terrorist to the most excruciating possible pain, what grounds…” Levin commits the fallacy here because he sneaks in that word, “only” and therefore only gives the reader one option to choose from. In a real-life situation, it’s likely that there would be more ways to save the lives.

    • Ashley Monaco December 11, 2012 at 8:55 am

      I agree Andrew, when Levin argues that, “these situations are moving from the realm of imagination to fact.” , his use of hypothetical scenarios weaken his arguement. Although I fully agree with his arguement and find his hypothetical situations to evoke thought into this issue, by using imagination situations to support his arguement is completely contradicting his original stance of how, “these situations are moving from the realm of imagination to fact.” Instead in order to support his stance he should have used real life scenarios to show how these situations are moving from “imagination to fact”.

    • Jessica Jackson December 12, 2012 at 11:51 am

      I disagree with the “good guy, bad guy thing” because then in this situation it would make him wrong. It’s a very tricky subject, you can go from being a moral person to being heartless in a matter of seconds. However, I did realize that Levin didn’t have much factual information besides Hitler and when he asked the ladies what they would do in this situation. But, in my opinion, I don’t think Levin wanted to base his text on entirely factual information, it would just be a giant lecture of factual information; it’s good to know the past and what has happened but I think Levin was trying to make us think, he was definitely being persuasiveness but it seems he wants people to talk about it and see what points they bring up, not just information. At least that’s what I got from it anyway, any other thoughts? Would he need the factual information to make his text more appealing? Or more reliable?

  2. Danny DePaoli December 10, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I agree completely with Levin. It is, in my opinion, childish to think that torture is entirely impermissible. In movies, the genre torture porn has developed, and these movies receive vast sums of money when they reach theaters. To show these movies, with these grotesque scenes to the public, and then deem them “impermissible,” in reality is ridiculous. The hypothetical situation of the terrorist with the bomb is a perfect example for Levin’s purpose. He believes that in a case such as that, torture is necessary. However, the most brilliant aspect of the hypothetical situation is that it is juxtaposed by another hypothetical situation, in which, rather than millions of lives being at stake, there is only 10. This puts into perspective how difficult the decision would be to let these people die, rather than torture the person who put their lives at stake. I have to agree with Levin, because I tried to think of these people as members of my family, or close friends, rather then John Does. This made it impossible to let these people die rather than torture the culprit. Therefore, I think that personalizing disrupts our ability to advocate torture.

    • Andrew Genussa December 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      I agree that torture cannot be ruled out as a viable method for interrogation. You bring up a good point that in popular culture we see excruciating horrors in film, some that question one’s own human decency, but we are still opposed to harming actual humans. Torture is a terrible, but necessary evil

      • Joe Serrecchia December 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

        Torture is only justifiable in the eyes of the people who are informed of it. One can believe that it is necessary while one believes it was over the top. I do agree that it is a “necessary evil” simply because it is effective in getting information out of people but, is considered inhumane by others. Sometimes using words isn’t enough, with the world today everything is revolved around creating peace when violence is inevitable.

    • Jessica Lau December 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      I don’t think it is appropriate to relate torture porn and the authorities doing the torturing to terrorists because each case has a different motive behind the torturing and the technique of the torture depending on the motive. In the case of torture porn, the serial killer, aka the torturer, tortures people due to his insane idea of fun or pleasure by flaying them alive or slicing open their bodies right before killing them, while in the case of the authorities, they torture terrorists because a notorious act the terrorist has done involving killing millions of innocents because it is necessary to save those innocents, but by doing so without killing the terrorist or cutting open his body.

      • Nick Santamaria December 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm

        I actually disagree Jessica, relating this back to torture porn takes into account the stereotyped definition of torture which the media has exported through films to the general public. When the idea of torturing terrorists is brought up, the public makes immediate connotations to all of the horror movies which they have seen which included torture; whether those movies be Chaos, Captivity, or the Saw series, each film gives the audience a very specific and in some cases demented view of a term which is actually pretty ambiguous: torture. Now although motives of torture, and the means by which this torture is conducted obviously vary, taking into account the audiences possibly preconceived notions and biases is something we must do in order to analyze not just how Levin argues his point, but how he either notices (or lacks to notice) this bias and then addresses it.

        • Jessica Jackson December 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm

          I agree with you Nick. I don’t think that Danny was saying that torture porn is exactly like torturing a terrorist but it still occurs in the same realm. Like you said torture scenes are floating around in our heads from movies that we’ve seen and when we hear about something like these scenarios that Levin presents we connect them to the movies, because that’s familiar.

      • Andrew Genussa December 11, 2012 at 10:40 am

        I think it is most appropriate to relate torture porn to real life torture. If America is desensitized to watching torture movies, why is torturing a real human such a huge deal? Those who interrogate terrorists, use different means of torture. They all inflict physical pain, but not the intimate emotional pain that we see in torture movies. Interrogatory torture is purely objective. If we can witness something intimately inhumane, such as a torture porn movie, we should be approving of something objective like torture in an interrogation. Really what’s worse, a broken spirit or a hurt body?

        • Natalie Jara December 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm

          Andrew I think you bring up a very good point when you ask “If America is desensitized to watching torture movies, why is torturing a real human such a huge deal?” This question really says alot about everyone in general and how even though the public is getting desensitized to watching torture porn we still make a big deal out of torturing people when it actually happens to real humans. It says that we’re not completely desensitized to watching these types of movies. For me desensitizing means that someone doesn’t feel the original feelings they once did or any feelings at all to a particular event or topic. For example, when someone is studying to be a surgeon or is one already, they have to get used to all the blood around them. They don’t feel squirmy or as uncomfortable as they did when starting because the blood is always going to be there and after a while they aren’t as sensitive to it. They get over that feeling to blood and that’s what we have been doing throughout the generations to torture porn and other types of movies like that. Most people who watch torture porn are desensitized to the movie and the plot line itself because they are used to watching those types of movies and seeing those traumatic scenes before. When people watch torture porn movies, they have an escape from reality because it’s something they know won’t happen everyday or even believe it won’t happen to them. Yet, when it happens in real life, then were all sensitive to it because it’s reality and not just an hour and a half movie on a screen.

          • Jessica Lau December 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm

            I have to agree with you that people have an entirely different reaction from watching a torture porn movie than from hearing about a torture scandal done by the authorities in real life. When people watch torture porn, they feel kind of indifferent for the characters because they lack any depth and the serial killer does what he does just for his own personal enjoyment. I think this is the case because first of all, it is quite absurd and unlikely for something like that to happen to anybody in the real world, and second of all, it is only a movie and the characters aren’t real people. However, when a torture scandal is heard in the real world, it sparks outrage from people supporting human rights. I think this is the case because the torture is not happening in the movies, the torture is not made up by a movie director, and the torture does not happen every day to one person in a day or over a course of days.

            • Liam Lonegan December 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm

              Jessica, your post is saturated with generalizations to the point where it’s hard to touch on them all.

              1. I’m not certain as to what you mean by saying, “…they feel kind of indifferent for the characters because they lack any depth and the serial killer does what he does…” From what I remember, we just completed discussing Edelstein and how film directors cause us to empathize with characters and adopt a moral responsibility. And it doesn’t stop there. When the protagonist dies, we tend to have an automatic sympathy which overcomes us; when the protagonist tortures, we feel a sense of moral guilt overcome us. Characters do not “lack depth” in the way that you state. It is easy for us as moviegoers to become empathetic and understanding of a character’s motives and views. If you meant to say that statement in a different way, please clarify, because I might have misunderstood.

              2. Also, because of the fact that a character is a serial killer doesn’t mean they enjoy killing. Again, going back to Edelstein’s article, don’t you remember his moral displacement theory when the moviegoer’s POV changes to empathize with the killer? If every protagonist killer found enjoyment out of their murders, how would the moviegoer be able to share feelings with them? In may be convincing enough in some cases, but we still have moral standards as viewers, and the protagonist would have to have a legitimate motive other than sheer entertainment.

              3. I also can see that the majority of people do not torture like how it is displayed in Hollywood; I get that. However, stating that it’s “absurd and unlikely” for that kind of torture to happen in real life is a generalization. Many of the serial killers that we hear of (Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer to name a few) tortured and murdered their victims in their own way in the real world. And because something is “only a movie” may mean that it is dramatized, but that doesn’t mean the characters aren’t based on real people.

              4. The last sentence escapes me. I’m not able to fully grasp what you are trying to say. If you are saying that real-life torture doesn’t take place over a course of days to an individual, that would be another generalization. We have no idea how long torture administered by an authority prolongs. It could be years if they are so determined to get answers.

              These posts, in some areas, have gotten to the point where repliers are throwing up statements unlike the situation previous prompts, when our posts were more organized and thought out. We have to remember to keep an open mind instead of making generalizations/assumptions and we must remember develop our responses before selecting “Post Comment.”

        • Jack Kelly December 12, 2012 at 10:20 am

          Andrew, I agree, if we are able to sit through a 2 hour Saw movie, and accept it as it is presented to us, then why can’t some accept the fact that interrogation through different forms of torture? We are fine with the image a company puts on the big screen for a profit, but we need to accept that torture can be a successful way to gain information and possibly save lives in the process.

        • Joseph Oliveri December 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

          I agree Andrew. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many pieces of film, regarded by some as “torture porn” that its original makers intended not to be what it was later perceived by many as. For example, Edelstein’s mention of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” in his article that we read.

      • Danny DePaoli December 11, 2012 at 10:41 am

        I disagree as well Jessica. If millions of lives are at stake, are we really going to take the time to dissect the motives of the terrorist, and possibly waste time attaining valuable information? If lives are at stake, we must do what is necessary to save as many lives as possible. I’m not saying that we should torture every petty thief that walks into a grocery store and steals an apple pie, but in cases where lives are at stake, torture is justified. Torture is a means of attaining information that would otherwise be impossible to receive. If this information is vital , then torture is justified. Torture is not a means of punishment, and I am by no means advocating the use of torture by serial killers in my first comment, but it is an important practice to save lives. Therefore, torture is justified.

        • Jessica Lau December 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

          I am not saying that torture is always unjustified. What I am saying is that torture is truly justifiable in the case of a captured terrorist, but torture porn and torturing a criminal or a terrorist (I don’t know if “criminal” and “terrorist” are interchangeable in this context, since “criminal” and “terrorist” both connote people harming or killing other people, but each with different motives) are not really the same. Made-up serial killers in the movies are basically shallow characters who are just “I love flaying people alive and cutting open their bodies to watch their bodies spill blood and throw their guts around before I kill them because it’s fun.” with no other detail to their real motive of torturing random people. However, the authorities would say something like “This terrorist tried to kill millions of people. The innocents’ lives are at stake and we need to torture this guy in order to prevent another terrorist of this organization from actually killing innocent civilians.” That motive is crystal clear and totally justifiable for the authorities to torture a terrorist just to get information from him without killing him because it is necessary.

    • Ashley Monaco December 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

      Levin’s placement of these hypothetical situations I found to be quite interesting. To first support his argument he uses the example of where millions of people’s lives are at stake. I feel in this situation Levin is appealing to logos. Although millions of people’s lives being at stake is obviously a tragedy, it is just a number, not to seem harsh. Although this is not the best source to quote I find this quote from Stalin to be accurate and insightful, “Strange, I think to myself, how we have seen so much death in the wars and we know that two million of us have fallen in vain – how come we are so stirred up by this one man and have almost forgotten those two million? But that’s just how it is, because one man is always the dead – and two million is always just a statistic.” Thefore I feel as though this situation is just an appeal to logos. It would only sem logical to do whatever it takes to prevent the death of millions of people by just torturing that one person? However, as the essay progresses Levin gives us another hypothetical situation: a newborns baby life at stake. I find this scenario to appeal to pathos much more. In is scenario it is just one persons life at stake however I feel as though it stirs up a lot more emotion. Especially because Levin quotes what the mothers of these new born babies would have done to that terrorist. This scenario is more realatble not just to mothers, but to anyone because they begin to think of what they would do if one of their family members were at stake. I found this situation to have much more of an impact emotionally on me on why torturing terrorists is okay.

      • Victoria Simpri December 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

        I agree with you completely here Ashley. Levin’s hypothetical situations were not as effective because he specifically used those situations as appeals to logos and pathos as you said. If he had used real historical situations his argument could have been stronger. Imagine if Levin put the reader in the situation where they were face to face with the people who were flew the planes that went through the twin towers. If Levin had used scenarios like this his argument would have been stronger and put the reader in a situation where they could save thousand who have been lost.

        • Ashley Monaco December 14, 2012 at 10:27 am

          I agree Victoria, by using real life scenarios such as the 9/11 attack it would of definitly would have given more of an appeal to pathos. However, I do not think the 9/11 attack could of been a reliable source because anyone who was on that plane died in the crash so therefore their could not be any real accounts on someone who was face to face with the terrorists. Since the attack had happened, torture obviously wasn’t used. Not to mention that this essay was written in 1982 prior to the 9/11 attack. Instead I think if Levin were to interview people who had tortured terrorist to protect other people that would of appealed to our ethos a lot more. We could of felt the emotions the torturer was feeling as he was torturing the terrorist. The motives the torturer had for torturing the terrorist. I think by using these types of facts the source would of been much more reliable.

  3. Kyle Riccardi December 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    In my opinion, depending upon the severity of the situation, if well justified, i believe torture may be acceptable. Levin’s hypothetical examples help trigger our true thoughts on torture. Some may think one way about torture off the top of their head, but as soon as they can associate torture with a real life situation, their thoughts become far more serious. However, if a United States spy was captured in Afghanistan and tortured for refusal to answer questions about who he was working for or why, I’m sure our ideas upon the issue would change. Torture can be tricky. Is there a “right” time to torture? I suppose that’s dependent upon who you’re asking, but in a time of chaos, when questions urgently need answers, I think torture may be our only answer.

    • Conor Mitts December 11, 2012 at 11:59 am

      I agree with you Kyle. I do believe that torture is the answer in these extreme hypothetical circumstances, and I enjoyed you insight on looking at this situation from another point of view. I think if the script was flipped many people would feel differently, it all depends on what side of the equation your on. If it’s your loved ones being threatened with a bomb, most of us would inflict the torture ourselves to get answers. However if it was the other way around and a US soldier is being tortured for information, we would be out raged but for them maybe that information is going to save their loved ones. I believe in the use of torture in extreme circumstances. Although I think that, that support for torture is very easily swayed depending on where your looking at it from.

    • Amanda Rizzotti December 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      Both you and Conor bring up many interesting points. When I wrote my response to this piece last night, I fully believed that torture was necessary and unavoidable. Levin forced me to see that torture is just a way of life, and, if a terrorist attack were to occur, we should all do anything within our power to stop it. However, I never considered how this would look if it was the other way around. What if it was an American being tortured by another country? Then would I condone and advocate for the use of torture? I would surely hope not. Before this comment, I had never bothered to view this situation through someone else’s eyes. Many of us have even gone to the extent of saying that we would be able to commit such acts, and still sleep easy at night. The capture of one outweighs the loss of hundreds. I now realize that this is not as cut and dry as it sounds. Torture, as Kyle put it, can be tricky. It raises many moral questions that I do not believe have a clear right and wrong answer. In the end, I think it depends on the situation at hand. In times of desperation and panic, people will go to any extent to save themselves and those around them. It is the way we were built and the way we were raised. While it may not always be the “right”, “easy” and “ethical” thing to do, if one has no other options, they will do everything in their power to obtain the answer they are looking for, and put a stop to the danger at hand.

      • Jessica Lau December 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm

        I think you bring up a very good point about torture in someone else’s eyes. It seems that everyone can have completely different point of view about the justification of torture, and people’s general opinion about torture had basically altered throughout the course of time, now that I think about it. Levin refers to “a throwback to a more brutal age”; the age when most people accepted watching a condemned criminal being tortured in front a large, booing crowd in the public square, whether it be physically torturing the person’s body with tar and feathers or torturing the person’s reputation loudly for some blasphemous scandal. We, as a community, should look back at this time period and reflect on how this somewhat former point of view on the morality of torture is similar yet different at the same time as Levin’s argument. I, for one, think that torture is acceptable in the case of national security to save the lives of innocent civilians. My opinion is similar to that of the public opinion of torture in the colonial age, in that the motive behind the torture is because of a bad action the terrorist has performed, but different in that I don’t think it should be done in public for the public to boo at the terrorist, for that would be too extreme and will cross the line between moral and immoral.

    • Liam Lonegan December 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      You’re statement about torture being used for retrieval of information is spot on. Some people confuse the goals for execution and torture, when in official uses, they are very different. (As a side: of course there are unofficial uses for torture, like abusing for the sake of only inflicting cruel pain but we won’t discuss that here). For example, as a government official, there is no use for me to torture a serial killer. It is only logical to dispose of him completely. However, if there was an idea that the serial killer had put in place a monstrous plan to kill millions, the decision would switch to torture, only because we need to retrieve that information.

  4. Amanda Rizzotti December 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    My definition and the dictionary definition of terrorism are extremely similar. I believe terrorism to be the use of brutality and intimidation in order to pursue political advancements. Levin seems to have a similar definition. Throughout his argument, he consistently references “terrorists” in his examples. While he never blatantly defines “terrorism”, I believe he defines the acts that a terrorist would commit. Through his detailed examples of atomic bombs being planted, and millions of lives being threatened, one could assume that Levin’s definition of terrorism is similar to mine. I believe that he defines “terrorism” as the act of cruelty and viciousness against the public.
    I fully agree with Levin’s position on torture in the real world. He is not promoting torture to be used freely and often, but instead supports its use only when the government feels morally obligated to safeguard the lives of innocent bystanders. Levin includes vivid, and extremely real situations in which torture would be necessary and justifiable in today’s society. He advocates torture to “prevent future evils”. By including a hypothetical situation of a terrorist attack, which could easily occur, Levin allows the reader to relate and agree with his points. It allowed me to think to myself, “If I was in such a situation, what would I do?” The answer is clear to me; I would do anything within my power to try and save those people, even if it resulted in inflicting severe pain on another human being .

    • Kyle Riccardi December 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Amanda, I like the direction you’re heading in. I believe our definitions of terrorism are very similar as well: an act which inflicts danger upon a massive amount of people. However, I don’t believe it to be only for political advancement. But, I do believe you are on the right track. Terrorists attempt to hurt and kill large masses of people, but the motives may not always be the same. It can almost be viewed as though the terrorist is attempting to torture the large amount of people. As seen in the movie reviews that we have read, their is always a goal trying to be reached. Whether it be revenge or simply sexual pleasure, there is always a goal. It all depends upon the goal and mind of the “torturer”. Simply put, torture always has a purpose.

      • Jessica Lau December 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

        I do believe that torture has a purpose, but there has to be a justifiable purpose or motive for the torture to be okay. With Levin’s argument, I totally have to agree that it is justifiable to torture a terrorist in order to get information out of him to save the lives of innocent civilians. If that goal of getting information out of the terrorist can be achieved, then it can be said that the torture was justified and successful. Levin doesn’t say that torture is actually a good thind nor is it a bad thing (if he actually said torture was totally wrong, he would have refuted his whole argument anyway). However, in the case of torture porn where there are made-up characters with absolutely no depth of clear motive, the torture in that, no matter how fake it is, is never justified because he is only doing what he does for fun and has the intention of actually killing the victim after he has been flayed and gutted. I may be going off track from reality and into the media, but I am only making an analogy between justified torture and unjustified torture.

  5. Gabriella Maresca December 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Although I rarely believe violence is the way to solve world problems, there are few exceptions to my opinion, and Michael Levin’s argument is one of them. He does argue the view of individual rights, how every human has a chance to live and make their own decisions, but, what happens when those decisions are unconstitutional? Peoples lives are taken and history is changed dramatically from a single event. After knowing innocent people died and peoples lives were ruined, would you give that same person a chance to make other decisions? This is where I agree with Levin’s argument. Death can be an easy escape for those that have “messed up.” No more questions would have to be answered, and they wouldn’t have to live or face the consequences of the chaos they have caused. Torture on the other hand, is a different approach to facing those consequences. If they’re still alive and facing a punishment close to death, maybe questions will be answered in order to stop the pain they are facing themselves. But Levin then asks, “Is torture barbaric?” When I read this, I immediately think. “What is more barbaric, innocent people losing their lives, or giving a killer another chance to do it again.” Its a horrific question to answer, but if there aren’t anymore chances, future problems could be avoided. As I read through the argument, the word “moral” is constantly talked about. The example that particularly caught my eye was the example about Hitler. “Americans would be angered to learn that Roosevelt could have had Hitler killed in 1943, shortening the war and saving millions of lives, but refused on moral grounds.” What is moral about losing millions of lives compared to one? I don’t understand why society chooses violence over life. No one derserves to die because of arrogance. Death and torture will never bring those that are lost back. But, torture could prevent future problems instead of avoiding them with death. Therefore, I agree that torture could be more effective then death, but it depends on the opionions and actions of society.

    • Janet Austin December 11, 2012 at 10:29 am

      I feel the same way Gab. Levin stated that if a terrorist planted a bomb somewhere, and we found the terrorist and then killed him, we wouldn’t have a way to find the bomb. Therefore, it would be a disaster. Although it is pretty unbearable to hear that we are torturing people, if it is in the interest of saving thousands of people, than it is definitely effective. No one will be killed, and we will be able to save many lives. Levin is saying that torture is an acceptable measure for preventing future evils. It is also known that obviously killing someone will not bring the victim back. As Levin states, torturing will not bring the victim back either, but it may give the murder a sense of what they had put their victim through.

      Later in the article, Levin talks about the moral aspect of torture and killing. He gives an example of how Roosevelt could have killed Hitler early in the war. However, he chose not to because of his moral views.Yes, if we torture a murderer, we are essentially stooping down to their level. However, we may also be saving more people from possible torture. In cases like this, the decision would be based on personality.

    • Jessica Lau December 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      I also found the Hitler reference quite significant and shocking. When I say that
      I was shocked, I mean that that is a very good point that Levin brought up. I fact, I find the Allies not assassinating Hitler quite ironic since President Roosevelt could have done this, thereby preventing the Holocaust, “saving millions of lives, but refused on moral grounds.” rather ironic, What does he mean by “moral grounds”? It would have been more moral to kill one person who has the intention of killing millions of others because of a sick, psychotic intent of genocide. The other way around sounds sick and atrocious, but let’s face it, the other way around, tragically, happened instead.

    • Jared Hunter December 12, 2012 at 11:34 am

      I see what you mean by rarely resorting to violence, I follow that mantra as well in my day to day life (very MLK like in a way). When I saw Levin questioning if torture was barbaric or not, I feel he wanted us to look at it from both a hypothetical and realistic standpoint. Of course, our first reaction in a situation involving innocent lives would be to diffuse the bomb and that would incorporate any means of torture necessary to obtain that information, but realistically thinking, are we emotionally and physically capable of harming someone in real time? Sure, we can SAY what we would do, but if the time ever came, could we have the stomach to do it? In today’s culture, we act as if we are desensitized to means of death and violence, believing that we know and have seen enough, through films, the news, and even perhaps in our personal lives. Although we would like to believe that we’d react in an instant, some just cannot stomach draining the life out of an individual even if it is to save another person. Of course, these are just my own personal thoughts and ideals. Skipping ahead to when Levin mentioned Hitler, and how Americans would be angered to learn Roosevelt could have had him killed but refused on moral grounds, who is to truly say that Americans would have become enraged over this? In truth, a good population of American individuals go out on a “Do for Self” ideology, a mantra developed by Elijah Muhammad, who was an African American religious leader and the founder of the Nation of Islam. This idea is that one looks out for one’s own and as long as the idea stands, why get involved with something that we are not connected to? Just look at what has happened in Egypt & Syria; many here in America were unaware and ultimately uninterested in the riots, rebellions, and uprisings going on since it did not directly happen to us. Granted, what I’m saying is just a mere challenge to Levin’s statement, and I don’t mean to come across as a “bigot” since that’s not the intended goal, but in regards to an early assassination of Hitler, I would say the enraged would dominantly be of the Jewish community and perhaps other minority classifications; those who have a cultural backing that involves torture, genocide, etc.

  6. Avery Pan December 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    It’s amazing to observe how quickly we change our minds about a belief when hypothetical, but realistic, examples are provided to us. Levin’s argument makes it impossible to side with the contrary without appearing to be some kind of unreasonable antihero. The general concept is similar to that of lying; many argue that lying cannot be deemed acceptable at any level, regardless of the situation, while others counter that exceptions to this violation of a moral exist. Of course, these arguments exist on completely different scales, as the disregard to civil conduct is ten times as extreme as the failure to tell the truth. But both allude to a bigger question, is it moral to always abide by and yield to what we have been taught are our dutiful morals? Levin votes no, that in many cases it is in fact acceptable to forget everything we have been taught previously, and that at times of despair, immoralities, like torture, become admissible. However, I believe that if any of us were to be put to the task of torturing another, even for the sake of thousands of others, the task wouldn’t suddenly seem so hunky-dory. Even with each of Levin’s examples in mind, I think every human being would be extremely hesitant to administer the torture of another. Many would most likely be incapable of actually following through in the burning, branding, whipping, stabbing, sawing, castrating, etc. of another human being. Is there a reason for this sense of hesitance? Is it because within ourselves, we know that it is savage, merciless, and all-in-all wrong on any level?

    • Caralyn Tassi December 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      By putting this article into the perspective of us having to be the ones to torture others, it becomes a lot harder to agree with. While it seems logical to attempt to stop terrorists from killing innocent people, there has to be an extent to which it’s acceptable. The example in ¶6 is one that I feel relates to this. Women tend to have very strong bonds with their children, so if their newborn was kidnapped I’m sure they’d be willing to inflict some type of pain on the kidnapper, but would they go to the extent of (like you said) burning, branding, whipping, etc…? It seems unlikely to me even though “the most liberal” said she’d do it herself. Perhaps we do have some inner morals making us cringe and shy away at the thought because it is a merciless act.

      • Ellen Urvater December 11, 2012 at 9:54 am

        Cara, I agree with you saying that you can only go so far with torture. It can only work and be useful for certain events. It is a hard decision that the government would have to make; to torture one person, or have many be killed. I do also agree that the example given in ¶6 is a little biased. Not only does Levine only ask women their opinion, but wouldn’t every mother have the same answer? The liberal mother, as you stated, said she would commit the acts herself. I disagree with you saying that you don’t think she would actually do it. If anyone was put it that situation with a loved one, wouldn’t you want to do something harmful to them in return?

        • Kristen Safford December 11, 2012 at 11:53 am

          Ellen, I agree that in most cases if a loved one is in danger many people would torture the extortionist in order to get their loved ones back. Also, when he asked the women what they would do, he only asked four people. These four people, statistically, can have completely different opinions than the majority of a society, therefore, I think Levin’s choice to include the womens’ opinions on the hypothetical case didn’t add to his article because their opinions are irrelevant. I believe that if he were to use statistics from a larger audience it would be a stronger support for his argument. I also agree with Cara because if these ladies were put in an actual scenario in which they were the ones torturing others they might feel a little different about what they were doing. I think that is part of the reason why in ¶7, Levin stresses the idea that he doesn’t believe that torturing people is okay in circumstances other than when you have the possibility to save people because once innocent people are injured or killed, you can’t change that. It’s done. The question is, where do you draw the line? When is it okay to torture someone for information? How important does that information have to be?

          • Victoria Simpri December 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm

            You make a good point here Kristen. Levin did only asked four women about this certain scenario and their opinion is not a good take on what the majority of people believe. However I agree with Ellen because, if these women, or anyone were put into the situation of harming someone to get back a loved one I believe anyone would jump at the chance. In the movie Taken, the girl’s father went to the ends of the Earth to get her back. It is shown there that a bond with a loved one is the strongest bond when they are in danger. You asked when is it okay to torture someone, and I believe most people would agree that it is okay to torture someone when they have the intent on hurting someone, or a group of people. If torturing them to get information to save one,or thousands of people, then in that case I believe it is the correct thing to do.

          • Ellen Urvater December 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm

            Kristen, where you draw the line depends on who you talk to. If you go back to the example of the mothers, than you can understand why they would want to torture the kidnappers. This example is focused on one type of person with one person in danger. But when the numbers grow to a large group of people in danger the number of people involved changes. The different opinions makes it harder to come out with a decision. That also relates to your second question on “when it is okay to torture someone for information.” This also depends on who and how many people are involved. While every life should be saved, higher powers get involved when a mass group of people are in danger. When it comes to torture, these higher powers, like the government, are the ones who would administer it.

          • Deanna Torrisi December 13, 2012 at 10:44 am

            I see where you’re coming from Kristen, however I do believe the reference added to the argument. Levin didn’t just say women, he said mother’s. If any word implies nurture and care, it’s the word mother. Throughout nature (with maybe the exception of penguins, where the father acts as the nuturer) and all cultures, the mother is generally the figure that cares for an offspring’s need for love and protection, while the father works outside the nest to help supplement these needs. Now, I’m not being sexist, I’m speaking more about animals here, but back to my point, by saying that mothers agree with him that torture is okay, he’s showing that someone designed to nuture agrees that the exact opposite is justifiable in certain situations. So if mother’s can agree, why can’t you?

      • Ashley Monaco December 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm

        Cara, you do have to realize that the torture we are talking about here is not only, “burning, branding,whipping….” According to this link Mr. Eure shared with us on Friday, another form of torture is via music: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/02/torture-playlist
        Their are many forms of torture that may inflict emotional pain. You are just making assumptions here based on what you believe however you have to take the article word for word. I do believe even the most liberal mother said this because like you said women tend to have very strong bonds with their children. I am sure if you were to ask any mother who had just lost their child on Friday from the shooting if you asked them if they could have saved their child through the act of torture to the murderer they would have said yes. Although I am just making an assumption here, all over the news you are hearing about how much heart ache this is not only causing the parents that lost their children, but the country as a whole. In Obama’s speech on Friday he almost broke down crying because these young kids lost their lives so early. Although the theater shooting over the summer was very tragic this elementary school shooting seems much more emotional because they were just little kids. What I am getting at here by bringing up this recent, what I would consider terror act, is that people, parents especially hold a lot more emotions for the death of young children. They seem to have a much more emotional bond with them. So therefore, I do believe Levin’s hypothetical situation could very well be acurate because of this.

    • Jessica Jackson December 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      I completely agree with you and I mentioned this in my comment a little farther down the page, but when I first read the text I agreed that there are exceptions to torture and in some cases it should be accommodated. But if it were up to me to the super hero in the scenarios that Levin presents I don’t think I can appease the public and administer the torture because I feel its cruel. However, if it were somebody else I would hand over the terrorist and let them deal with this. Clearly this isn’t a rational situation but that’s what Levin is getting us to try to think about. What would we ACTUALLY do in these pressured situations? Some people are quick to answer, I agree that torture should be allowed in say the cases Levin depicts, but as for myself I don’t know what I’d do in the situation. Not that I wouldn’t want to save hundreds of people and punish a terrorist, but it’s the guilt that plays on my moral development and that’s what Levin is getting us to think about.

    • Lindsey Ragan December 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      Avery, you made a valid point in bringing up the potential unwillingness or even inability of some poeple to follow through with this “torture,” however, I don’t think you are completely taking into consideration all factors of the situation. For instance, in scenarios, like that of what Levin provided in his article, the people would be committing these acts of torture not only in heroic ways, but inevitably under the powerful influence of adrenaline and good-willed determination; much different from the “torture” we have been exposed to via horror movies, graphic shows, etc., in which characters are under the influence of barbarism, in contrast. Like Levin said, this type of torture is a “measure for preventing future evils,” and although it may be physically similar to some “movie” tortures, it’s the difference between necessary, beneficial motives and unnecessary, sadistic motives that separates the two. Almost as if these fit into two completely polar categories of torture, despite the similiarity, in the physical action being taken, between them. When people take this into account, it turns the tables and would ( I think) most definitely reflect in their actions. With the right kind of encouragement ,state of mind, and ultimate benefits, regular humans would be able to step up and take such actions, despite their explicitness.

    • Georgia West December 12, 2012 at 11:47 am

      Avery, I agree with your opening statement, “It’s amazing to observe how quickly we change our minds about a belief when hypothetical, but realistic, examples are provided to us.” Now, I admit that I didn’t read every single post in this thread word for word, but the general feeling I got from these comments was that it wasn’t believed that Levin’s argument was strong enough because of the hypothetical situations he used. In my opinion, hypothetical situations are more powerful and hard-hitting than facts in some respects; not many people have experience with terrorists or the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay. However, given the situation of someone stealing a child, not one mother I know would deny their desire to ruin the person responsible. Hypothetical positions may not contain the facts, but it is foolish to say they collapse an argument.

  7. Joey Blasco December 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I think one of the broader and more philosophical ideas brought upon this debate of torture refers back to a fiercely-debated question:

    Do the ends justify the means?

    In Michael Levin’s “The Case for Torture,” the hypothetical situations Levin describes paint the idea of torture as a simple black-and-white picture, creating a logical fallacy of having a false dilemma and permitting only two choices (to torture or not to torture?) when there are other options available, such as evacuating people from the detonation site (probably impractical, but still an option).

    There is also the possibility that such a person who is tortured may or may not be telling the truth, since those who are detained may be considered “suspected” terrorists.

    I am not exactly against the use of torture, nor do I support it. We all know we must do bad things for good reasons whenever the situation calls for it, but I question its reliability in gathering key intelligence. Sometimes, people are very susceptible to pain which makes torture one of the quickest ways to get a lie out in order to prevent suffering (it does not have to be just physical pain either).

    My only concern is where and how we draw the line, as well as how far we intend to go for reasons of “national security.”

    http://www.cgu.edu/pdffiles/sbos/costanzo_effects_of_interrogation.pdf
    (An informative link for the effectiveness in using torture as an interrogation technique)

    • Jessica Lau December 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm

      The thing you mentioned about the terrorist giving out false information can so be very true. People say what they want, meaning that torture would probably be useless in most cases if the terrorist will not spit out the truth anyway. Lavin never brought that up in his argument, killing its validity. Besides, one unforseen consequence about torturing a captured terrorist is that the terrorist organization might retaliate once that terrorist is captured by sending out more terrorists, further escalating the conflict.

      • William Eckner December 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm

        I think that this is an important point. Levin seems to assume that torture will automatically lead to reliable information. He assumes a lot in his article. In the first hypothetical situation, a terrorist is presented to us. A terrorist that prefers “death to failure.” I’m not convinced that someone who has little fear of death has fear of pain, that a person who has the resources and determination required to plant an atomic bomb in New York would ever give up. Also, information that the entity which will be performing the torture has on the bomb is not given. Can we be sure that there is a bomb? One may argue that, because Levin made up the scenario, he knows that there is a bomb. In real life, we would need something to go on, some solid piece of evidence. The line between “US” and “THEM” is not as clear as Levin believes. Situations are so specific that knowing whether torture will lead to results, or just set a dangerous precedent is impossible.

        • Joseph Oliveri December 11, 2012 at 6:51 pm

          I agree with your point Will. Before reading your comment, I hadn’t realizied that flaw in Levin’s reasoning. I made a comment earlier today about how, in abrupt, unforseen, dire circumstances that illicit extreme fear or danger, human beings will be willing to do anything in order to remedy the issue as a means of frantically trying to force out a solution so safety and peace of mind can be restored. An example of this, obviously, is the torture of terrorists and other highly dangerous criminals. It doesn’t take much for people, especially those in an important position in society, such as the ones given charge over captured terrorists or criminals, to feel this way. Yet, as inescapable as this scenario is, and regardless of how many times it has happened, it is still important that factors surrounding a “situation” like a terrorist threat, etc. are dealt with first. Also, so many other factors come in to play. How quickly can we verify the tortured criminal or terrorist’s confessions? If they aren’t true, how much more time should we really take to go off and torture him or her again? This hole in Levin’s assumption makes his argument less reasonably tangible.

    • Colin Cavanagh December 10, 2012 at 11:40 pm

      I liked your use of a rhetorical question, “Do the ends justify the means?” This is a question that everybody from the President to Batman has grappled with at one time or another, and I think that Levin attempts to use hypothetical situations to take away the ambiguity in this question. While in real world situations, obviously, there is not a guarantee that torture will secure the information needed, I think that Levin purposely does not mention this possibility at all in order to persuade more readers to his opinion. While many people may incorporate their morals into the decision if they know that torture may not work, when given only the possibility of torture of one individual or the deaths of possibly thousands, of course they are going to choose to torture, as it seems morally right.

  8. Liam Lonegan December 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Levin introduces examples and connections that draw attention from the reader. In ¶8, Levin notes Adolf Hitler, a two words every reader will react to immediately. Hitler was a man who killed many people, out of hatred for their “kind” and had no sympathy individuals who may have supported him before the war. Levin makes the argument that many victims could’ve been saved had American soldiers assassinated him when they had the chance. Immediately, I agreed with his argument that yes, violence would’ve been useful to save innocent lives, and then I continued reading. It was only now, when I looked at the 8th Tier #2 adversarial question, that I realized the flaw in the reference.

    The argument for the paper as a whole is about the use of torture and if it’s necessary in certain situations. Earlier in the article, Levin talked about torturing as being necessary when gaining information about future attacks and while yes, the “Adolf Hitler reference” was a strong point, it didn’t coincide with the argument as whole because it mentioned specifically “killing” the german dictator. The situation Levin brought up should’ve included capturing and torturing Hitler for future plans of the Third Reich and other useful information that would allow America to keep him from continuing his genocide.

    Levin starts ¶8 with a topic sentence where he tries to unite the two (torture and assassination) but it is still difficult, as a reader, to see a close connection. The assassination would’ve been helpful to save the millions of innocent people who were threatened (they would eventually die), however torturing terrorists is beneficial to extract information to save innocent people.

    • Briana Beach December 11, 2012 at 10:38 am

      I agree with you, Liam, because the reference in paragraph 8 to Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust stood out to me significantly. I noticed Levin’s use of the rhetorical appeals pathos and logos, manipulating the readers emotions and logic. I agree, Levin knew he was going to trigger an immediate response by bringing up such a sore subject in world history. He brought out emotions of sadness, anger and frustration, also appealing to the logic that if we were able to assassinate Hitler, we would. However, I disagree with you because I see no flaw. There is a thin line between the Holocaust and a terrorist attack involving mass murder, just like there is a thin line between murder and torture. I see that Levin gets his point across in the way he needs to, explaining that extreme measures need to be taken in order to save people’s lives. I do see how you think Levin could have made his reference stronger, however I see his hypothetical analogy as necessary as it needs to be.

      • Liam Lonegan December 12, 2012 at 7:40 am

        I can understand why you take your stand that maybe there is no flaw in ¶8. His example is misleading because the topic (the Holocaust) is so strong and affects us so deeply. Yes, I believe he makes a beneficial point that large measures like fatal violence need to be taken to protect future victims. And that may be his only purpose in mentioning that paragraph, but it doesn’t directly help his argument, which is about torture. There is such a large line between killing and torture, especially in the case of a terrorist. Sure, you can examine the situation many ways saying that killing the leader is like torturing his country or domain, but the main purpose, I feel, that Levin’s trying to get across is that torture may be used in some cases to gain information in order to prevent future attacks. Assassinations and executions don’t strive to gain information, but stop the individual’s future plans without other benefits. Levin pulls the “Hitler card” in order to appeal immediately to the reader’s emotion and makes it seem like a great addition to his argument when in fact, it’s not.

  9. Andrés Jacobs December 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    One thing that I believe is very important to mention that no-one has yet is when this article was written. Go on take a look, it was written in 1982. That’s 30 years ago. That’s before many of the modern terrorist incidents such as the world trade center bombing in 1993, the super famous 9/11 attack, and more recent incidents which are so numerous that each year now has its own Wikipedia page. Terrorist attacks are nothing new, starting in the mid 1800s on Wikipedia (though I’d be shocked if they haven’t been around much longer than that), picking up speed in the late 1900s, and finally becoming the every few day phenomenon they are now. But this was written before the surge in terrorism, so Levin had to rely on mostly hypothetical situations. What if this and what if that. Just as Levin explicitly said, these what ifs wouldn’t remain what ifs for long and the terrorist attacks became more and more frequent and more and more damage until 9/11, killing thousands of people. There are conspiracy theories all around of the government knowing about the attacks and being unwilling or unable to stop the attacks. I don’t know what’s true but I’d say it would be tough for the entire US government to know nothing of such a large terrorist attack. Perhaps they knew it would happen but no idea when or how. I would be confident in saying 99% of the people in the country would be okay with using torture to stop the attacks. This would set the precedent that torture is okay (something I believe in) but then the real question is asked: when is torture acceptable? When is it inhumane? Can we torture someone to prevent injury? Does the person to be injured have to have not done anything to the terrorist? How badly injured? The list goes on. So while I’m all for using torture, the question is when is it acceptable and to that there’s no simple answer.

    • Georgia West December 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm

      For the most part Andres, I agree with you. Before the infamous 9/11 attacks that made terrorism a household term, the thought of torturing another human being was as abstract and unheard of as saddling up a unicorn and galloping into the distance. Levin used hypothetical situations as a crutch of sorts – partially because of the infrequency of terrorist attacks, but also to cushion the blow of the public’s introduction to the world of torture. It’s not as if terrorism did not exist, but the threat of it influencing our country was so low that people would likely blanch at the thought of torture.

    • Joseph Oliveri December 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      I think you bring up an interesting point when you mention that “…99% of the people in the country would be okay with using torture to stop the attacks.” If you think about it, some people could be wholly opposed to the idea of torture based on whatever opinions or reasons they hold on to. However, were such people find themselves in a situation in which they themselves, someone/something they are close to, or a large group of people they have some sort of association with are in danger or are being severely harmed they would probably resort to choosing torture to get them out of the situation. Much like the mothers mentioned in the article, I think it’s within the human instinct to resort to any method available to provide relief or to reassure safety… that is, to whoever is in danger, since, if the torture option is chosen, the perpetrator will end up being harmed. Perhaps it is inevitable that anyone with another person or other people (like family) we are attached to in peril will or would discard any personal ethics we say we commit ourselves and do whatever it takes to try and rescue them.

      • Andres Jacobs December 12, 2012 at 10:22 am

        That was a mistype on my part. I didn’t mean 99% of the populous because there are plenty of people who disagree with this (hence why torture is currently not allowed). I meant to say that 99% of the people involved somehow (either losing their life or a loved one losing their life) would be okay with torturing someone to prevent the attack. We don’t know how much, if anything, the government knew of the attack, but I think the government probably knew something (it was such a massive attack after all). I would have been fine, nay applauded the government for torturing someone to try to prevent such an attack.

    • Nick Santamaria December 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      I agree with Andres that when it comes to the reality of using torture, this become extremely complicated. Levin uses these hypothetical situations to not only make the entire concept of torture appeal to use but also distance ourselves from the role of being the torturer. When we hear the ideas of “an atomic bomb on Manhattan Island,” we immediately jump to the concept of ‘yes, we obviously must save millions for the price of only torturing a few’. However, we don’t consider who is this unlucky man or woman, chosen to deal out something as horrific as torture. What if you were the one given the task of torturing a man (or woman) nearly to death, holding the fate of essentially millions on your skills? As a society we may approve of this, but if each and every person were made to actually watch the torturing, I believe many of us would change our minds. Levin does a great job at masking this personal and grotesque side of torture, by focusing on the concept through hypotheticals and not the specifics on how this torture were to be actually carried out. For Levin’s argument this is a smart move, however it leaves the audience susceptible to reneging on their support of Levin, if things were to take place in real life.

    • Briana Merritt December 12, 2012 at 11:13 am

      While I agree with your reasoning Andres, I on the other hand do believe that there is a simple answer for when torture is acceptable and that plain and simple is in a life or death situation. In all of Levin’s hypothetical situations, he justifies the use of torture in order to save innocent lives. People who would have no possible control over the situation they were thrown into, and people who would hope that all possible action would be taken in order to save their life, and those same people make up the 99% of people you mentioned who would be pro using torture in this life threatening case. And i believe only to these extreme means is torture acceptable and should be used.

      • Mishell Pacheco December 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm

        I agree with you, Briana. I like how you described how not only it is your opinion but how the rest of society would be more likely to agree with you. I also feel that torture is morally unacceptable but when worse comes to worse, what other actions can be done? if that perpetrator doesn’t want money or fame or anything and is doing it solely on his desire of such a grotesque belief, how else will be save the lives in danger?

        • Briana Merritt December 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm

          Thank you for your insight Mishell, I never actually thought of torture necessarily being unacceptable, more so just frowned upon in our society. To answer your question, yes, in those worse case scenarios i agree that torture is the only solution. But when it comes to the extent of the torture, i think the extreme tactics used and that Levin suggested like electrodes are morally unacceptable. I feel the more ethically and morally correct way to go about gaining the information needed to save the lives in danger could be obtained through the use of psychological torture rather than physical torture. In this case we as the supposed “good guys” distance ourselves from “Them” or the “bad guys” but also in this action we continue to uphold the value of human life no matter what evil act the person has done in order to save the numerous lives at risk no matter how vast or limited.

  10. Danielle O'Brien December 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Although Levin’s argument for torture maybe hypothetical, one can argue that it is also based on some harsh realities. When considering the lives of many versus the lives of a few “terrorists” torture seems necessary and justifiable. As Levin states: “if life is so valuable that it must never be taken, the lives of innocents must be saved even at the price of hurting the one who endangers them.” This statement clearly defines Levin’s purpose by setting up an “US vs Them” story-line. Even though I am not a big proponent of violence I believe like Levin that it has its place. Unfortunately, our world is not based on peace, love and happiness all around. There are many who would rather destroy us for their beliefs than just simply “agree to disagree.” Granted there are moral issues involved as well but let’s be realistic…..terrorists should not be granted any “rights or privileges” because when they opt to take an innocent life/lives they have clearly chosen to snub their nose at other people’s “rights and privileges.” They care more about their ideals then human life; so why should any of us care what happens to them? The terrorists place little or no value on the lives of their victims so why should we care whether they are treated humanely? This is where Levin’s argument becomes problematic because some where between protection and safeguarding our nation we run the risk of being no better than the terrorists themselves. So I guess somewhere in between is where we should be and we need to be vigilant in making sure we don’t “cross the line.”

  11. Nick Santamaria December 10, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I also agree with Levin that it is, in some situations, morally mandatory to consider torture as a viable option. The way in which Levin argues this point is particularly effective. Levin uses hypothetical situations that, in his argument, would justify the use of torture. He starts off with millions of lives threatened in an atomic bomb attack on Manhattan, then to about a hundred people facing certain death on a jumbo jet, and finally a newborn baby kidnapped from a hospital. In most of the other articles we have read so far, when an author lists escalating items (whether they be verbs, adjectives, or hypothetical situations) the effect is that his point becomes so extreme by the end of his/her escalation that their argument becomes easy to see as correct and go along with. However, Levin uses situations that deescalate in magnitude, yet our emotional attachment to a single baby is tenfold that the millions of people in Manhattan. I think its genius that Levin recognizes the audiences psychological numbness to huge numbers (in this case millions of people dying) and uses a deescalation (in terms of magnitude) of events, yet as he lists these hypothetical situations our emotional connections; and therefore our ability to see his point escalates exponentially.

    • Victoria Simpri December 11, 2012 at 9:56 am

      I agree with what you are saying here Nick. However I believe that Levin could have made his argument stronger had he not used so many hypothetical situations. People would be able to connect more if he used real historical events such as 9/11 or the attempt at the Time Square bombing. If he had put people in the situation where they have actual feeling towards that event they would be able to connect more with the argument he is trying to make. I like how he used the example with the mothers and the child because the people were able to relate and I believe he should have worked his entire argument around situations like that.

      • Ashley Monaco December 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm

        I agree Victoria this essay would have seemed a lot more stronger if Levin were to use real life scenarios. Levins use of pathos would have been strengthened because more people would have been able to relate. However, I think Levin does strengthen his argument in various other ways throughout this essay. For example Levin utilizes hypophoras throughout his essay which strengthen his argument and weakens anyone’s who opposes him. “Torturing terrorist is unconstitutional? Probably. But millions of lives surely outweigh constitutionality.” This is just one of the many examples that are found throughout Levins essay. He brings up the point that yes anyone opposing him is correct however through logos he logically weakens that argument. Therefore, although through pathos Levin did not have a strong argument their are many examples of logos throughout Levins argument that help strengthen it.
        I feel as though Levin would be unable to strengthen his argument too strong via pathos. This is because someone could easily rebuttle explaining the agony this person is going through to be tortured. However, by using logic their is not really too much rebuke because logically explaining the death of 1 million people vs. the torture of 1 cannot even be argued. Therefore I think Levin did not include real life scenarios as a strategy.

      • Kristen Safford December 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

        I agree with both of you that the situations Levin writes about help support his argument, but I think if he were to use real events like 9/11 people would better connect with his argument because many people lost family members and friends, and were actually affected by the event. But at the same time when posed with a hypothetical situation many people “react” how they want to react, not how they actually would. So they say they would torture the extortionist but how many of them actually would? I think this is why Levin stuck to the hypothetical situations, because it gives people the chance to think about how they would want to react, instead of having them make a snap judgement because of deaths from real events, and in return makes his argument stronger.

      • Eiman Khan December 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

        I agree with Victoria and Nick, Levin does a phenomenal job at engaging his audience in his argument. I found it easy to connect his argument to 9/11 because no matter when something as catastrophic as 9/11 took place the emotions surrounding it are the same. Levin outdid himself in that sense and made his argument a timeless piece.

    • Olivia Headen December 11, 2012 at 11:59 am

      Nick, I agree with you completely that using de-escalation in terms of magnitude was extremely effective for this piece of writing. It is not just a simple down-sizing of events either it goes from bombing NYC which would kill millions of people to a bomb in a jet which would kill the 300 people on the plane to a simple baby being kidnapped. This desensitization of killing in numbers helps Levin’s cause. I also liked how you specifically mentioned the baby because it was the example that really did hit home when I read Levin’s article. I also agree that torture can’t be completely ruled out as justifiable because just as Levin said sometimes it needs to be used to protect more people. The life of that one terrorist doesn’t really matter, when millions of American lives are at stake.

      I also thought it was smart that he used terrorists as the person of interest to torture. As Victoria mentioned 9/11 has a special place in the hearts of all American’s and therefore so does a hatred of terrorists. Placeing terrorists in the position of being tortured is beneficial to gaining a following of people who believe the same thing he does. This is because Americans would not mind seeing a terrorist tortured just as they didn’t mind the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, in fact the citizens of the United States rejoiced when he was killed.

  12. Colin Cavanagh December 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    I agree with Levin about using torture in extreme circumstances where lives can be saved. However, I disagree with Levin saying that a clear line can be maintained between “US” and “THEM,” mostly because Levin does not clearly define “THEM.” Levin consistently uses the word “terrorist” to describe “THEM,” but he never really defines what a terrorist is. Based on his first few hypothetical scenarios, it would seem that Levin defines terrorism in a similar way to the dictionary definition. However, Levin’s use of a kidnapped baby as a hypothetical scenario seems to change this. While all of Levin’s previous scenarios were at the very least plausible, if not seemingly likely to happen, a terrorist kidnapping a baby, at least to me, does not seem like a likely scenario, and it does not really make sense under the dictionary definition of terrorism either, which states that terrorist acts normally have a political purpose behind them. Levin’s use of this scenario got me thinking as to what exactly Levin defines as a terrorist, and it also caused me to realize that at no point in his article does he ever really define terrorism. His lack of a definition for terrorism thus makes his point about drawing a clear line less strong, as he is now equating kidnappers to terrorists. While many would argue that kidnappers are worthy of torture as well, that’s besides the point. The point is having a clear definition as to when torture is ok and when it is not, and though it may not seem like much of a leap to go from terrorist to kidnapper, it can be a slippery slope from there.

    • Will Henningsen December 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      The funny thing is, I didn’t notice that there wasn’t a definition until you pointed it out. It certainly takes away from his point, and the idea of a clear, defined line. I believe Levin’s ridiculous amount of hypothetical situations covers the fact that he doesn’t really make that necessary distinction. Thanks for pointing that out!

    • Gabriella Maresca December 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      Colin, I liked how you brought up the point when Levin fails to differentiate between kidnappers and terrorists. It then makes me think, if you were put in this situation with your child or sibling, would you then equate this kidnapper as a terrorist? The emotional, mental and physical effect it could have on you, might cause you to put this kidnapper under the “terrorist” column. As I left a past comment discussing this line, I referred to it as I scale. When particular people face personal events like these, I believe each person forms their own scale. It matters on their experiences and how they believe they should be handled.

  13. Kaitlin Donohue December 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Torture is always thought to be unjust and wrong in any condition. However, the way that Levin introduces torture through hypothetical example situations, torture is inevitable and the only logical way to solve an issue. Although his lack of factual information adds some sense of uncertainty to his article, the imaginative situations force his audience to agree with him. For example, when Levin uses the hypothetical situation of a terrorist group kidnapping a newborn baby from a hospital, it makes you see torture as a necessity. Newborn babies are a symbol of innocence. They have not done anything wrong and are helpless. By having a terrorist group kidnapping a newborn baby, you are obligated to feel angry and want the terrorist group to suffer for putting an innocent baby in danger. This makes you realize that torture is “mandatory” in some situations. Levin brings up the question, Which would you rather: To torture a person who has committed unjust crimes against innocent people, or for innocent people to suffer? The question is a no brainer. Most people wouldn’t have a problem committing a crime against someone if it benefitted the majority. Through hypothetical situations, Levin makes this apparent to his audience and causes them to realize that they most likely are among the individuals agreeing with torture in the examples.

    • Kate Andres December 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm

      I agree, I never really thought about torture as being inevitable, but his examples create an understanding that is is. The newborn example suites his argument very well since mostly everyone would react the same way. You are right by saying that babies are innocent because they haven’t even been on the earth long enough to be potty trained, let alone cause a crime. I for one wouldn’t have a problem with a baby napper being tortured if he/she was an evil person.

    • Jessica Lau December 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      I don’t think I can say that it is appropriate to compare newborn babies to civilians unaware to a terrorist threat. I mean, it’s not like you can say that there are thousands of newborn babies crowded in one area for whatever reason each individual has for doing so. I think a criminal would only kidnap babies anyway for his own selfish reasons, such as for ransom money, but a terrorist would want to kill unaware civilians (again, not comparing them to babies) because he is driven by the belief that extreme violence is the only way to follow his creed of his terrorist organization, thinking violence is moral and with no intention of getting rich quick. Therefore, I think torture is just for terrorists because they live solely to follow their beliefs and if chosen to be seen as a failure among his terrorist organization and death, he would quickly choose the latter, while a criminal wants to live because he only cares for himself by willingly being immoral.

  14. Chris Smith December 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Forgive me for my hasty decision to add a comment without reading the entire chain before making a post, but I was afraid that If I went with the current, I would end up somewhere completely off from the main conversation that was brought into question in the very beginning of this assignment – the morality of performing torture in real life in order to protect the innocent. That, and I realized that if I start a fresh thread, it will keep new ideas on the table while pushing off older ideas to the side. I did get a glimpse of what Andres brought up, though, and he makes a very valid point. This article is before the American people truly understood what terrorist groups were fully capable of doing, and forgive the way this comment leads, but I don’t believe there is any moral high ground in this world. Despite the pessimism dripping from that comment, you have to look at why things are never simply “black and white” in today’s world. Please forgive my paragraph breaks, but I prefer to break my writing into more digestible chunks. Also, please forgive my dive into more “amoral” concepts.

    Today, criminals on the street aren’t looking for notoriety like during the prohibition, when crime was on the same playing field as fame. Today, the crime can come from a number a reasons. There are “moral” thieves, who steal to support their families, to give them food, to give their children a future. Then there are the sinister, compulsive thieves who steal for no other reason than to spite society or live in an immense amount of wealth.

    Is a parent willing to kill anyone who separates them from their child truly evil? Is it wrong to dream of revenge against someone who killed your loved one? Is it wrong to simply think evil, or do our actions classify us as to whether we are evil or not? If a fan of the “Saw” franchise were to openly talk of their feelings on the movie series, would we judge them as any less if they had not told us of their fanaticism?

    As Stephen King brought up, I believe that self control is the only difference between doing good and evil. If we were brought up in a world where we were not given specific guidelines on what is “good” or “evil”, would we be able to determine what we were doing? Would we find it as more of a reward to bask in splendor than to help those in need? Or is there a moral middle ground?

    I personally am a firm believer in a moral “middle ground” around literally everything.
    Torture is not an exception.

    There is no “good” in doing harm to anyone. If a villain threatens to harm someone, will harming them really stop the problem? A villain is not someone who is truly evil, they have just joined the game; they have moved their piece onto the playing field. Sure, beating someone into submission to reveal a password will save lives, but is it “moral”? Do we eat cows after roasting their dead flesh? Do we send letters to loved ones on dead leaves that have fallen off of trees? Do we celebrate people tackling each other with excessive consumption while elsewhere people starve? The answer is of course!

    I know how amoral and depressing I probably sound, but it’s pretty true. Morals are barely nonexistent where even in a world where you forget most of the troubles because the kid down the hall is busy swearing at the top of his lungs to express his over reactive anger towards something.

    So why stop at torture? We already show it in theaters. We already eat dead animals that are harvested for the sole sake of consumption. We already kill plants for the sole sake of blowing our noses. Why should we value ourselves more than any of our countless victims?

    To conclude my mostly depressing opinion that has likely raised a lot of concern over the behalf of my opinion on human life, keep this as food for thought:

    Did you know that if humans never existed, many of the world’s species of animals and plants wouldn’t be endangered? And that global warming wouldn’t exist today?

    Just food for thought.

    • Chris Smith December 11, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Please forgive my informal rant that I posted last night. I find that my judgement of concepts becomes increasingly poor the later in the day I voice my opinion.

  15. Michelle Salazar December 11, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I disagree with Levin. I’m surprised so many of my peers agree with him, and I feel the need to state this. Torture is not justified in this case for moral reasons. As the good guys, we can’t torture people. (I know there was as conversation about that earlier so I’m going to try and steer away, but it needed to be stated again.) This all comes down to what is mostly an argument of value, and it’s my belief that torturing someone is wrong, even if it will save lives. This belief is based upon religious topics and belief systems, and I realize I can’t convince any of you to agree with me unless you hold these same background beliefs. With that being said, I can point out some other minor flaws in Levin’s argument. After you agree to torture one person to save a hundred, he locks you into agreeing that you should torture one person to save ten. What if it’s not a one to one rate? How do you decide how many lives have to be in danger? This is a topic that I think Levin should have been clearer about. He seems to imply a one to one ratio, but he needs to establish why the ratio is one to one. For some reason people are quick to agree when it’s 100 people, but not when its only one stranger, and there might be a reason for that, so it deserved further discussion from Levin. Also, what’s to say the torture will actually help us save these lives. You might think that there’s no harm done then (except the lost lives of course), but if other nations or groups recognize that we torture people, and maybe that we’ve even tortured one innocent person, thinking they’re a terrorist, only to find out they were set up or something, in their eyes this could make us deserving of attacks and open to their violence. This could be their justification for harm that they’ll now bring us.

    • Danny DePaoli December 11, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Michelle, I respect the fact that you have your own opinion, and were willing to share it despite the quite clear opposition to your viewpoint. However, I am going to have to disagree with you. To put this as simply as possible, I could not sacrifice many innocent lives rather than harm one, evil person. I completely understand that you, personally, could not bring yourself to inflict torture on another human being. I might not be able to do so either. But I am certain that there are many people out there that would in an extreme case as mentioned by Levin. People who are maybe even emotionally tied to the situation?I am slightly confused on the “ratio” of which you speak, because he never references a one to one ratio. Perhaps that is your point? But one thing that did strike me when reading your piece is this; you say you could not torture someone, but you would rather let someone perish. If your morals and religious belief systems of which you speak are so emphasizing on humanity, then wouldn’t you choose life over temporary pain? My last point that I would like to introduce is that I understand that your morals are quite firm and argue against this kind of punishment, but might your ideals shift if it was one of your family members at stake. This point is the reason that Levin introduces the example of the mothers and their children. He intends to show that even house moms, not usually considered violent or abusive, would resort to torture if the situation was brought not to random people, but to their family.

      • Michelle Salazar December 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm

        What’s your definition of an evil person? Terrorists are bad, evil. I agree with that. But what about all the other lives you’re saving? What if torturing someone would only provide the means necessary to save a bunch of murders, would you still do it? The way I see it, everyone is flawed and evil and deserves to die. This by no means makes it right to kill or even hurt them, and terrorists are still people (yes, evil, violent, murdering people, but people), and torturing them is wrong. Also, there is a distinction that I feel needs to be made. By not torturing that man (or woman), it still isn’t you who’s killing all those people. People still die, so what difference does it make? “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” I know. We can’t see where all of the ends are though, as humans, we will most likely never be able to see the full big picture. All we can control is our own actions, and in our own actions, torture is not morally acceptable. That man, that torture, is the end.
        In response to your statement about changing my mind if it were my family members, I absolutely wouldn’t. Why should morals be disregarded simply because they’re related to me?

        • Alessandra Ferraro December 12, 2012 at 10:18 am

          Michelle, your argument with everyone is flawed and evil and deserves to die is strictly false. You’re basically telling yourself and someone like me who has a flaw deserves to die? Flaws are defined as mistakes to a certain extent. This can mean mistakes are minor such as calling a person out or mistakes, in this case are defined as terrorism and mass murders of people. Everyone makes simple flaws it doesn’t mean we should all die. You took this point too far in describing that we should all be tortured. People killing people should be punished that is no question, but if someone made a mistake like call someone a name, should they be persecuted also? No. Everyone is corrupt but torturing people for their simple flaws isn’t the accurate thing to do.

        • Janet Austin December 12, 2012 at 10:18 am

          Michelle, no offense but i think that is too extreme. You responded, “The way I see it, everyone is flawed and evil and deserves to die.” Your right, everyone is flawed. But the last time i checked, we don’t live in an utopia. Keep in mind we are just talking about Levin’s article. I think the way you worded it was a little un-called for. Levin is saying that in some cases, torture is justifiable. So, you wouldn’t torture someone in order to save millions of lives? You wouldn’t be killing that person, you would simply being seeking information out of them. I think that you may have taken this point to far.

        • Andrew Genussa December 12, 2012 at 10:30 am

          I am certainly a radical, but i believe your statement, “everyone is flawed and evil and deserves to die,” is a little too off the beaten track for your own good. You kind of contradict yourself by saying everyone is corrupt and then saying torture is wrong. Sure we all have a death to pay, but that doesn’t that mean our lives should be terminated by someone else. Torture is a fact of life. It happens. It isn’t going to stop. The Geneva Convention has strict rules against certain tortures, but still they happen. I applaud you for standing for your morals, you have some guts, but there is one hell of a difference between an online conversation and real life. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t feel remorse, now, if you saw your mother ripped from your arms, beaten and executed. You wouldn’t want to seek revenge? You wouldn’t want to torture the man who tortured your mom?

        • Chris Smith December 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

          (Notice the date)

          Michelle, I am suddenly filled with concern after reading your comment again. You say that amoral activities should be avoided, but you take it to a sociopathic degree. You say that your family doesn´t matter to to you and you be willing to let them die, and you refer to a ¨bunch of murders¨ as if it were not worth preventing. I find this odd, considering you said you could never bring yourself to torture somebody, but you say it is perfectly fine for someone to commit murder to someone you love.

          In response to your last statement, you did the equivilant of responding to my question of ¨Is it worth letting someone die?¨ with an undeveloped, quiet answer of ¨no¨ before stepping off of your conversation and fading into darkness.

          While this tactic is excellent for intimidation, you have only succeeded in making me (and our class today) feel somewhat uncomfortably. In my comment, the overly-long one before this entire conversation, I did say that the line between good and evil is blurred and that nobody can be truly ¨good¨ or ¨evil¨ – it is all relative.

          Please respond with an answer to our question on torture and its moral consequences.

        • Danny DePaoli December 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

          Your points in this piece seem incredibly pessimistic to word it nicely. By saying that, “The way I see it, everyone is flawed and evil and deserves to die.” you made me slightly concerned. If you honestly believe that there is no good in the world, then you are mistaken. Everyone is not evil, and everyone does not deserve to die. Does a 3 month old deserve to die? How about a philanthropist that donates vast sums of money to charity and saves lives doing so? Or a poor father of 4 children who live on the streets and is the only guardian of those children? If everyone is flawed as you say they are, then how about we kill every person who has ever made the littlest mistake? Seems like a “Modest Proposal.” The fact that you said that everyone deserves to die also seriously discredits the point that you made before. You said, “But what about all the other lives you’re saving? What if torturing someone would only provide the means necessary to save a bunch of murders, would you still do it?” This would have been a nice hypothetical had you not followed it up with the comment that i raved about in the beginning. If people’s lives are to be saved, then yes, I would do what is necessary to ensure their safety at the hands of an “evil” terrorist. If you would not, then that is your opinion and I respect it, but I just think differently I suppose. Lastly, I could not tell you for sure whether or not you would actually torture someone, or authorize the torturing of someone to save a relative of yours. I included that more as a hypothetical, not an actual example to relate to your personal life. If my family was in jeopardy, then nothing would stop me in my attempt to help hem. I guess a conclusion to our differing viewpoints is that we were both raised on different morals.

        • Andres Jacobs December 12, 2012 at 10:36 am

          First off, I could agree that everyone is flawed. But my goodness everyone is certainly not evil. There are plenty of good people who do good deeds. People volunteer at places such as soup kitchens. These people aren’t paid, they aren’t compensated in any way, shape or form, yet they still do it. Perhaps they’re clearing a conscious or repenting, but I doubt everyone is. “Only a sith deal in absolutes,” – Obi Wan Kenobi. While I doubt you’re a sith using the dark side of the force, it’s still a rash thing to say that’s super easy to rebuttal. Rich people give away tons of money. While that makes them look good and makes their product more appealing, people give away millions and millions, far more than they get back from just looking good. But let’s assume you’re right, everyone is evil and everyone deserves to die. Well that’s pretty easy to do, we have more than enough nukes to do that. Yet the USA doesn’t blow up the world several times over. Evil people don’t deserve to die, that’s the easy way out. They should be forced to pay for their crimes, hence why we have jail time and not hanging for anyone who robs a convenience store. Saying everyone should die is a terrible thing (worse than Hitler who at least wanted some people to live). As to whether or not you meant what you said I know not, but that philosophy is not a positive outlook. I think you studied the Qin Dynasty too much and their legalist policies. There’s a reason they were despised by the people and taken out of power as soon as possible. All people are not evil and even evil people don’t deserve to die.

          • Andrew Genussa December 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

            Andres, i like how your response is comical, just like Michelle’s post. It mimics the outlandish statements she makes. Yours, my friend, are exceptionally comical. You have a good sense of humor and a solid rhetorical stance. You are well read, and well written.

          • Michelle Salazar December 12, 2012 at 2:52 pm

            Everyone, I’m writing a response to this now, but it’s taking me some time, so please be patient for a little while.

          • Michelle Salazar December 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm

            (This is addressed to everyone, not just Andres)
            Okay, so I recognize that I worded what I was trying to say very poorly, and I apologize for this. It occurs to me that a lot of the problem stems from me not properly defining the words I’m using, and once again, I apologize for the way I stated what I was saying. Please allow me to clarify and explain. I used the term “evil” to be extreme and to almost mock the use of the term “bad guys” in previous posts by other people. This was clearly not the proper way to go about things. Also, I see that our definitions of “evil” vary, so I will try to avoid using that term fot now on. We are all negatively flawed and have sinned (This was all I meant by the term “evil.” I didn’t mean that there’s no good in humanity or that people can’t be good or righteous or kind.) Because we are sinners, we deserve death and separation from God (but there’s redemption, and Jesus, and Love, and grace so it’s okay guys, because now we aren’t condemned to die and we don’t have to (I realize that warrants immense explanation, but I’m pressed for time, so I’ll get back to it later if you wish)). It’s okay to hurt the terrorist in your eyes because he has given up his right to a life by committing his heinous crimes, correct? Well in my eyes, we’ve all committed heinous crimes (I’m not saying lying is just as bad as mass murder, I’m just saying they’re both usually morally wrong, and this is another complex point I will get back to if you want me to), so we can’t just call him “the bad guy” to help us justify torturing him. That is the only point I was trying to make with the “we are all evil and deserve to die” remark. Calling him “the bad guy” allows for a sort of dehumanization that I think makes us more willing to accept him being tortured. I wanted to remind you all that he is still a person. Just because he’s done something wrong doesn’t make it okay to torture him.
            So, we’re all sinners. But it is not our place to torture others (or condemn them, but that’s a different issue). All we must do is love. And that love extends to our enemies. That means not torturing them. Because you don’t torture people you love. Now, you may be thinking “Wait a second, but shouldn’t I also love those millions of people that will die when that bomb goes off?” My answer to that is a firm yes, yes you should. And you should still try and save them through other means, and if that fails, you will feel horrible and you should grieve their loss and be sad. But you still shouldn’t torture that terrorist. Like I said earlier, we as humans cannot see the big picture. We should just act as morally right as we can. Every action we do should be treated as an “end.” So torturing that terrorist would be wrong.
            (Hold on just a little longer, I’m going to address some of your other comments and points in my next comment, but I thought it best to separate the two, as I’m fairly certain people will have more to say on each issue.)

            • Jess Eminizer December 16, 2012 at 9:29 pm

              Firstly, Michelle, I would like to commend you for your eloquence and bravery, and how efficiently and consistently you are addressing everyone’s commentary.
              I just have a few questions for you regarding this post.
              There was a section where you said you were pressed for time and would elaborate later if possible. Is there any way you could do that now? Because you speak about redemption’s duality with the intrinsic evil in us all, and I was wondering if you thought that we should be sparing torture to allow a chance for redemption, or if because it is basic human decency. Also, if torture led to a confession or information that led to the reneging/halting of crimes, would that count as redemption and therefore be acceptable? I know this is a little off topic, and I’m sorry about that. What you said just interested me a lot. (Also, I apologize if I am using that word wrong or if your philosophy’s religious side is escaping me; I didn’t grow up in a religious household and am not a religious person. I would be really interested to understand your point of view.)
              I would also like to say that I agree with what you said about labels and dehumanization. Like I believe you were saying, it is not fair to downgrade someone’s status as a human being for the sake of our own comfort or peace of mind or for the sake of news reports. Of course, these people should still be subject to the consequences of the law, but I agree that broad labels like “bad guy” and “evil” lead to a disrespect that can be damningly unfair and hugely misleading. Dehumanizing someone makes it easier to hurt them, and the more we do it, the more we will torture. Torture should not be a knee-jerk reaction, and it should definitely not be common.
              I think that we should always try other methods first, and that torture is not perfect, which I think we agree upon. People will lie or refuse to speak, and the entire process costs a lot of precious time. But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that torture is a flawless, 100% success rate method. Would the issue still remain? Essentially, my question is: is your reasoning entirely based upon morality?
              Let me end by saying that I think the phrase ” Every action we do should be treated as an “end.”” is absolutely brilliant.
              Thank you so much for your time and effort in all these responses.

              • Jess Eminizer December 16, 2012 at 9:39 pm

                Also, if your viewpoint *is* based entirely on morality, is it acceptable for officials who actually decide these things to base their opinion on their morality or the perceived morality of the nation? Should they attempt to be entirely unbiased and rather look at the statistics regarding the efficiency of torture?

                • Michelle Salazar December 17, 2012 at 12:47 am

                  That is an excellent question, and one I have spent a great deal of time contemplating. For all my hours of thought I’m afraid the best answer I come up with is that honestly, I don’t know. In an actual situation like this, there would be no time to trace the roots of every argument for or against torture in this scenario and examine the validity of each one. If they’re officials representing some part of the USA government, then wouldn’t it be their job to reflect whatever the wishes of the USA as a whole is, since technically the people are supposed to be the government? But at the same time, what if what the whole of America wants is morally wrong? And who actually has the power to decide if such things are morally wrong? And how do we even tell what the whole of the people of the USA want? And what if the USA is being retarded or is too close to the scenario to see things properly?
                  These are questions I don’t have the answers to. This is why, personally, I will never become a politician or probably any government position that has influence over controlling other people’s actions. If the decision fell on my shoulders, I know I wouldn’t torture the terrorist. I would want no one else to torture the terrorist either, and I would try to prevent anyone from doing so (not that my ability to do such would be very strong). A part of me wants to say that we should have whoever is actually in charge of these things not torture the terrorist, and follow my moral system, because I believe there is the most evidence and reason to follow my morals. But I know other people have different opinions that they think have just as much validity, and I can see the numerous, valid arguments against what the aforementioned part of me thinks. So in conclusion, this is a very good question that I have no good answer to.

                  • Jess Eminizer December 18, 2012 at 12:22 am

                    Those rather unanswerable questions were the exact same ones floating around in my head, which is why I asked. You’re right- it is rather impractical to sift through evidence for hours and equal representation is difficult, if not impossible.
                    And too your second paragraph- I’m sure everyone else feels that way too.
                    Thanks for commenting, either way.

              • Michelle Salazar December 17, 2012 at 12:16 am

                Thank you for your kind words. They are very much appreciated. I would love to elaborate on what I meant when I was referencing redemption. As I already established, I believe we have all sinned and therefore we deserve death and separation from God. Our sin acts/acted as a barrier between us and God, but God loves us incredibly immense amounts. So He took on a human form, becoming Jesus and entering this world through a human birth (except not completely human, since it was a virgin birth). Jesus was the one perfect human, who never sinned and remained completely innocent. His innocence allowed him to take on the burden of all of our sins, and die for us. The damned cannot save the damned, and we as sinners couldn’t save ourselves, but Jesus could save us. So he took on all our sins and died, paying the ultimate price, and rising three days later. Because Jesus died on the cross, he saved us from our damnation and offers us redemption. If we chose to follow Him, we can have eternal life. Our redemption is this offer to repent from our sins, and follow him, and live with God forever. As of now, each man’s redemption is between him or her, and God. Reneging or halting your crimes doesn’t always mean that redemption has occurred or is occurring, and having to torture someone to get such a thing to happen I don’t think would count as them getting redemption, but like I said, that’d be between that person and God. The torture still wouldn’t be acceptable though. My cause for not torturing the terrorist would not be to allow for them to have more chances at gaining redemption, but rather it would be because I believe we should love that terrorist.
                My actual argument is based entirely on morality, and if torturing a terrorist would definitely cause millions of lives to be saved, we still shouldn’t torture that terrorist because torturing that terrorist would still be morally wrong. I had originally added other points (for instance, other countries getting mad at us), in a minor attempt to keep religion out of the argument, as I recognized that I wasn’t going to spend time attempting to convince you all of my background beliefs and religion, and some people can get uncomfortable or extremely passionate when such topics as religion are discussed. I also included those minor points to show that even if you strip away my entire argument about the morality of torturing a terrorist (which was my main argument), then there remains a case- perhaps a weak case, but still a case- against Levin’s argument.
                Once again, thank you for your kindness in your comments.

                • Jess Eminizer December 18, 2012 at 12:19 am

                  Thank you for such an excellent explanation. That really cleared up my confusion; I now understand that since it was forced it wouldn’t be redemption were torture to be used.
                  I have a follow-up question though. (Once again, correct me if my terminology is wrong or if I mis-interpreted.) If the damned (all of us) cannot save the damned (a hypothetical terrorist) and it is entirely between a person and God, why must we love that terrorist like we would love an innocent young person who’s life is in danger because of them? If it is in God’s hands, may we not, as a people, try to prevent the loss of lives and allow the terrorist to experience judgement at the hands of God at a later date? And if we are all sinners- not from the moment of birth intrinsically but through our choices (again, sorry if i’m confused there. I think that’s what you’re saying.) — why would someone planning murder be farther from damnation than a young child? Is there a gradient of sin (like lying to your mom as a toddler to avoid trouble being a 0 and genocide being a 10) that would influence your moral ideals? Or is all sin equal?
                  And to your second paragraph- I understand. And don’t get me wrong- I totally agree with many of those supplementary reasons. It’s a flawed, barbaric method that shouldn’t become a habit and I don’t like the way Levin argues for it because I think it’s underhanded. I just think it is strange to value life so highly in the terrorist’s place and then disregard it when it comes to losing thousands of other lives. If everyone is allowed such leeway and respect, what about the thousands of equal lives in danger? Are they not equally respected, or do they simply count as an unreachable but visible step (saving them) after a step that cannot be taken (torture)?
                  Sorry about my huge amount of questions- I arrived at this thread rather later in the game and for that I apologize. Thank you so much for your responses!

                  • Michelle Salazar December 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm

                    I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to answer your questions in reverse order, merely because I find it easier that way. I had actually meant the damned as just people in general, but I think your application of the damned to this specific situation is appropriate and well fitting.
                    In the bible (James 2:10, to be exact), it says that if you keep most of the law, but stumble in one point, then you’re guilty of breaking all of it. Basically, James is saying that all sin is equal in God’s eyes, and that a sinner is a sinner, regardless of which sin was committed. Also, when Jesus perches his sermon on the mount, he says that murder is wrong, but that anyone who is angry with his brother is also subject to judgment (Mathew 5:21-22). In that same sermon (but in Mathew 5:27-28), Jesus also says that to look at a women lustfully is just as bad as adultery. I’m paraphrasing, but the point is that all sin is pretty much equal. I apologize in advance if I sound preachy, but I’m not really sure how else to handle an issue like this.
                    As to why we have to love others, it’s mostly because God has shown us and given us the greatest love , which is unconditional and everlasting, and he’s told us to love others likewise. Because of His great love, we in turn are supposed to love everyone, and show everyone the love and mercy of God. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandant was, he said it was to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, but, more relevantly, he said that the second greatest commandant was to love your neighbor. Then he went into this parable which explained how everyone is your neighbor (Mathew 22:34-46). Jesus even specifically mentions the importance of loving enemies in his sermon on the mount, when he says “love your enemies.” He then continues on to say, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even the tax collectors do that?” (Mathew 5:46) The tax collectors were considered horrible people in the eyes of most of society at that time, so you can substitute in the word terrorists, and the meaning may carry better. In summation, love is a fairly important object in Christianity, as a concept, an emotion, and a commandment, and we must love everyone, both the terrorist and the people whose lives are in danger. If we can save those people it would be great, but not if it is through torture of someone we love. Saving the other people is a desirable outcome, but we cannot take the path of torture to get there.
                    Also, I’m not sure if we’re sinners at birth, I’d have to look further into it. If we are born pure, then I’m sure we become sinners at a very young age. If you have little siblings, or have babysat little kids, I think you’d probably witness this, but I could be wrong on that ground. I’m willing to bet from experience though, that by the time a kid starts school, they’ve already sinned. It may have just been telling his mommy that he hadn’t eaten that cookie he stuffed down his throat two seconds ago, but it’s still a sin.
                    I’m not sure if I’ve interrupted your questions correctly, and if I haven’t, please just let me know.

                    • Jess Eminizer December 18, 2012 at 10:26 pm

                      Your responses are very interesting to me. I’ve never considered that point of view and thank you for answering my questions so completely.
                      Also I don’t think you sound preachy. You’re talking quite candidly about religion and the biblical evidence you’re citing. Thank you for that; it makes me respect and understand you much more than if you had been preachy.
                      I have one last question for you, about a subject on which I am still confused. Is it only because of the bible and your religious upbringing/ideals that you feel that all sin is equal? Or is it more based upon logic? (Basically, I’m asking if your morals are based entirely upon religion.) If so, do you think that you should preface your moral-based statements with that or does morality not need to be explained or justified?

                    • Michelle Salazar December 18, 2012 at 11:39 pm

                      Simply put, my morals are based upon my religion, which is based upon logic and reasoning. While my upbringing was in a Christian home and I was raised to believe Christianity, there was a point in my life where I turned away from this religion, finding faults with it. However, eventually, I actually started examining the logic and reasoning behind a bunch of different religions and theories of whether or not a God even existed. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Christianity was correct, not through any personal experience, but through lots of deep thinking. I also concluded that the bible is a valid source of information, lending to more of my morals. The logic chain that got me there is very long, and I’m not going to explain it all, but If you’re still interested, I strongly suggest reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.

          • Michelle Salazar December 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm

            As to my family being tortured or killed, of course I would feel enraged and upset and want to prevent it from happening or get revenge. I love my family. I care about them. But I wouldn’t torture someone to save my family, and I think they’d understand (I know my mommy definitely would, at least). I would want them to do the same for me, let me die and don’t torture the terrorist. Let me just state outright, I’m not suicidal; living is nice, I like living.
            However, I do have to admit, that I haven’t really had to deal with death in my life at all. I like to think I am steadfast in my decision though.
            Also, it is not perfectly fine with me if someone hurts me family. I’m not okay with that.
            My comment “A bunch of murders” was intended to make you see that while you are all saying we should torture a terrorist to save “innocents,” you should think about what you would do if this idea of innocence was shattered. I regret how I phrased things though, and I apologize.
            Chris, to directly answer your question, I believe torturing a terrorist in an attempt to prevent a bomb going off is morally wrong, even if it may save lives.
            I also would like to say that I did not at all mean to come across as intimidating, and I am sorry for the sloppiness with which my earlier comment was written.
            Okay, thanks to anyone who waited to comment so I could answer everyone’s questions. I hope I’ve at least clarified myself.

            • Danny DePaoli December 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm

              Michelle, I respect the fact that you were able to pull things that others saw as “flaws” in your piece and explain them, and apologize for them. However, there was still an issue that I had with your comment. You said, “It’s okay to hurt the terrorist in your eyes because he has given up his right to a life by committing his heinous crimes, correct?” However, this is not correct. I believe that it is okay to hurt the terrorist not because of his crimes (in that situation, the torture would be strictly a punishment) but to save lives.I would not intentionally put someone through that kind of pain as a punishment for something that they had done worng…..unless they harmed my family intentionally. But once again that is my specific viewpoint. I said that I advocate the use of torture strictly for the purpose of obtaining information. There is a difference between vindictive punishment and acting to save lives. I do understand though that you were replying to a vast number of people and not just me, so I appluad your ability to do so. Thanks for the reply.

              • Jess Eminizer December 16, 2012 at 9:36 pm

                Danny, I think what she meant by that is not about punishment. I think she meant to ask if because he is evil, he has given up his human rights ergo torture should be an option.

                Also, I had a question about what you said about your family. Everyone is someone’s family. Do you think it is morally right for victims or the families of victims to torture criminals ex post facto? I know it’s just your viewpoint, but if it applies to how you feel about your family, shouldn’t it apply to everyone’s families?
                Please correct me if I’m wrong or confused about what you said!

        • Sara Lavelle December 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

          Michelle, I agree with the fact that people do die and everyone’s time comes and also that everyone has an evil side, maybe not suicide bombing more likely a few means words towards someone behind their back. Those who say those few words behind someone’s back shouldn’t be killed however. Where you stated everyone is flawed and evil and deserves to die, I don’t agree with that. I enjoy your use of epistrophe where you repeat “and” thus developing the image of the increase of cruelty. You go from flawed to evil to die. I think that escalated a little too fast but nonetheless it create a great rhetorical sentence. Now wouldn’t you feel it would be best fitted if you kill one person to save millions? Wouldn’t you love your family so much to save them from any harm even through sacrifice? Think of the movie taken. The father killed at least 30 people to save his one daughter and we all wanted him to. Wouldn’t you want him to get his daughter in the end as well?

    • Chris Smith December 11, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Michelle, you bring up an excellent point that I am afraid I do not agree with. You do acknowledge that other people do not share the same moral background as you – but this is exactly the case is your reasoning. Pardon my language, but the reason that torture is acceptable is the same reason that communism will never work – human nature. If we do not torture these prisoners or terrorists, they will see that there are no punishments for killing masses of people. In other words, if you don’t punish them, they’ll keep coming back for more. Think of it like a kid with a cookie jar – they’ll keep eating the cookies until either the jar runs out or you get them to stop. As you should know, the appetite of children towards cookies is nearly insatiable, and it will never end until they grow up. Compare this analogy to modern terrorists and you’ll find similar psychological results; punishment is necessary in order to make people learn. Scolding a child may encourage them to steal from the cookie jar again, maybe using a more evolved method, but after enough failed attempts they will give up.

      This is different than going in and mindlessly killing or tormenting someone; its an evolution of simple human behavior that has taken a turn for the dangerous.

      • Chris Smith December 11, 2012 at 10:40 am

        *Pardon my wording – sorry about that typo

      • Michelle Salazar December 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm

        While I also think that torturing people for punishment is usually wrong, that is not the issue at hand. Levin even states in his argument that he is not talking about torture as a form of punishment. That is an entirely different argument, and if I get into that argument, they’ll be posts and discussions all about that, which will take up a lot of time, and we’d all be off focus. Let’s just handle one hypothetical issue at a time.

        • Chris Smith December 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm

          My apologies. I believe that I am misinterpreting the issue that is being brought to our attention. Is the issue that torturing is amoral or that it should be used as punishment? In my incredibly long opening statement, I was creating an analogy – I did not literally mean that we were “punishing” those who did wrong; I was comparing terrorist activities to a mischievous child. But I do understand why you might think that, as I have a tendency to be carried away on tangents and never really develop ideas that I have expressed. My apologies for being vague in my description; I did not mean to get off topic, I just went too far with an analogy.

          • Chris Smith December 12, 2012 at 10:08 am

            I am sorry if this response came out as offensive or overconfident – I think I worded my thoughts very poorly on this assignment. My apologies.

    • Kathryn Schubert December 11, 2012 at 10:42 am

      How exactly would torture be a worse crime in any of the scenarios that Levin created for his readers? You’re right Michelle, it might not be just to the person creating the panic, but if they are unjust enough to want to mass murder thousands, then how can we apply the same amount of justification for them? What other countries think of us is extremely important, yes, but if they (maybe England for example) were put in the same position where they would have to put pain into one life to save thousands more of pain, then it is reasonable. I’m not in any way saying that torture is acceptable solution. It is relative to why and how it is being applied, and it definitely should not be accepted as an every day solution to problems that occur. But sparing one (guilty) life is most definitely not worth the life of someone innocent of such heinous crimes. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “he implies a one to one ratio”, but I do fully believe that pain is more deserved in a guilty mass murderer than an innocent life, so if that’s the one to one ratio, then how is it fair to judge it in any other way. Perhaps Levin takes this idea of torture too far, but he certainly makes a good point: he says “There are situations in which torture is not merely permissible but morally mandatory”. With this, he says that sometimes, when torture is a viable option, it shouldn’t just be considered, but used so that it can be effective. But, like he says later in his article, “I am not advocating torture as punishment.” he is absolutely correct, torture should only be considered when important answers are needed. In any other form, certainly not.

      • Michelle Salazar December 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm

        I’m not sure I understand your starting question. Are you asking how I can think torturing someone is worse than the murdering of mass numbers of people in these hypothetical scenarios? I don’t think that, but two wrongs don’t make a right. If you meant something else, can you please clarify?
        Also, by a “one to one ratio,” I meant torturing one person and having only one life be saved. For instance, if the mass murder wasn’t such a big mass of people (like one person) would people still think the torturing of one person was justified. Or is it like a one to ten ratio, where there needs to be at least ten people in danger for Levin or people to think torture justified.

        • Kathryn Schubert December 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

          Michelle, I meant my beginning question to be rhetorical. I just meant that in all the scenarios Levin created, how can torture not be used as a solution. But I do believe that even in a one to one ration scenario, torture is completely justified. I strongly believe that an innocent life is not worth sparing a guilty one. I agree with the idea that two wrong’s don’t make a right, but in this case, and in any case where a solution can still be uncovered, it will make a right. I think that cliche can be applied to a situation where something has already happened, when torture would be either a form of revenge or done in anger, and in that case it isn’t right. But we aren’t talking about one of those scenarios.

      • Giselle Gutierrez December 11, 2012 at 11:31 pm

        Kathryn I mostly agree with you. My only concern was when you said, “…torture should only be considered when important answers are needed. In any other form, certainly not.” I disagree with you on this. Torture has always been and will continue to be an option for many when weighing the options whens it comes to choosing the ethically correct thing to do in a given situation. Although I see your perspective and completely agree with you when you say, “…I do fully believe that pain is more deserved in a guilty mass murderer than an innocent life…” Pain is more deserved in someone who is attempting to murder many of innocent lives, than an innocent bystander who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, however extending the right to torture someone when only when important answers are needed to one person means extending this right to all. However, you deny it to one everyone is less aware of this interrogation tacit. My point is, Michael Levin uses what looks like an acceptable situation that demands torture in he’s writing to persuade the reader that he is right in the use of torture. If you agree with him in this case and conclude that, “torture should only be considered when important answers are needed. In any other form, certainly not.” What if the situation was more of a common occurrence, less extreme and important? For example, what if there a note found saying, “There are two minors in possession of concealable weapon inside a school” After suspicious activity one minor is captured and refuses to give information about the other minor. According to the conclusion provided, in this case it would be okay to torture the captured minor. I respectively disagree with the use of torture. There are other things that can be done and precautions that can take place to reduce the risk and amount of lives in danger. To start, in the situation I provided begin with a lock down and start from there.

        • Kathryn Schubert December 14, 2012 at 11:00 am

          Giselle, you are certainly correct, torture is unethical. But so is the mass murder of thousands of lives. I believe I may have confused you and Michelle when I said innocent lives. What I meant by that was they wouldn’t kill because they believe it is right. Yes, America has a lot of sinners, and yes, no religion has a perfect perspective, but they(everybody) are innocent of the crimes that a terrorist might commit. And that is what makes them worth saving. The idea that we would not torture someone when lives are at stake because of this person seems too risky. I’m not entirely sure whether you are against torture in some situations or not… if you could clear it up for me.

    • Andres Jacobs December 11, 2012 at 10:42 am

      I partially agree with Michelle’s post about torture. There should be cases where torture is not allowed (such as attempting to acquire drugs from a criminal), but when a life is in danger torture should be allowed (in cases like kidnapping). This is essentially the age old question: if 5 people are tied to train tracks do you flip a switch that makes the train go on a different track and kill someone else? What about 3 people in danger? What if there’s only a 50% chance those 3 people will die and a 100% chance that one person will die? It’s not easy answer but to say never I feel is far too extreme. Having a righteous good guy image is great, but I’m sure the dying people and loved ones of those people probably wouldn’t care too much. Saying never torture people is rash, and a bad decision because there are times where inflicting torture is more than justified.

    • Darren Daughtry Jr. December 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm

      Michelle, I have to respectfully disagree. In my opinion, when a terrorist launches an attack against any innocent person or people they have willingly forfeited their rights as a person. Regarding your last two sentences under President Bush a few terrorists were tortured at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Keeping this in mind I don’t know of any country (that doesn’t sponsor terrorism) that has said we deserve to be attacked by terrorists. Ninety-nine percent of people don’t deserve to be victims of a terrorist attack. However, your concern about an innocent person being tortured is valid and I share this concern. Although I’m sure some very strict criteria would have to be met before the use of torture on someone is authorized.

    • Jessica Jackson December 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm

      I think it’s really great of you to play on you own beliefs and to comment about it, but with all due respect, some circumstances call for hard measures. This may just be my beliefs talking but I also don’t think that anyone should be tortured, its cruel and mean and unethical. But, (here’s my exceptions) if I had the ability to save hundreds of people, even if it’s just 10 innocent people, but the one guilty person had to be tortured, I would let him be tortured. There’s no sense in having 100 people be killed because of a terrorist that wants attention or money. It’s also not just 100 people being killed because of a terrorist, it’s 100 families being ruined and friends and children. It’s all about moral development and whether someone will conquer all or let them die. It’s a hard thing to imagine but it does happen in many cases. I’m not trying to seem like I have no morals though because if this were a real situation I know for a fact I wouldn’t be able to administer the torture, or possibly even know it was going because I would feel guilty, but that would contradict with my feelings for saving those people. Levin introduces this and really gives us food for thought.

    • Michelle Salazar December 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Okay, there are a lot of comments I haven’t read on this post yet, and I’m about too, but I feel the need to clarify something first after I reread my original post. When I said that I couldn’t convince you of my background beliefs, it makes it sound like these are merely things I was raised to believe and follow foolishly. What I meant to say is that I can show you the logic of my background beliefs and thus prove them through this logic, but it would take quite a while (like a couple of hundred pages of a word document). I’d just like to clarify this before I get sidetracked with all these comments.

    • Tomi Alade December 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

      Michelle, after reading your comment I have many unanswered questions. You stated, ” but if other nations or groups recognize that we torture people, and maybe that we’ve even tortured one innocent person, thinking they’re a terrorist, only to find out they were set up or something, in their eyes this could make us deserving of attacks and open to their violence.” If I read this correctly, I can make the implication that you are saying that we should not take action until we make sure that the person we are torturing is already guilty. That we must know for a fact that they are intended to provoke the violence that will come. But how can one prove and know before that they were the one that intended this destruction. You are saying we should wait until all the innocent people are killed before we now torture the terrorist? But what would that achieve? Wouldn’t the families already be destroyed with the loss of the victims. Thats how I interpreted your comment. If you intended otherwise you can let me know.

  16. Kate Andres December 11, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I actually agree with everything that Michael Levin was saying. I thought that he was going to be one of the crazy people that go on rants and make no sense, but I was wrong. His entire argument is completely thought through: from the use of grammar to the sentence structure. He is very persuasive by just giving examples of somethings that we can relate to. The examples that really hit me were the 9/11 reference, and the newborn baby reference. I think that every American feels that same about that day, 9/11, and I don’t know if we will ever be able to completely forget or to forgive what happened. I didn’t even know anyone who was there that day, but I still feel like I lost something. The other example hit me hard because I am a babysitter and I think that made me develop maternal instincts. If any kid I knew got kidnapped, especially if it was my own child (not that I have one) I don’t think I would bat an eyelash if they were tortured. I could always be wrong though since I have never gone through anything like that and my morals haven’t been put to the test. The way that we are all raised is that torturing people is terrible and inhuman; basically we were taught that if you torture someone who was convicted for murder than you are just as bad. But, as I was reading I started to say, “OK, that makes sense,” and then, at the end I found that I completely agreed with him. I find him to be a very persuasive writer.

    • Michelle Salazar December 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      I couldn’t find the 9/11 reference, but being that the piece was written in the 1900s, I’m not sure there was one. However, I do agree with you that Levin’s argument is articulated very well, even if I don’t agree with him.

      • Kate Andres December 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

        The quote that I was referring to didn’t say that if was from 9/11, but I thought it was because that is the only historical even that came to my mind when I read it. Levin says, “‘Clear Guilt’ is difficult to define, but when 40 million people see a group of masked gunmen seize an airplane on the evening news, there is not much question about who the perpetrators are.”

    • Danielle O'Brien December 11, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      I agree with Kate that Levin is a very persuasive writer. When I first began this reading assignment I felt torture was inexcusable, cruel and unnecessary. However, after reading Levin’s examples (a kidnapped newborn, 300 people on a hi-jacked plane) my opinion began to change as did my moral compass. As Kate said we were all taught that torture is bad but I guess in certain situations it is not only necessary but it can even save the lives of many. The only point I have to disagree with is that this article was written in 1982; many years before 9/11. The reference (9/11) that you speak of is just not there. I would say Levin is almost prophetic in his writing and given what happened on that day any discussion on terrorism reminds us all of that event. Levin was so persuasive in his writing that even years later the examples and its arguments still ring true.

      • Kate Andres December 12, 2012 at 11:55 am

        I thought a quote he used was from 9/11; Levin says, “‘Clear Guilt’ is difficult to define, but when 40 million people see a group of masked gunmen seize an airplane on the evening news, there is not much question about who the perpetrators are.” Though, you are right that it is in the wrong time period. But, my argument still stands. I don’t think any american would have minded if those plane nappers were tortured, that is, if they survived.

        • Danielle O'Brien December 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm

          Your argument makes sense and I absolutely agree with you. You are right when you say that not many Americans would have minded seeing the plane hijackers tortured if they had survived and I am sure if you asked their loved ones many would agree that torture was necessary in order to weed out the terrorist cells. Levin’s statement about “clear guilt” really drove the point home that sometimes it is obvious who is responsible and therefore “due process” becomes unnecessary. Anyway doesn’t the Constitution protect US citizens? Why are we giving terrorists “rights”?

          • Kate Andres December 13, 2012 at 11:49 am

            I think it is just in our nature since we are the country of the free. I don;t really know why we do give them rights because they don’t deserve it. But, this doesn’t just go for terrorists, we also give rights to illegal immigrants. That I don”t understand, if everyone loves america and would risk their lives to come here then they should just start their own revolution. We had to fight for our freedom and so should everyone else. Its not right for the illegal immigrants to abuse our kind nature and to take advantage of us. I feel that we should ship them back home and then maybe they will have their own revolution. As for the terrorists I think that if they hate our rights and freedom then they should just stay in there own country and not deal with us. Just because we, as whole, have rights doesn’t mean that we should pay for the mistakes of others. If the terrorists have a bone to pick with someone then they should take it up with them, not kill thousands of people; hen they would say, “It wasn’t our fault, it was yours because we hate you.” I just don’t understand the was that terrorists see the world.

            • William Henningsen December 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm

              Now, I really don’t want to start a huge argument about this “illegal immigrant” topic, nor do I want to start a debate about the American policy, because this isn’t about that, but my own brain couldn’t let this go unmentioned. Keep in mind, this is only my interpretation on illegal immigration. We founded this nation to create a safe-haven for those prosecuted by their governments. These immigrants are coming here because they and their families are abused and not correctly taken care of by their own nations. They are coming here for exactly the same reason your ancestors came here: to find a safe home and a new life. Denying them that would be denying the thing our fore-fathers sought after.

              And in relation to your point on terrorists, and that they should “stay in their own country and not deal with us”, there’s more to it then simply ignoring us. We placed ourselves directly in their country, and tried to change things. Our soldiers aren’t perfect. They’ve hurt a good number of innocents. Just look at a few Wiki-leaks videos and you’ll immediately see that for better or worse, there’s no way to back out, for either side. And for every son, or mother, or father or daughter hurt, that’s one more grudge against our country. It’s a cycle that both sides are stuck in, and we’re stuck in it until the end.

              Just putting out some food for thought.

      • Jessica Lau December 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm

        I agree that this article is somewhat outdated and slightly does not relate to today’s issues since it was written in 1982, obviously before the events of 9/11 ever happened. This was written at the time when terrorism only started and the attacks weren’t as bad as the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attacks on the Pentagon. Levin only uses hypothetical situations because no real example of a terrorist attack in America happened yet. Yes, his article is persuasive because people want to be wary of terrorists and not want a terrorist attack to happen, but Levin didn’t live in an age of extreme terrorist fear yet. He writes as if he does fully understand what it is like to live in a world where terrorism is a big, feared concept, but really, he only thinks he does when he never himself saw a terrorist attack happen. I know you can say that we can, and do, use torture on captured terrorists now to get information out of them, post-9/11, but if he wrote this article post-9/11, he may or may not use a harsher tone against terrorists because he might change his stance against terrorists in this time period.

  17. Jessica Jackson December 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    When I first started to read the text, I agreed off the bat. It is impossible for torture not to be allowed at all, but at the same time I feel Levin is challenging us a bit. The way he writes, he adds his insight and then ask a question that he’s not 100% sure about, maybe that’s just the way I interpreted it; “Torturing the terrorist is unconstitutional? Probably. But millions of lives sure outweigh constitutionality. Torture is barbaric? Mass murder is far more barbaric.” This type of input that Levin adds makes me think about it more and I agree with him that in hindsight, the terrorist do have rights but if its a time of crisis situations, like the three he explains, then there is need for exceptions. What is also interesting is he doesn’t add a sufficient amount of information, it’s mostly little ideas he has and different situations he’s come up with. The only relevant amount of information is when he talks about Hitler and the Holocaust, which is what most people think about when they think of mass murder and terrorism. If the situation was different and Roosevelt could have assassinated Hitler but didn’t, he would be morally responsible for killing millions of people, and most people can’t live with that guilt on their shoulders. I agree with Levin about the circumstance because he says “Just as torture is justified only to save lives…, it is justifiably administered only to those known to hold innocent lives in their hands.” It’s interesting that he sort of plays on our morals a bit and basically asks the question, what if the people were danger weren’t innocent? Would it be any different?

    • Nick Santamaria December 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      I absolutely agree with you Jessica. I find that Levin’s use of these questions give the reader a sense that he himself isn’t imposing upon us his thoughts but he allows us to come upon our own conclusions that ‘yes, mass murder is more barbaric than torture’ and so on. These Q&A sections of the text appeal to logos, our logic, that of course the death of millions is worse than the torture of one. However in this, Levin leads us away from directly facing the issue of morality by given us strictly specific hypotheticals that seems to have either two options, death to millions, or torture to one. I believe that although it is never stated outright, Levin works in a fallacy called a false dilemma, where in his situation Levin presents us with only two options, while in reality there are more than two ways to solve the problem.

  18. Eiman Khan December 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    After reading Levin’s piece I recognized his specific distinction between torture and something under the umbrella or an assassination or murder. First of all, he presents torture as a series of attacks that take place at a slow pace and its safe to say its more painful than something like an assassination/murder because an assassination/murder is a one time thing, there’s no continuity of pain. As for “torturing” a terrorist which can be justified under the circumstances – but isn’t it safe to say a death is a death regardless of how it is was executed? Death shouldn’t be associated with the “eye for an eye” concept and I believe this mind set has been instilled in society because of the horror movies that are being shown. The horror movies make torture seem justifiable.

    • Bridget Stapleton December 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Yes, a death is a death, regardless- but Levin did not specify torturing the terrorist to death. Merely said torture the terrorist until the information to save lives has been extracted. It is quite possible that after that even has passed that the terrorist would still be alive, although probably in bad shape, but I think Levin’s argument was that the lives of the innocent people should be placed above the life of the terrorist. Also, I don’t think he was arguing “eye for an eye”, simply stating that torture can save lives.

      • Natalie Jara December 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm

        I agree with you Bridget, I don’t think Levin was arguing the “eye for an eye’ concept. He was arguing that torture is a way to get out information from someone who has done wrong to innocent people and need to be talked to. Torturing can go as far as the person torturing wants it to go therefore if they torture the person to death then it’s their choice but torture shouldn’t be to the death. Torture was meant to be used to inflict pain on someone to. in a way, teach them a lesson. We save lives of innocent people when torturing a villain because that villain will just commit more crimes unless he’s stopped. When we torture them, we get useful information and the terrorist is put through the pain he has put onto others.

        • Eiman Khan December 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm

          Yes torture is used as a means of receiving information but we all know in most cases the killer is killed. What good is it if you’re killing yet another person just to get information? There are other ways to do so and if you don’t want the person roaming the streets you can simply sentence them to jail for the rest of their life. The bottom line is torture should not be the only option, killing someone doesn’t solve anything at the end of the day.

        • Caralyn Tassi December 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm

          But how can we be certain that we’ll get useful information? They could easily lie just to stop the pain that the administer is inflicting upon them. No one would know if it was actually useless until after the torture was done with, and by then the whole ordeal would have been pointless. I think it should be used in only extreme situations when you’re certain that you have no other options. As Eiman said, you can easily sentence them to prison for life and they won’t be able to cause fear or harm to anyone else.

        • Jessica Lau December 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm

          I don’t mean to sound sick or cruel, but I don’t think a captured terrorist should be tortured to death because it is like giving in to the enemy’s wants, since terrorists prefer death over failing their mission. Also, I do think torturing a terrorist to death is too extreme and does cross the line between moral and immoral because that would be breaking constitutionality, in a bad way, unlike just torturing a terrorist for information without killing him.

    • Victoria Simpri December 11, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      I agree with both of you that torture is simply a way of extracting information needed in order to save those in danger. However we must take into account that the person who chose to do the crime must have known that there would be consequences if they were caught. I believe that if a person chooses to put thousands, or even one life in danger they must face what is to come should they be captured. Eiman I do agree with you because movies do make torture seem justifiable. However it is up to the person who may be in that situation to distinguish real life from films and that depends on how they value human life.

  19. Connor LaCour December 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I have to disagree with what Levin says. Torture is meant to inflict extreme pain both physically and mentally until the recipient of the torture releases the information that is required. The dictionary definition of torture is the act of inflicting excruciating pain to someone for various reasons, the one at hand being to glean information from someone. There is however, no way to tell if information acquired through torture, how can we be sure if they are telling us the truth, or simply telling us what we want to hear in order to get reprieve, even momentarily, from the constant inflicted pain. Another problem posed with Levin’s theories is that if torture is applied in a heated situation where there is a lot at stake the torturer(s) may become over zealous in their efforts to extract information and cause the recipient to pass out from pain, or in a more extreme scenario, die. Not to say that it shouldn’t be used if it is the only option, but torture really should only be used in situations of dire consequence and need.

  20. Bridget Stapleton December 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I completely agree with Levin’s argument in this text. I also really like the way that he made his argument; not condoning torture, but saying that it is permissible, and as he says, “morally manditory”, in certain cases. By recognizing the extremity of torture, he is making us recognize the extremity of the cases it should be used in. Levin’s argument of “morally manditory torture” is very well stated, and when he says “If the only way to save those live is to subject the terrorist to the most excruciating possible pain, what grounds can there be for not doing so?” It is directly applying that feeling of responsibility to the reader. I like the way that Levin repeatedly puts the responsibility of a decision this massive directly on the reader’s shoulders, through the previous quote, and also when he says “If you caught the terrorist, could you sleep at night knowing that million died because you couldnt bring yourself to apply the electrodes?”, and ” How can we tell 300, 100, or 10 people who never asked to be put in danger, ‘I’m sorry you’ll have to die in agony, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to….'” I think by putting the reader directly in the situation, he makes his argument increasingly effective

  21. Melanie Davis December 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    As I was reading this for the first time, a lot of his rhetorical techniques stood out. In paragraph 4, Levin used hypophoras to inform the reader more information, but in a different way than just summarizing his thoughts about torture. For example, by asking, “Torturing the terrorist is unconstitutional?” it may seem like he is looking for an answer. However, by answering the rhetorical question, he shows how hes informing us. Another rhetorical strategy is the use of ellipses. By using these, it adds emphasis on the overall topic. Also, it drags the point out more then if he just inserted a coma. Also, Levin used parentheses to break the sentence and to change the topic for a second to something that isn’t exactly what he was talking about before.

  22. Caralyn Tassi December 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Something I noticed when I read this article was that I felt almost guilted into agreeing with Levin through his various uses of pathos (i.e ¶4-5). When reading these paragraphs it seemed almost obvious to me that I’d want to save these millions or hundreds of innocent people over one guilty one, but after considering it I think there’s a limit to which these people should suffer. Sure, they shouldn’t be let off the hook so to speak, but how do we know if torturing them would lead to anything beneficial such as answers?
    After researching “water boarding” for a bit, I’ve found it harder to agree with this article. For example, many articles say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11, did not confess after the torture, instead giving information after going through a standard interrogation some time later. Making terrorists undergo torture doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll give up the right information, especially when put in a situation such as water boarding when their mind believes they’re going to die- possibly scaring them to the point of releasing false information to be put out of the physical or mental pain they are experiencing.
    While torture may be “morally mandatory” in some cases, there are extremes that should not be crossed. If torture is the only option left to save innocent people I’m not saying that they shouldn’t use it, but as some others have said it should be used only in crucial situations.

  23. Anthony Palmerini December 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Torture, if used properly, is an effective way to acquire information from someone, just like in the situations described by Levin. Yes, torturing one life to save 1,000,000 lives is well worth the torture. One question this brings up though, is when torture actually acceptable? If there is a terrorist bomb threat in a city, yes. Bomb in a bus, maybe. Bomb in a mailbox, quite ridiculous. Torture should be used only when torture is necessary to extract information, as Levin tried explain. Levin was talking that torture should be used, only when necessary.

    Torture is meant to inflict pain and fear, to which the sufferer will expel information to be free from the suffering. Torture can come from physical pain to psychological disruption. This can pose another question: when is torture to far? Pinching a person is annoying, slapping their hand can hurt, cutting their hand is a bit harsh, cutting off that hand is way too far. Levin tries to make the point that professional torture isn’t barbaric with chopping off limbs, torture is controlled pain, usually not leaving permanent damage. Torture is useful under the right circumstances, and if done properly, can be used to save many lives, which is what Levin is trying to show people.

    • Abigail Verille December 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      I completely agree with you Anthony. Torture may be an effective way of handling a situation, but it shouldn’t be used to resolve every type of conflict out there in our world. Obviously, torture is necessary when 1,000,000 lives are at risk, but only to a certain degree. The way we torture a person should not be similar in any which way that torture porn portrays it. Torture should be conducted at a level that does not meet the extremes of limbs being chopped off or people drinking other’s organs. The “morally repugnant” act should be used in a professional like manner. Meaning, whomever may be tortured at the time (notice how I did not mention bad or good guy, considering the person may not have been proven guilty or innocent YET) should only have their personality destroyed. Isn’t that the point of torture? To break the regulations of human rights by killing the person emotionally but not yet physically.

      I’m sure we may conclude that the use of torture is to destroy human dignity and take a person’s life without killing them. I’m not so sure as to how we would classify torture tactics. Considering, “Torture is a terrible but necessary evil,” as Andrew mentioned in his earlier comment. No one will ever agree whether or not torture is morally right or wrong. We, as in everyone, have our own opinions. Society does frown upon the use of torture, due to the evil and violence that follow along with it, but when the time comes where many lives are at risk due to a terrorist perhaps. There’s not even a second thought as to what our next step would be in finding more information and preventing the unnecessary disaster.

      Anthony, do you believe torture would be considered justifiable in the third, hypothetical, case Levin mentions (¶6)? I’m sure if any of us had a newborn child stolen from us, our first choice would be to hunt that person down and make him “pay” for his actions.

      • Anthony Palmerini December 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm

        Abby, to answer your final question about the newborn, making that person “pay” would be a fitting way of someone enacting revenge for their stolen child. Yet, what if you “end” the kidnapper and yet don’t know where the child is? Why not extract information on who, what, why first, retrieve the stolen child, and then find a fitting consequence. Torture to extract info is quite necessary in these situations as well. The torture may not be physical, it may be psychological, interrogation of some form. Why make them “pay” if you don’t have all the information? A fury of rage may be the first reaction, and all the pain you may want to inflict is coursing through your veins, but not knowing is the downfall to the entire action. It is like walking into a tunnel, if you don’t know and can’t see your way ahead, find guidance or another route.

      • Victoria Simpri December 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm

        I agree with you Abbie, or course torture should not be the answer to every problem that the world faces. However you have to take into account that the victim chose to put themselves in that position. I believe that torture should be administered to the amount of harm that person has chosen to cause. Obviously torture should not be given in the way that horror films portray it but the victim should know that is they choose to put themselves in that position they have to be ready for whatever may face them should they get caught.

        • Abigail Verille December 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm

          Thanks for your input Victoria. Just to make sure I have a clear understanding, you believe that the “terrorist” or “bad guy” deserves to be tortured due to his actions? And to an extent that almost balances out with the violent act the bad guy had committed? Do you believe that the wrong act and consequence of torture almost cancel each other out in a way? And would that question fall under “do two wrongs make a right?”

        • Danny DePaoli December 14, 2012 at 11:00 am

          Victoria, I am going to have to disagree with you on a few points. First of all, people do not choose to put themselves in a dangerous situation. If someone is taking the train to the city, and suddenly, it is discovered that their life is in jeopardy due to a subway bomb, did they really choose to put themselves in that position? Terrorism is spontaneous and impossible to predict every time. That is why terrorist attacks occur. Sure authorities do their best to take precautions and predict when something may happen, but they never really know for sure. Therefore, you can’t assume that an average person with no connection to government, would actually have chosen to put them-self in that spot. Also, I only believe that torture should be administered in an effort to secure information and save lives. I understand that you believe that people should pay for their wrongdoing, and if something happened to someone very close to me, then maybe I would want revenge, but I still don’t believe that torture should be a punishment. This society is not like the Dark ages, or other brutal societies, where severe corporal punishment was a common occurrence. Our society has evolved past this physical punishment and has shifted to emotional punishment. Rather than a beating, children today get a time-out, or a “we are very disappointed in you.” (possibly the most guilt creating phrase ever) from their parents. Torture should not be strictly a means of punishment, but more a method of interrogation. Lastly, I agree with you that torture should not be exactly like the way it is depicted in torture porn movies, like the scene in captivity where the girl rinks human organ, but in reality, it is not very far off of some depictions. Torture is brutal, which is why it is such a fought over topic. People need to either come to terms with the fact that many people will die, or decide to inflict the worst kind of physical pain in existence upon a human being to save those lives. Terrorist under pressure will not disclose information because they are smacked in the head. It will require absolutely grotesque and brutal forms of torture to make them talk. I think that these horrible acts are only justified in times when the interrogation of the terrorist can save the lives of other people.

          • Victoria Simpri December 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

            Danny, in my comment I didn’t mean the victim as in the innocent people I meant the victim as in the person who is being tortured. While they are the victim of torture it was their choice to commit the crime in the first place. Abbie, I do not believe that two wrongs make a right. However I do believe that if the terrorist or who ever is committing the crime is caught before it happens they should be tortured into revealing information that will help save lives.

    • Joey Blasco December 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      I disagree with you, Anthony. Although torture can be administered correctly, it does not guarantee an accurate confession or accurate information. I’ve mentioned this before, but some people are very susceptible to pain, and will literally lie just to end their suffering, even if it is temporary. Also, the torture you have mentioned is physical torture, but there are other types of torture, such as psychological tortures. They may not leave a physical mark or permanent physical damage, but psychological tortures are just as harmful, perhaps even more harmful than physical damage.

      • Anthony Palmerini December 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm

        Joey, when you torture someone, fear is one of the most important factors. Threats of physical pain can trigger psychological pain as well. Fear is a dangerous weapon in torture, which is where torture can be dangerous. Yes, I agree that psychological torture can be more effective and more dangerous than physical torture, and yes people may lie to get out, but torture is not just one shot, game over, torture can be used again and again and again, until the truth is revealed. Telling lies doesn’t always work, and if the lie is discovered, can lead to even worse torture. Lies can be foiled from lie detectors, physical changes, and even using what the person said, say a code that didn’t work. And I did mention psychological torture, I just didn’t use an example or go to in depth with it.

  24. Darren Daughtry Jr. December 11, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I agree with Levin’s argument. In my opinion it would be o.k. to torture a terrorist in one of the scenarios he described. When tens, hundreds, or even thousands of innocent lives are at stake torturing the terrorist (who is going to spend the rest of their life in prison anyway) should be a last (or at least not the first) option. I can only assume that most people would be o.k. with military and/or paramilitary personnel torturing a terrorist. In order to prevent a terrorist attack and save lives. I thought Levin could have reinforced his claim if he had proposed a hypothetical terrorist attack where citizens from two countries ( the U.S., and Saudi Arabia, for example), were going to die sometime in the near future unless the terrorist were tortured. Couldn’t we just send the terrorist to one of our allies like Saudi Arabia and let them do the torturing for us? Sparing us any sense of responsibility and any debate over the mortality and constitutionality of torture.

  25. Marissa Milazzo December 11, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    In general, whenever the debate on whether torture should be impermissible or tolerated is discussed, the topic of terrorism comes up. Therefore, it was no surprise to me that Levin took the initiative to bring up terrorism in the case for torture. However, how can you blame him? How else would anyone justify torture without using hypothetical cases such as the terrorist killing thousands of innocent people or a group kidnapping a newborn? These theoretical cases Levin states, shows a direct form of pathos. Levin shares examples that he knows will hit dear to our hearts. Levin even mentions an informal poll in which he asks four mothers if they would approve of torturing kidnappers if they were necessary to get their own newborns back. All answered yes in response, but of course they would answer yes. As a result, this strengthened Levin’s argument. Even though the reader knew all four mothers would respond with yes, it also shows us that these four mothers are just average Joe’s like you and me (minus the motherly aspect). In some way, we can all relate to them, whether we imagine the terrorist group kidnapping a relative of ours, or a friend close to our hearts, we all feel this sense of hatred toward the group. Which leads me into another important topic to discuss… Many examples Levin gives us (such as the four mothers) shows a demonstration of someone portraying their actions off of hatred. Did anyone other than myself notice this? And if so, did you find it to weaken his argument? The reason I bring this up is because as a society, it is not morally correct to act out based on how we feel at that moment, we need to look at the big picture.

    • Amanda Rizzotti December 17, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Marissa, you definitely mention several interesting points in your comment. I believe that Levin chose his examples with a set purpose. He decided to include the example of the mothers because he knew that it would be able to strengthen his argument. If one of them had responded with, “No, I would not torture my child’s kidnapper”, then it is doubtful that Levin would have included that mother’s response in his argument. To be honest, I disliked this example Levin provided us with. It is slightly mundane and unoriginal. In all arguments like this, it is common knowledge that a mother would do anything within her power to try and save her child. My mother has said this herself once or twice. Even in the media, we are surrounded by instances supporting this theory. While this example definitely supports and strengthens Levin’s argument, I believe that he could have come up with something more creative and eye-catching than this one.

      In your post, you stated, “The reason I bring this up is because as a society, it is not morally correct to act our based on how we feel at that moment, we need to look at the big picture.” I have to disagree with you on this one. In our society, while we may want to look at the big picture, many do not think before they act. Emotions are a powerful thing, and, when faced with imminent danger, against yourself or a loved one, people will find themselves going to great lengths to put a stop to it. I don’t find this to be looked down upon in our society, however, but rather accepted as a way of life.

  26. Alessandra Ferraro December 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    When I think of torture, I connote pain and suffering. Although in Levin’s case torture should be used controllably not profoundly in some cases. Levin connects “torture” to “terrorism” in a way to observe their logical fallacies. I believe terrorism is a way to distribute torture and brutality for political achievements. His use of observant diction such as, “Someone plans a bomb on a jumbo jet,” or “terrorist has hidden an atomic bomb on Manhattan Island,” makes me stop and think; these terrorist should feel the pain and suffering many have gone through.
    Going back to other articles such as in Rowles case, he believed torture in movies it’s “unf—-ingbelievable garbage.” In Levin’s case he points out that torture came to real life. No I do not believe torture is expectable in some cases, to innocent people I’d say Hell No! But for people that commit such a crime, should pay the price.
    I totally agree with Levin’s case. Although I believe violence is never the answer, reading his argument, I believe this is an exception. He isn’t upholding the public to use torture in everyday freely, but states that in any way necessary for the government to use it overpoweringly for the protection of our lives. When I think back to the day of 9/11 and me sitting at home by myself unaware of what was happening, I was scared. Hearing the news of innocent individuals gone in one day from the act of a criminal made me angry. Although I didn’t voice my opinion I believe now that any government actions should be used for the prevention of “evil crimes” or in his case “terrorist attacks.” To agree with Levin, I say use this kind of torture for the good and protectiveness of innocent bystanders. Like Levin said, “Just as torture is justified only to save lives; it is justifiably administered only to those known to hold innocent lives in their hands.” What would you do in this situation?” Me, I’d do anything to stop it and let the government save lives.

  27. William Eckner December 11, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    One thing that is lacking in this discussion is a real example of when torture did or could have saved lives. I can’t find any. Advocates for torture often cite the case of Abdul Hakim Murad. (However, that doesn’t seem like such strong evidence, because it would appear that all the information was on his laptop anyway. Also, the use of torture wasn’t what led to the extraction of the information.) While producing theoretical instances where torture seems justified is easy, real examples are harder to come by. On the other hand, there are quite a few cases where people have been wrongly accused. For example, Murat Kurnaz was tortured and held in prison for five years by the U.S. government, even though there were no grounds for doing so.

    Here is a CNN article about how, since 1989, more than 2000 people have been exonerated after it was determined that they were wrongly accused.
    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/21/more-than-2000-wrongfully-convicted-people-exonerated-in-23-years-researchers-say/
    These are just the cases that were discovered. (Granted, being wrongfully incarcerated may not be comparable to being wrongfully tortured, but the numbers would seems to indicate that our government isn’t 100% accurate when it comes to identifying “criminals.”)
    So, with a track record like this, is torture really worth it? Is torture practical when occasions where it could save lives are so infrequent? How many people would be wrongfully tortured? How many torture sessions would actually lead to useful results? None of these questions have predictable answers and that presents us with a lot of risk.

    We don’t have access to classified government information which, perhaps, may contain a multitude of cases where torture was helpful and did saves lives. Such information would enhance the discussion immensely, but, if it exists, it hasn’t been released. Based on the information that one can access on a home computer, I do not believe that torture is something that “We had better start thinking about.”

    • Colin Cavanagh December 11, 2012 at 11:54 pm

      Will, I agree with you that torture is not as fool-proof as Levin seems to think, and I think it is for this reason that Levin’s overuse of hypothetical scenarios actually hurts his argument in a way. While Levin may have been hindered by his lack of prominent real-world events to write about (having written this article in 1982, well before either of the World Trade Center Attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing or even the Lockerbie bombing), using an absurd amount of hypothetical scenarios (no matter how prophetic some of them turned out to be) presents us with only one side of the issue, meaning we are shown situations where torture is really the only option. There are many other ways to prevent terrorist attacks without resorting to torture, and there are times where torture quite simply won’t work, because the subject of the torture may not know the information that we need, or he may be prepared to take his knowledge with him to the grave, thus making torture ineffective. While I believe torture should still be an option, there are many other methods of gathering intelligence that “We had better start thinking about” other than torture.

      • Connor LaCour December 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm

        I have to agree with you Colin, while the lack of real world evidence at the time makes this a rather difficult argument to support, his constant and rather abusive use of the hypothetical situation seems to hinder the overall idea. Especially in his “informal survey” where the four mothers were questioned. In a situation like that of course they want the “bad guy” to suffer, but that doesn’t make it the correct option. I’m sure they would also love to see the death penalty carried out as well as many others on an offender of such nature, but the justice system doesn’t work like that. Torture, interrogation, the death penalty, none of them take any special precedence. They all have to go though legal procedure, otherwise we are no better than them simply choosing when to torture or even just kill someone.

        • Colin Cavanagh December 13, 2012 at 12:05 am

          I feel like his “informal survey” would have been a stronger arguing point if he had asked the mothers if they would torture to save another person’s baby. Obviously, anybody is going to be more willing to torture if one of their family members is in danger, but if the victim is a stranger, then the person tends to think more about the decision and incorporate their actual morals into the decision, rather than immediately deciding to torture.

          • William Eckner December 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm

            I think that this is a good point. It doesn’t make sense to ask a person with emotional involvement in a situation determine what the best course of action is. His or her emotions will cloud his or her thinking. Also, I think that the decision to use a hypothetical situation in which a baby’s life is at risk is manipulative.

            • Joey Blasco December 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm

              Not only Levin’s hypothetical situations are manipulative (especially when involving a baby’s life and the emotional thoughts triggered by the connotations surrounding the topic), they are used effectively to make the reader more reluctant to disagree with him in order for them to agree with torture. As one stays within the confines of the hypothetical situation, they are forced to agree. Although effective for persuading the audience emotionally, overall it weakens his argument logically as all of his hypothetical situations are riddled with false dilemmas. As he bases his argument on these hypothetical situations, it also brings skepticism as it is implied for the many variables involved in these situations to be true, creating the illusion of a perfect scenario to justify torture. In reality, these variables are constantly shifting depending on the scenario, and each variable has an impact to whether or not torture is justified.

      • William Eckner December 12, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        If Wikipedia is right, it would appear that there were actually quite a few terrorist attacks around the time that Levin wrote his piece. Plane hijackings and car bombings seem to have occurred with a pretty high frequency. I don’t think that Levin had a lack of real world problems, but there was a lack of real world instances where torture could have been used to prevent imminent acts of terror.

        • Colin Cavanagh December 13, 2012 at 12:02 am

          When I said he was lacking examples, I didn’t mean that there hadn’t been any terrorist attacks at all, I just meant that the attacks which had occurred were not as widely reported or publicized as they are now. There certainly were terrorist attacks which had happened, but there were very few which were high-profile enough that Levin could have used them as an example while being confident that the majority of people reading his piece would understand the reference he is making, whereas today, even mentioning “9/11” immediately brings back memories for people.

          • William Eckner December 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm

            Ok, I think I passed over the word “prominent” while reading your post. My apologies.
            Do you think that referencing the lesser known terrorist attacks would have been more effective than using hypothetical situations? I sense that, for myself, a real situation, even if it were on a smaller scale than an atomic bomb, in which torture could have saved lives would have been more meaningful.

            • Colin Cavanagh December 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm

              I think it could have been helpful, but I think Levin really wanted to take an extreme view of the subject, so he decided to purposely include scenarios where torture was literally the only option to save lives. Had he used real-life terrorist attacks as examples, it could have affected people more emotionally, but he also would have risked that somebody would either prove that torture would not have worked to stop that particular attack or that somebody would present alternatives to torture which also could have prevented the attack, thus weakening his argument.

              • William Eckner December 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm

                That’s interesting. You’re saying that, had Levin used real examples, he may have risked having analysis of his article move into a realm that he didn’t want. People might have dwelled on whether torture would have worked. By providing situations where Levin knows that torture would work, he can skip some issues that might come up in the real world and focus on what he wants to. I can see how real examples would have left Levin vulnerable to even more criticism than he is taking for his hypothetical situations. Either way, Levin’s argument has a few holes, but at least, by using hypothetical scenarios, Levin avoided writing a piece that could easily be disproved if the real world example wasn’t perfect. After all, a perfect example may not exist. As long as I have not erred for a second time in my understanding of your post, I would have to say that I agree with you.

    • William Eckner December 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      I have an update to this post. Apparently, just today, a man, Khaled el-Masri, won a court case against the CIA for torturing him.
      Here’s the article:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/14/world/europe/european-court-backs-cia-rendition-victim-khaled-el-masri.html?ref=world&_r=0

      I just thought it was interesting that a news story about torture appeared as we are discussing torture in class.

      • Olivia Headen December 14, 2012 at 10:30 am

        Will I found this link very interesting. It shows that if the United States government truly turns to torture to resolve problems and get information, it would potentially get us in a lot of trouble. It is also interesting that he won because he was mistaken for a terrorist, i believe that this is the governments fault because they should be certain if they are going to go to such great lengths such as torture.

  28. Will Kelmenson December 11, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Levin’s argument is one that seems as if it should be obvious, and yet isn’t to most people. If, in a given situation, the benefits of torture outweigh its inherent ethical issues, then torture should absolutely be permissible in the right circumstances. Generally, if anything is more beneficial than it is harmful, then it is considered beneficial overall and therefore okay. However, this issue about torture specifically needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, meaning that this is not a question of whether you are simply for or against torture, but a question of if torture will be helpful overall in the current situation. Levin makes this clear in his article. I think a problem with the United States is that people will often just take one side of an issue and stick with it, just as many Americans may have simply decided that torture is bad, and therefore it should never happen. People need to think about issues such as this one logically, instead of blindly accepting one side as fact. I believe that Levin’s article is a good example of how to logically arrive at a conclusion.

    • William Eckner December 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      One thing that I agree with you on is that people tend to choose a side and then not give an inch. The refusal to change one’s opinion as new information arises and the refusal to recognize that someone else may have a good point in their argument leads to unproductive conversations. I sometimes even find myself guilty of such offenses. When something I say is challenged, I immediately become defensive and try to disprove my “opponent.” I am more concerned with not being wrong than I am with being right. I suppose that reaction may be a little different than what you were talking about, but it also gets in the way of intelligent discussion. I don’t think that such problems have plagued this discussion too much so far though.

  29. Colin Cavanagh December 11, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    One topic which I don’t believe has been touched upon much (I’m admittedly unsure- 94 comments is a lot of reading any time of day, let alone 11 at night- but based on the comments I’ve previously read and the skimming over I’ve done, it doesn’t appear to be said much) is Levin’s distinction that torture is not a punishment, but a preventive measure used only to save lives. I found this to be significant because, often times, people view torture as a sort of “revenge” for past actions, while Levin makes it clear that he believes what’s done is done, and that criminals should not be put through such pain for a crime that has already been committed. This distinction gives us a lot of insight into Levin’s moral views (especially since it is really the only time Levin draws a definitive line concerning torture) as it appears that Levin does not believe in the “eye for an eye” mentality that many people find justifiable. Did anyone else find it interesting that this point was really the one time where Levin did not leave any ambiguity as to his views and definitions?

    • Kyle Riccardi December 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Colin, I could not agree more. Torture, as I said in an earlier comment, is an action used to gain or accomplish something. It would be pointless to torture a terrorist, after he blew up a building. Although that is a rough example, I simply mean that torture is simply a way of gaining information prior to something else happening. As you said, Levin believes it is a “preventive measure,” not a punishment. This fact alone reveals a lot about Levin’s morality in the way that he doesn’t necessarily agree with torture, but in a time of need he believes “anything goes.”

    • Lindsey Ragan December 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Colin, I’m glad you’ve made this crucial point. I, too, made a mental note of Levin’s moral views, or in other words his character traits, that are evident when he defended the use of torture in proper instances. I mostly think it is important that you brought this up though because reading through some of our fellow peers’ comments, they said they agreed with Levin because they would like to “get back” or get “revenge” on a wrong-doer by reciprocating with torturous actions. However, I really think this overlooks Levin’s purpose and his own ideas. Levin deemed torture acceptable to gather important information (like in his terrorism example) and to prevent future evils, not simply to function as a means of retaliation or vengeance. For those who thought differently, I feel that there was a misinterpretation of Levin’s attitude.
      On another note, I’m not really sure I completely agree with you when you say that this was the one time where Levin failed to leave ambiguity in his views and definitions. Reading through his article, I strongly felt Levin expressed his side of the argument and persuaded his audience to identify certain and selective scenarios permissible, as well as notice the fine line in which these actions are acceptable. Ultimately, I didn’t take note of much vagueness or ambiguity as you said.

      • Colin Cavanagh December 19, 2012 at 9:32 pm

        When I talked about Levin being somewhat vague, I was referring to how in the article, the criminal was always reffered to as a “terrorist,” but at the same time Levin never really says exactly what a terrorist is to him. His first few examples seem to imply the dictionary definition of terrorist, but his last scenario (kidnapping a baby) sort of does not fit in with the other examples. The other scenarios are of hijacking planes and planting bombs, acts which would draw much attention and thus would spread a message to people, which is normally part of a terrorist’s plan. However, kidnapping a baby would most likely not be as widely reported as the other scenarios, and thus it does not really seem to fit with the others, which in turn calls Levin’s definition of terrorist into question. Because Levin refers only to terrorists within his article, his lack of any definition for what makes a terrorist a terrorist also leaves it vague as to where we draw the line as far as what crime needs to be committed in order to be considered worthy of torture. Some people may consider any criminal a “terrorist” if ther actions frighten others, but does this mean that we should consider using torture on anyone who commits a crime?

  30. Jess Eminizer December 12, 2012 at 12:02 am

    I have mixed feelings about Levin’s argument. It is clearly very well constructed. He has clearly thought his wording through and worked to communicate as effectively as possible. He makes great use especially of definitional writing, which is a certain kind of argumentative writing that relies upon defining words that may have different meanings for different people. That and his logical progression (from presentation to justification to historical context to consequences to a personal appeal to his ending) drive his argument and make it effective. His selective style and definitional writing also destroy his argument.

    Throughout the thread, it seems as if many more people agree than disagree with Levin, and I don’t blame them. His pathos is forceful and very effective, and his rhetorical questions really push his ideas into the reader’s head. He chooses just what evidence supports his argument and employs it right at the proper time. He is vague when he needs to be to further his idea, and his definitions are both broad and specific. It’s very effective, but I do not like it. Levin ignores a lot of information. As Will Eckner pointed out, he includes no statistics that support his idea, because very, very few exist. Rather, (also stated by Will and a few others) he uses a lot of hypothetical questions which are easy to create and easy to answer, and impossible to back up. When Levin says, “Suppose a terrorist has hidden an atomic bomb on Manhattan Island which will detonate at noon on July 4 unless … here follow the usual demands for money and release of his friends from jail. Suppose, further, that he is caught at 10 a.m on the fateful day, but preferring death to failure, won’t disclose where the bomb is. What do we do?” He follows it with another hypothetical question involving subjecting the terrorist to due process, and commits a fallacy of false dilemma by insinuating that these are the only two options. He does this throughout the entire piece, when there are further options like the gathering of intelligence or other preventative measures. The easy answer to his consistently echoed ‘what else would you have us do?’ is continuously forced into the reader’s mind because that is how he presents it. He very frequently does not allow the readers to make their own choices; his use of pathos is unrelenting and very distracting. While it is a legitimate tool, Levin uses it as a crutch rather than a supplement by employing it in every little word he chooses. This pathos and his rhetorical questioning push facts aside for style and insidiousness. As previously stated, there are very few documented cases wherein torture has yielded effective results. If we step back and consider for a moment, not trapped in Levin’s web of false dilemma, we can realize that torture is not a perfect solution. Perhaps if it worked every single time, and saved lives every single time, it would be much more worth considering and his argument much more worth respecting. But the few terrorists who have legitimate information will have probably been trained not to buckle under pressure. And even if they do, how may their information be trusted? People will say anything under diress.
    When he does use definitional writing to his advantage (like in his definition of terrorism not as a punishment, his separation of “US” and “THEM”, his quick defeat of the words “clear guilt”, as well as his definition of civilization) it’s poignant. But setting the precedent of defining those difficult words is a bad one to break, and he does so. He chooses which words to define and which words to base his argument on, when there are many, many others he ignores entirely. How does Levin define paralysis? Evil? Destruction? Morality? Moral Cowardice? This kind of writing also makes his counterargument much easier for him to write. It defines and deletes “clear guilt” and “rights of the individual” without even considering numerous other counterarguments that don’t include such specific diction; it makes it seem like those few phrases are all the opposition has to offer, whereas in reality he knows there are other arguments to be made. (And if he didn’t, he should have done more research and polled more people than four mothers.)

    I also think that Levin makes a mistake by making torture sound so easy. In reality, it is a messy, lengthy, expensive process, but he makes it seem like a rational go-to. Where does one draw the line for when torture is acceptable? Levin says “for the sake of saving innocents”, another vague and hyperbolic term. (Personally, I do not think torture should become a habit for any civilized society.)
    Levin is an excellent author, and his techniques work for him at a cursory level and especially if, like me, you didn’t consider many of his points before. But the simple truth is that there are impossible-to-ignore holes in his argument because of the style and information he chose.

    • Joey Blasco December 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Although Levin’s use of pathos is both forceful and effective, I do agree that Levin’s lack of statistical and factual data hinders his argument since it weakens it overall as it relies more on the audience’s emotions rather than hard data, and creates hypothetical situations to compensate for this. These hypothetical situations he creates are entirely based on assumptions which are assumed to be true. In reality, there are many more variables that can influence the decision to torture or not to torture, such as if the terrorist is actually caught (and if they are the actual terrorist) and if he or she is telling the truth about the correct time and location of the attack. With Levin’s hypothetical situations, such variables are controlled. This makes the whole situation overly-simplified in order to persuade the reader that if torture in these hypothetical situations are deemed acceptable to save lives, then torture is overall acceptable in order to save lives as it is seen as a simple solution.

      • Jess Eminizer December 16, 2012 at 9:41 pm

        I think your phrase, “overly-simplified” is exactly what I was trying to say. Thank you very much for your response!

      • Joey Blasco December 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm

        (This was originally meant to be a part of my December 14 post @ 1:43 pm, but lack of time due to shortened periods prevented this portion to be written/refined/posted along with it)

        Other than false dilemmas being present in Levin’s argument (as all of us have noticed), one other logical fallacy I’ve noticed in ¶9 that I find significantly weakens his argument refers back to his false analogy regarding nations and the police. In ¶9, he states “…if nation A learns that nation B is about to launch an unprovoked attack, A has the right to save itself by destroying B’s military capability first. In the same way, if the police can by torture save those who would otherwise die at the hands of kidnappers or terrorists, they must.” The reason that this is a false analogy is the fact that nations and police do not share the same property (especially in this example) regarding tactics and the use of torture. Nation A already learned B’s unprovoked attack; and is prepared to launch a preemptive strike against B’s military capability, and no property of torture is specified, other than its use in preventing the unprovoked attack. The intelligence needed already has been acquired and verified beforehand (implied by the Nation A/B situation). For the police, the kidnapper/terrorist already has initiated part of their plan by kidnapping or starting the attack; and requires the police to retrieve the intel, where torture would be seen as the preferred interrogation technique to retrieve such information, which may or may not be reliable. Although the Nation A/B situation shares the same idea of protection/prevention of attacks as the police torturing the kidnapper/terrorist, Levin’s analogy is false as each individual situation requires different methods, one of which does not actually involve the use of torture in order to save lives.

  31. McKenzie Callahan December 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

    In Levin’s article he is not trying to change a policy, but rather our minds. Levin attempts to change our minds by manipulating us. Constantly you are being asked if you could torture one for thousands. Levin gives the reader theories like his informal poll with the theory, if a newborn was kidnapped by a terrorist group the mothers said they would torture those terrorist in order to get the newborn back. Levin’s way of trying to manipulate our minds includes rhetoric and extreme scenarios. When you read this article on the surface you seem to fall for Levin’s manipulation and find yourself agreeing and saying yes, I would torture one person for thousands. However, when you analyze his argument further you find many holes in his piece. Levin’s examples are not actual events, therefore they aren’t able to prove anything. Also, Levin makes few and pointless and useless counter arguments. Levin states “Torturing the terrorist is unconstitutional?” and than answers the counter argument saying millions of live are more important. This argument is over used and dried out. It proves nothing and weakens Levin’s fight. Levin shows a good argument when you first read, and you do seem to fall for the manipulation. But read a second or third time, you start to notice the flaws and imperfection of Levin’s article.

  32. Catherine Caputo December 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I actually understand why so many of you agree with Levin’s argument on torture. Torture, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure”. The last part of that definition, “afford sadistic pleasure”, is the only example we’ve seen in the torture porn movie reviews. Levin is arguing that torture, while not exactly a good method of controlling the bad eggs of society in the worst of scenarios, if left as a last resort, has to be used. So it’s only natural, after discussing this topic where it is seen at its most useless, that we would all be pleasantly surprised to find a place where it could be used to do some “good”.

    One of my problems with the argument is all of the “What if…” examples. As Jess, Will, and many others have outlined, these are easy questions to answer. Of course we would beat someone up for kidnapping a baby. Of course we would chose to save thousands over standing in our morals. Of course we would go for the lesser of two evils in extreme scenarios. That’s all they are though, extreme scenarios, nothing historical at all. Those vague examples only give us so much, after all.

    • Will Kelmenson December 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      I really like the point you made about torture being acceptable, “if left as a last resort.” Most people in the world would agree that you should avoid inflicting pain on others whenever possible. Therefore, I believe torture should be avoided whenever possible as well. However, when all else fails, you may be forced to fall back on torture as a method to achieve your goals. If someone takes the position in which torture is literally never justified, I believe that they are being a bit unreasonable, because there can always be a set of circumstances in which torture is justified. These hypothetical situations which Levin gives, although they may imply a single solution, which is manipulative, are also realistic in that an identical situation could occur in real life. And in Levin’s specific hypothetical scenarios, many people would agree that torture is justified (Torture one person to save a thousand, etc). I’m not sure if we need to include historical examples in this discussion, as long as the hypothetical examples are realistic.

  33. Mishell Pacheco December 12, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Levin’s argument made me think how true the thin separating line between “US” and “THEM” will remain clear as long as we pinpoint who are the “THEM”. He describes us as a society in which we are morally against the bloody and impermissible torture we hate yet, when loved ones, friends or family are in danger those morals and values go metaphorically out the window. We not only feel as if we are entitled to be able to torture these terrorists but others feel that human rights should always be attained.
    When Levin speaks about the poll of women confessing that in order for the safety of a human/infant it is almost a necessity that torture is allowed. Another woman even confessed if needed she could do the torturing herself. Our nation’s informal motto: “We do not negotiate with terrorists” comes from the pride of a big country refusing to give itself up to such an evil. Yet when Levin questions if it were a plane full of people in danger and the only way to rescue them is to give the perpetrator money, what can be done?
    Levin questions our way of thought and makes us think; is it okay to torture? What if a family/friend was involved? He states how one terrorist is refusing to give up the location of a bomb for example, the only possible way is to use undeniably wrong actions.

  34. Brian Donnelly December 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Where Levin talks about how torture should not be used against people who have already committed a crime I disagree. Lets think for a second, say someone was to murder your mom, dad, sister, brother, grandma, grandpa, any one person in your family, you’re going to honestly say you wouldn’t wish that you could torture that person because you think its morally wrong? You’re going to honestly say that you would rather that person just go to jail for 25 some odd years rather than having the chance to get revenge. I know that if someone killed my mom I wish I’d have the option to torture that person myself rather than send that person to prison, I personally would want to get the revenge rather, than have the person who killed my mother go sit in a jail cell with no physical abuse whatsoever; and yeah you may say “well if they do sit in jail they have to live with what they did knowing that every day they took a humans life.” I say that if that person purposely killed my mom they wont have a problem living with that, they made the choice to kill her it wont bother them. If you think that’s wrong so be it, but that’s how I feel. I think in a case like it’s justice. Not to mention if people knew that if they were caught for murder they’d be tortured I think that there would be a lot less murders.

    • Marissa Milazzo December 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Brian, I really like the way you gave us a theoretical example. Just like Levin, it gives the reader a chance to ponder on the situation on a personal level. Also, the repetition of the question “You’re honestly going to say….” is very strong and helped your response. However, I would have to disagree with you on if people were tortured due to murder there would be a lot less murders. The reason for my disagreement is because murderers know there is a chance for them to be put up for the death penalty, however people are killed every single day. I think that if someone is that distorted in the head, nothing at all with stop them.

    • Ashleigh Titre-Barnor December 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      I personally agree with you Brian. In my opinion, I believe that anyone would feel the same way. Especially if the murdering or torturing is brought upon to one’s family. The thought of the murderer being in a cage for life would not satisfy me enough. They would still get to live, when our loved ones are not. Levin states, “If life is so valuable that it must never be taken, the lives of the innocents must be saved even at the price of hurting the one who endangers them.” There truly is no way to accept a loved one’s murder. Revenge is the sweetest in this case.

  35. Jared Hunter December 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    On a bit of a side note, I’m not sure if anyone has thrown this out (in all honesty, I have not read all of these comments since reading 100+ can be a bit taxing) but do we tend to generalize torture to such a generic point? What I mean is, do we automatically think the victims’ lives who are in the hands of a terrorist are held as innocent or pure? On top of this, I’d like to ask this as a general question: Would you feel less inclined to resort to torture if a terrorist stated he was going to obliterate a maximum security prison? I mainly ask this, since a maximum security prison can contain individuals who portray, in our eyes, brutality and a vile nature that we don’t want to have any part of (mainly murderers, serial killers, etc).

    • Victoria Iarusso December 12, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Thats a great point you bring up jared.

      “Would you feel less inclined to resort to torture if a terrorist stated he was going to obliterate a maximum security prison?”

      And to be honest, I don’t know Jared. I could tell you that I would do the right thing and do what i could to save their lives regardless of the crimes of they might’ve committed in the past. But what if the crimes they committed were just utterly vile? What would I say then? Would I not do everything in my power to save those lives? I mean, afterall, they are still human lives are they not?

      The answer to your question will be different depending on the upbringing on those you are asking. Their decision can be heavily influenced by the values of those who raised them.

      So to answer your question, Jared, i honestly don’t know. Sometimes I think it’s better to not know.

    • Darren Daughtry Jr. December 12, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      You have a great point Jared. My answer is no. In the scenario you described the terrorist should be tortured. I say this because the people in that maximum security prison have been proven guilty by the justice system and were sentenced to X amount of years in prison. They’re paying their crime(s) and if their crime was severe enough they would have received the death penalty (depending on the state), or they would have received a life sentence where they would die in prison anyway. Also what about the (although small in number) people who are in a maximum security prison for a crime they didn’t commit. They definitely don’t deserve to die considering they didn’t do anything wrong. Finally some ex convicts (although small in number) do make something of themselves by helping people like at risk youths if/when they get out of prison. They could be stopping someone else from winding up in prison which is a good thing so they don’t deserve to die in a terrorist attack either.

    • Jessica Lau December 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      I think you bring up a good point, Jared. I don’t think we can, or perhaps should, say that all people that are about to be killed by a terrorist can be held as innocent and pure because people are actually aware that there are bad or crazy people out there, but just never know if those bad or crazy people will do harm to them at that moment. I mean, if a terrorist was about to blow up a prison full of people who have done a lot of wrong, I think I feel just as inclined to torture the terrorist as if he was going to detonate a bomb that is about to kill civilians in their everyday lives in a city because the prisoners are human lives after all, and some of the prisoners might have stayed in prison long enough to feel remorse because it is in human nature after all. Also, I’m sure that most of the people in the prison didn’t blow up a bomb killing many people in one place as a crime, so they don’t deserve to die because of something they didn’t do.

  36. Tomi Alade December 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I feel as though Levin’s use of hypothetical situations strengthened his argument. Torture itself is general because there are many different forms of torture. When I looked up the definition of torture, dictionary.com stated, “the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.” Pain comes in many different forms. Actions may be more painful on some people than others. I cannot say to what degree torture is deemed too much, too little or just right. But from this definition I can infer that a slap would be considered torture because it inflicts pain. Obviously it doesn’t cause as much pain as hanging someone, or burning someone alive but that’s what makes torture so general. Levin’s generalization was key to strengthening his argument on such a broad topic. His use of example situations allowed the reader to think of different situations from different points of view.

  37. Abigail Verille December 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    So in class, we discussed Levin’s lack of specifics when it came to mentioning certain types of torture. Although his hypothetical cases were quite persuasive, he should have personally defined torture and mentioned what type of torture he had in mind, when writing this article. I’m not sure if any of you would be interested, but if you click on the link below, Wikipedia mentions the different types of torture (i.e. psychological and physical) and different possible methods that have been used throughout our history.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_methods_of_torture

    • Olivia Headen December 14, 2012 at 10:25 am

      In class we also mentioned that if he defined what a terrorist was in his eyes, it would also make his argument stronger. Everyone’s view is different and I believe our joint conclusion was that if he had defined both terrorist and torture it would have made his argument more understandable. the more you read into the article the less it makes sense. Abbie, I like the link you provided, I read a little bit of it and it was interesting. I do believe however that he defined torture, when he used the example of electrodes. Even though it is weak, it is better defined then terrorist.

      • Janet Austin December 14, 2012 at 10:58 am

        I agree Olivia. In class we spoke of how he left the word “terrorism” as a very open ended, general term. He can’t speak for all people in this article. Since everyone has their different view of terrorism, it is hard for Levin to speak specifically.

      • Georgia West December 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm

        Torture and terrorist do have definitions; torture is the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something while a terrorist is a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims. I do agree with you in the way that both words may have varying connotations. However, I don’t believe that Levin defining his understanding of these words would save nor would him not defining them collapse his argument. Torture is torture and terrorism is terrorism; there is so skating around the definitions.

  38. Ally Ferraro December 14, 2012 at 10:56 am

    In the group discussion in class, observing from outside i found that the main argument was people voicing out their own opinion to discuss their own beliefs or thoughts on a piece such as Levins. We all agreed that everyone has flaw, however the degree it was taken to on how we should die for our flaw was unexceptable and worded wrong. Most of them agree that torture is acceptable for terrorism however other people feel that these group chats are unefficient. I agree, we cannot channel our thoughts fast enough or you see other people took what youre going to say and your point is no longer unique or it shows that you copied their work. Speaking out to groups is much more efficient because on the computer writing these blogs people are always going to misenterpret what youre trying to say and the conflict breaks loose. Also i believe that making a point to a word such as TORTURE, to grab the audience its better to use pathos and a gentle tone to appeal to the reader emotions and to get your point across instead of strictly using facts and loosing the audiences appeal and interest.

    • Ally Ferraro December 14, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Also, when you speak out loud, tone is a main factor. People wont get to hear how you’re saying your argument and feel the frustration you are trying to come across as. They might not feel it as greatly as if you were saying it out loud.

  39. Ashley Monaco December 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I think based upon the tragic event that had happened today it would fit into this conversation. In class we mentioned how when we think of terrorism we don’t think of it as Americans inflicting terror among other Americans however wouldn’t this school shooting be considered an act of terror? It left 27 people killed not to mention the emotional grief it has left their families in, the people of Newtown in, and our whole country in. If someone knew this was going to happen but wouldn’t share the information wouldn’t it of only been right to torture this person until we learned about the course of events that was going to happen? That person had a sick enough mind to devise this plan so instead of causing a tragedy such as a shooting to happen wouldn’t it make sense to torture the person until all the information is revealed?

    • Jessica Lau December 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      On Friday, our class had incorporated the Connecticut school shooting in our conversation. However, I had mentioned that this case was somewhat contradictory to Levin’s argument for torturing terrorists because nobody knows the real or complete motive or reason for the shooter to have killed so many people in the school, but it did involve mainly killing his mother who taught at the school and that it is most likely he didn’t belong to a terrorist organization. Also, the shooter had killed himself after he massacred the children and teachers, so that completely leaves out torturing someone to extract information.

      • Ashley Monaco December 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm

        Jessica, you are correct however what if this was a plan he has formulated over the past few weeks or months. If someone were to know about it I think theoretically in order to extract information torture can be used. I am not saying in this specific example I am just saying theoretically. Obviously in this example torture cannot be used. Also I believe in order for a terrorist to be a terrorist he does not have to be a part of a terrorist organization. I feel as though simply put, it is just someone who terrors others usually for a motive. Since as of right now we are unclear of what the motive is we do not know if this is an act of terror or he was just insane. Some stories however have come out that said his mother was always bashing the school system hence why he was home schooled so maybe the shooter felt like he wanted to take matters into his own hands. If this was the case I would consider it an act of terror. However since it is unclear as of right now what the motive was we can’t really say whether or not this was an act of terror.

  40. Will Kelmenson December 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I’m not sure if this has already been brought up, but one thing that really stands out to me in Levin’s argument, as well as our own discussion, is that nearly all hypothetical situations mentioned have featured, almost exclusively, a terrorist as the torture subject. It is for this reason that I think Levin’s argument, although logically sound in some ways, is also very manipulative in others. A “terrorist” is a word which someone hears, whether the year is 1982 or 2012, and instantly thinks of an evil, murdering psychopath. This is someone whom most readers would feel much more comfortable having tortured than just any average person. This strengthens Levin’s argument greatly from an emotional standpoint, but does nothing to contribute in the form of logic. I think it would be more appropriate to consider some more varied hypothetical situations. For example, if one country is at war with another, and captures soldiers from the opposition, are they justified in torturing those prisoners to extract information which could potentially save thousands of their own people? And would it matter to you which country is doing the torturing, and which country’s soldiers are being tortured? This is just an example of an additional type of hypothetical situation to consider in this discussion, one in which the potential torture subject does not immediately invoke negative emotions within the majority of the audience.

    • Ashley Monaco December 17, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      Will, this is a very interesting point you have brought up I didn’t notice this before. But I think Levin used terrorist on purpose because like you said the word “terrorist” brings up negative connotations which directly realate to pathos. When one thinks of a terrorist you think of someone who terrorizes an ethnicity, religion, etc. Typically, that group of people are innocent. On the other hand, if Levin were to bring up the hypothetical situation of torturing soldiers this would have negatively impacted Levin’s argument. If I were to read about soldiers being tortured for information I would have thought of our countries soldiers. These men and women have dedicated their lives to helping our country. They haven not done anything wrong, they are innocent they are just simply helping America. To read about them being tortured I would have started to disagree with the idea of torture, even if he wasn’t using our countries soldiers in the hypothetical situation because it would have related me back to the soldiers fighting for our country.

    • Joey Blasco December 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      I find it interesting how “terrorist” and “terrorism” often spark negativity. Ironically, the Patriots, Founding Fathers, and the supporters of the American Revolution can also be considered terrorists (against the British), despite from an American point of view of regarding them and their cause as heroic. Terrorism and terrorists in the modern world often have negative connotations, but if referred solely by dictionary definitions, any group or person in history using violence and intimidation systematically in order to achieve a type of goal can be considered a terrorist, (such as the Patriots). Most of our definitions of terrorist and terrorism stem from negativity as some of the media we are presented to often describe what we view as terrible acts and deeds of violence and intimidation as terrorism, making Levin’s hypothetical situation seem more justifiable to use torture as we generalize terrorists and terrorism negatively as well as their cause. This makes torture seem justified against these people as we do not find any positive aspect from their cause or its supporters, and therefore we would not have to feel guilty to torture them.

      • William Eckner December 20, 2012 at 12:23 am

        Do you consider war terrorism? Most would probably make a distinction between the two. I’d say that the lines are a bit blurry. War is supposed to be more formal and to avoid harming civilians (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_war#Modern_sources). However, once a war starts, rules have a way of being ignored. I agree with you that a person’s point of view will change how he or she defines a conflict. Sometimes, terrorists are viewed as “freedom fighters.” Many people, as proved by the posts on this thread, support torture, but usually assume that the terrorist being tortured is fighting for a cause that would be rejected by society. I don’t know if I agree that the American War of Independence is an instance of terrorism, but it does bring forth the idea that people may view torture differently if the “terrorists” being tortured were fighting for a cause that Americans would consider just. The legalization of torture in America could potentially set a precedent and lead to more instances of torture in other countries where American ideals do not exist, where the “terrorists” are the people that America supports.

  41. Rebecca Noce December 16, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    The dictionary defines torture as the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty, and I agree that this is what torture is but I don’t think that those should be the uses of torture. Due process is defined as the regular administration of the law, according to which no citizen may be denied his or her legal rights and all laws must conform to fundamental, accepted legal principles, as the right of the accused to confront his or her accusers. I don’t understand or agree that the use of torture gives justice or conforms to Due process by any means. Levin said himself “torture is justified only to save lives (not extort confessions or incantations) which is him admitting that torture, by how the dictionary defines it, is wrong, not justifiable. In the fourth paragraph Levin clearly states that torture is probably Unconstitutional, which means that it doesn’t follow due process, so how can you write about it as if it is the only solution to a problem if you think and admit it is Unconstitutional? By contradicting himself Levin seriously weakens his agreement it’s not effective use of reasoning or logic.

  42. Rebecca Noce December 16, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I don’t agree with Levin’s position on torture at all. I believe that every single person is born with human dignity and rights, and no matter who you are you do not have the right to torture anyone. I don’t care what someone threatens to do; I don’t understand how you can think that torturing someone to prevent even the most horrible acts is “right” by any means. It’s morally unacceptable. Levin’s position is that you can inflict as much pain on a human being, as long as the ends justify the means. But let us explore what that really means, the ends justifying the means, is better explained as the end result can justify how you got there, the reason this is impossible is because it is incapable of achieving its end, not only is torture inhumane but it’s very ineffective. Torture is ineffective, because if you have to torture someone to get information out of them that person does not respect you at all and so when someone is being tortured for that reason, they will say anything, any lie just so the pain will stop, they will lie and deny. Torture is especially dangerous to inflict on terrorists because torture fuels hatred and creates more terrorism, if a terrorist already hates America and you torture them you’re not changing the way they feel. So even if you save 1000 lives as a result of torturing some terrorist you must ask yourself was it worth it to just have created more terrorism and more hatred towards America? It’s a cruel endless cycle. A very wise world leader once said “To do violence to people’s conscience means to harm them seriously, to deal an extremely painful blow to their dignity. In a certain sense it is worse than killing them”, this is true because there have been studies that people who have tortured someone or even thought that they did have suffered from PTSD , which is post dramatic stress disorder. This basically means that when you are the one inflicting the torture, not even the one receiving it, you go psychologically insane in extreme cases. Doesn’t this make anyone wonder how the person actually receiving the torture ends up? I think their better off dead, as are their torturers. Real moral obligation is a fact. We are all really truly objectively obligated to do good and to avoid all evil, in other words moral values or obligations not only the belief in a moral value is an objective fact. I even disagree with Levin’s position in the “hypothetical case” where if a woman’s newborn baby was kidnapped from a hospital it is appropriate to inflict torture on the kidnapper, because two wrongs don’t make a right. Although mothers have protective instincts and these mothers said that they would even administer the torture themselves, where is the proof that when it came down to it they would able to do it, or if they did do it they wouldn’t be irrevocably harmed by their actions it wouldn’t get their baby back, because you don’t know if the kidnappers already killed the baby or not, there’s no way you could know this. It just goes back to the fact that they will lie to get the pain to stop, if they stole your baby why would you even trust anything they tell you. Those are most of the reasons why I disagree completely with Levin’s position on torture. Let me just end by saying I strongly believe that you can’t deliberately do something evil and justify it for any cause even to save “innocent lives” because no good can ever come from evil.