The Kobyashi Maru Scenario

November 25, 2008

For questions of morality, I think this is it:

“And from a purely utilitarian standpoint, I think that torture is probably justified under certain carefully prescribed circumstances. If a terrorist suspect possessed critical information about an imminent, large-scale attack, and there was no time to develop alternative sources of intelligence, would liberals really object to torturing someone to extract valuable information?”

Being one of those who, as Will quotes Koestler on, “declares the individual to be sacrosanct, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units,” the, “What do you do when you know torture is the only way to save lives?” scenario consists of two options, each of which I find morally abhorrent.  Note that I’m not saying just “wrong” or “objectionable” — both ultimately demand that you treat life as something less sacred than it is.

I have no answer to this dilemma.  I suppose I would imagine my “ideal” interrogator reluctantly being urged by both numbers and group-loyalty to get the information, and then turning himself in and pleading guilty.  But the act itself is still wrong, morally and legally.  As Kirk discovers too late, obstinately declaring, “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario,” isn’t enough when actually faced with it.

Anyway, I’ve decided that finding a solution to this is comparable to and far more important than finding a way to get string theory to work.

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One Response to “The Kobyashi Maru Scenario”

  1. Torture « Says:

    […] Jump to Comments JL Wall and Mark were kind enough to respond to my original post on torture (read the comments section – […]


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