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Confronting TortureEssays on the Ethics, Legality, History, and Psychology of Torture Today$
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Scott A. Anderson and Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226529387

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226529554.001.0001

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The Ticking Bomb Hypothetical

The Ticking Bomb Hypothetical

(p.177) Chapter 8 The Ticking Bomb Hypothetical
Confronting Torture

Marcia Baron

University of Chicago Press

Recent literature arguing for, or reaffirming, the impermissibility of torture has deplored the ticking bomb hypothetical and its frequent invocation. Examples of such arguments are found in the work of David Luban and Henry Shue. This chapter shares their views, by and large, but at the same time holds that just what is so problematic about the hypothetical remains somewhat unclear. This chapter differentiates this use of a hypothetical, or thought experiment from those famously put forward by Philippa Foot and Judith Jarvis Thomson, arguing that the ticking bomb hypothetical has the singular problem that it relies for its effectiveness on the plausibility of the scenario, and yet it is put forward as if like other hypotheticals its plausibility does not matter. In the rest of the chapter the author shows how very implausible the hypothetical is, drawing from the work of Darius Rejali, former FBI agent Ali Soufan, and others. In brief, it relies on the false notion that torture is more effective in eliciting the truth than "non-enhanced" interrogation or that a combination of the two works better than the latter.

Keywords:   Foot, Philippa, interrogation, Luban, David, Rejali, Darius, Shue, Henry, Soufan, Ali, Thomson, Judith Jarvis, thought experiments, ticking bomb hypothetical, torture

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