Torture and Collateral Damage

 
imijj
 
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imijj
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07 May 2016 03:19
 

Until a few days ago, my only encounter with Harris’s ideas came in the form of unfavorable remarks by Slavoj Zizek in a book whose title I cannot recall. Recently, however, I have become interested in this still red-hot war debate regarding the merits of Islam and its status as a particularly degenerate religion. I won’t go into my ideas on the subject, because they are still developing. What I would like to discuss is a passage from “The End of Faith” where Harris makes the argument that people should not be more offended by torture than collateral damage.

I might be willing to grant him that torture is not any more offensive than killing an innocent person in order to kill a suspected terrorist, but I think that is missing the point in absurd way. I’m sure there are people who think that these types of drone strikes are necessary and justifiable in a certain sense, but I think Harris is unbelievably wrong when he asserts that “none of us lose sleep over that, really, even the people who are against drones and everything else that we are doing in our war on terror don’t have the same level of outrage over something like that as they would over the waterboarding of those people” as he did on the Secular Talk podcast. I mean, I don’t know who Harris is referring to here, but I find it hard to believe that he actually means that. There are obviously many people who find that type of “collateral damage” morally reprehensible and unjustifiable in every sense.

I’m not trying to start a flame war here. Maybe I just don’t understand him correctly, but that makes zero sense to me.

[ Edited: 07 May 2016 03:21 by imijj]
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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08 May 2016 08:32
 

I think in general he is close enough. People are generally more concerned with torture then collateral damage because they can rationalize/fantasize their government using it on them, but collateral damage by drone, that’s just the bad luck of the people where the terrorists that need to be stopped are.

 
 
Poldano
 
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Poldano
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08 May 2016 20:52
 

The general attitude toward torture versus collateral damage may be partially a reflection of a tendency people exhibit in Streetcar Problem experiments. People tend to be willing to kill one person instead of many when they only have to toggle a switch, but unwilling to do so when they have to physically push a person into the path of the oncoming streetcar. Another explanation is that collateral damage is not intentional but rather a side effect of some other intentional act, while torture is emphatically intentional. The attempted objective moral theories seem not to match the contradictions of human psychology; this may just be another way of saying we’re works in progress rather than complete.

 
 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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09 May 2016 00:14
 

It might be even more base than that:
being told out the awesome precision of smart-bombs and drones, we feel that collateral damage is a temporary problem, one that better technology (and our enlightened way of conducting wars) will one day prevent. In other words, precision bombing is the result of the Modern Man, both in terms of morals and technology.

Torture, on the other hand, reminds us of primitive times, both technologically and morally - it is something we thought we had left behind.
I guess if we developed a brain-scanner that could extract whatever knowledge we want from a subject (though at the cost of a few dozen IQ-points), most people would be as blasé about it as they are about collateral damage: sure, we do harm where we would prefer not to, but at least we are making progress about mitigating said harm.

This is probably not the whole reason, but I think it plays a major part.

 
 
Poldano
 
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Poldano
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09 May 2016 20:14
 
Twissel - 09 May 2016 12:14 AM

It might be even more base than that:
being told out the awesome precision of smart-bombs and drones, we feel that collateral damage is a temporary problem, one that better technology (and our enlightened way of conducting wars) will one day prevent. In other words, precision bombing is the result of the Modern Man, both in terms of morals and technology.

Torture, on the other hand, reminds us of primitive times, both technologically and morally - it is something we thought we had left behind.
I guess if we developed a brain-scanner that could extract whatever knowledge we want from a subject (though at the cost of a few dozen IQ-points), most people would be as blasé about it as they are about collateral damage: sure, we do harm where we would prefer not to, but at least we are making progress about mitigating said harm.

This is probably not the whole reason, but I think it plays a major part.

Interesting. It could be so. I like to think of myself as having gotten over “modern man” mythology, but perhaps I’m just repressing it. That means I may not be good at recognizing it in others.