Defensive Interrogational Torture
and Epistemic Limitations
by Bradley J. Strawser
The philosophical debate over the ethics of torture has taken on new vigor of
late with the publication of several books on the topic by a handful of accomplished
moral philosophers. In this essay, I will discuss some epistemic issues
surrounding the decision to torture and how those complexities should inform
the debate over its moral permissibility in practice. To that end, I will focus on
Frances Kamm's Ethics for Enemies: Terror, Torture, and War; Fritz Allhoff's
Terrorism, Ticking Time-Bombs, and Torture; Uwe Steinhoff's On the Ethics of
Torture; and Stephen Kershnar's For Torture: A Rights-Based Defense. All of
these authors defend that torture can sometimes be justified, at least in principle.
Most of them go on to explicitly defend that torture can also be permissible in
practice in some actual, real-world cases.