Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Chris Port Blog #84. The Use Of Torture and the ‘Use’ of Philosophy. Something to think about...

George Bush issued travel warning by human rights organisations

Former president vulnerable to ‘torture’ prosecution, says US group after Swiss trip cancelled amid protest and arrest threats

Depressing, and embarrassing. A cautionary tale for people who claim that philosophy (thinking) is ‘useless’, ‘not actually doing anything’ or ‘a waste of time’. This man was President of the most powerful nation on earth. You would hope that ‘thinking clearly’ would go with the job, especially when it came to authorizing torture. Thinking clearly is something I expect from school children...

The ‘use’ of philosophy. Something for you to think about (from an educational perspective).

Kant’s Categorical Imperative (simplified):

1. Only do things if you would wish your moral actions to be a universal law.

2. Never treat human beings as a tool or as a means to an end, but as an end in themselves.

3. Act as if you were a law making member of such a principled society.

(See Categorical Imperative if you want to know a bit more).

How would you respond to Kant’s Categorical Imperative proscribing torture if the victim was an unco-operative terrorist withholding information about a primed bio-weapon, or a kidnapper withholding information about a buried child with limited air supply, and the clock was ticking?

Emotive, contemporary examples and moral dilemmas (debated calmly from different perspectives, using Devil’s Advocate roles) give a discursive subject the voice of its age and show that philosophy is not so much an object of study as an activity of life, one that will serve students well in all their interactions with other human beings.

See also:

(With Notes, Cautions, and Warnings)
by Major (USAF) William D. Casebeer, Ph.D.
© Chris Port, Central School of Speech and Drama,1997

John le Carré quoted in a speech given to the Anglo-Israel association:

‘... I realised that we were not dealing with off-beat accusations of anti-Semitism so much as the whole oppressive weight of political correctness, a kind of Macarthyite movement in reverse. How on earth sane men and women ever came to succumb to this unelected tyranny is a mystery to me, but they have. These faceless people seem to have forgotten that it was not the no-sayers who wrecked the 20th century but the yes-sayers. It was the conformists, the grey men, the ones who dared not speak, or spoke what they did not believe. It was the ones who oppressed anonymously, furtively. Who stamped out argument, and directed the rivers of human hatred from behind a screen of silence and deception.’ (The Guardian, November 15 1997)

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