Torture — The Case for Dirty Harry and against Alan Dershowitz


Uwe Steinhoff, Department of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford, Manor Road, Oxford, OX1 3UQ, UK.


abstract Can torture be morally justified? I shall criticise arguments that have been adduced against torture and demonstrate that torture can be justified more easily than most philosophers dealing with the question are prepared to admit. It can be justified not only in ticking nuclear bomb cases but also in less spectacular ticking bomb cases and even in the so-called Dirty Harry cases. There is no morally relevant difference between self-defensive killing of a culpable aggressor and torturing someone who is culpable of a deadly threat that can be averted only by torturing him. Nevertheless, I shall argue that torture should not be institutionalised, for example by torture warrants.