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Why Not Torture Terrorists?Moral, Practical, and Legal Aspects of the "Ticking Bomb" Justification for Torture$
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Yuval Ginbar

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199540914

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199540914.001.0001

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Is there a ‘Public Morality’ that is Distinct from ‘Private Morality’?

Is there a ‘Public Morality’ that is Distinct from ‘Private Morality’?

(p.98) 8 Is there a ‘Public Morality’ that is Distinct from ‘Private Morality’?
Why Not Torture Terrorists?

Yuval Ginbar

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers whether there is, in extreme situations, a ‘public morality’ that is distinct from ‘private morality’ and its implications on the ‘ticking bomb’ debate, including a discussion of the ‘dirty hands’ dilemma. Theorists have argued that there are differences between action in the private and public spheres relating to representation, numbers, impersonality and impartiality, violence and consequences. However, those justifying torture in a ticking bomb situation have relied on general consequentialist arguments rather than limiting them to the public sphere or to officials. The effects of torture by officials would nevertheless be much more extensive than if inflicted by a private individual, and officials have a positive duty to protect the population. Theorists have argued that in the real world citizens must limit the powers of leaders, including by absolute prohibitions based on general moral grounds.

Keywords:   moral philosophy, ticking bomb situation, democracy and torture, moral aspects, slippery slope arguments, dirty hands, morality

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