Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Summer is Spent Talking about Torture

I just finished attending the annual conference of the Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World (SPCW) here in the awesome beauty of the Rocky Mountains. I listened to several great papers on a variety of topics and we ended with a lively discussion about the agency of military interrogators and ways in which torture practices might affect the notion of self of interrogators and captives. The paper was written by Dillon Emerick. Its part of a larger project calledThe Ethics of Torture, co-authored by Dillion with an old grad school friend of mine, Jeremy Wisnewski. You can read a draft essay of his about why torture practices might be something we want to avoid because they would undermine certain commitments we have to an understanding of ourselves as moral agents.

Some of these works made me think about this video on the Vanity Fair website. Christopher Hitchens allowed himself to be waterboarded and the proceeding was videotaped. He lasted less than a couple of minutes and found the experience to be absolutely dreadful. You can read his account of the experience here.

Its one thing to think about what survivors of these "aggressive interrogation" practices must undergo. Another concern I have is with the people who practice these techniques. Who are these men with the masks who tortured Hitchens? What is it like to be a person whose knowledge includes practices such as these--practices which can reduce other human beings to sobbing animals? What does it mean to be a "professional" in these arts?

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