7 years ago: 3.14159265 …

August 17, 2006, on this blog: 3.14159265 …

The legal framework provided by the Geneva Conventions is not the only, nor the primary, reason that torture is unacceptable. The Third Geneva Convention was officially adopted in 1929 (and revised in 1949), putting this legal framework into place.

Does that mean that torture was OK — permissible, acceptable, human and humane — before 1929?

No. The Third Geneva Convention did not create the prohibition against torture, but rather acknowledged it and enshrined it in international law. This legal recognition of the prohibition is a source of authority for its enforcement, but it is not, in itself, the source of the prohibition.

What, then, is that source?

The prohibition against torture arises from the dignity of the individual, which exists independent from and prior to any legal framework, national or international.

Some people know this, and some do not.

  • Jay

    I would say that some people believe this, and some do not. It’s not a question of verifiable fact; there isn’t a nanogram of dignity in the observable universe.

    If a tiger thinks people are basically tiger food, the tiger isn’t crazy. It’s just looking at humanity from an uncharitable perspective.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Tourture is not killing. Killing for food is one thing, animals do it to each other and sometimes to humans. Tortuis something else again. Torture is the deliberate stripping of an individual of their inherent dignity AS AN INDIVIDUAL! Even if we grant the point that killing or being killed is part of life, deliberate torture does not fit in that framework. Even in death their is and can be a kind of dignity, but in torture there IS no dignity, only humilitation and suffering and degradation.
    Anyone who questions why someone would object to that has at least in my humble opion a serious moral deficit far greater and more dangerous than the finacial deficits house republicans love to pretend that they care about.
    Kill an enemy if you must, but do it and be done with it, moral ethical people do not torture people! Anyone who tortures people, or endorses the torture of people or apologisies for it or makes excuses for it has a great deal more wrong with them thaan they think anyone on the opposing side of the issue does.

    As Fred has pointed out before, torture is ineffective, corrosive and leads innevitably to military defeat, and also as fred has pointed out before, in addition to torture being inneffective corrosive and leading to military defear, it is also objectivly, morally wrong, and Holy Macanolees HOW IN THE DREN did we get to a place as a nation where this stuff has to be pointed out!

  • Derek

    The dignity of the individual is as much (and as little) a part of the observable universe as the rules of reasoning underlying your appeal to ‘verifiable fact.’

    The rules of logic and scientific reasoning are not observable as discrete quantities or events, to be measured by weight, or composed of more basic stuff. Instead, their status as independently binding rules of thought stand as preconditions for any systematic attempt to produce knowledge through observation and measurement.

    Similarly, the fundamental dignity of human beings stands as a precondition for our ability to create legitimately binding legislation.

    Without underlying rules of reasoning, ‘observation’ is never anything more than idle looking about. Without the dignity of the individual, ‘legislation’ is only so much idle scribbling.

  • Jay

    the fundamental dignity of human beings stands as a precondition for our ability to create legitimately binding legislation

    That’s your definition of legitimacy, which is all well and good, but the world abounds in nonconforming, “illegitimate” legislation which is often harshly enforced.

  • Derek

    It also abounds with people who persistently form beliefs in ways that are not responsive to evidence or to counterarguments. Yet that does nothing to undermine my confidence in rules of good reasoning, or to think that those rules only hold because I think they do.

  • Carstonio

    I realized during the Bush years that torture isn’t about gathering information but about spreading fear.

  • Nick Gotts

    No-one I’ve come across who claims there is an objective morality has ever been able to come up with a convincing argument for that claim. You haven’t even tried.

  • Nick Gotts

    Contrary to your claim, the “rules of logic and scientific reasoning” have indeed been discovered and tested over historical time; many of them (e.g. those of Bayesian reasoning, or the conditions under which to reject a null hypothesis) are far from obvious.

    Without the dignity of the individual, ‘legislation’ is only so much idle scribbling.

    Nonsense. Legal codes existed long before the idea of “the dignity of the individual” was invented, and they were far from “so much idle scribbling”, because they regulated many social interactions.


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