Miller and Khant

Philosophy 3
Winter 2010

Second paper. Write 4-5 pages (double spaced) on one of the following topics. Papers are due in lecture Wednesday, March 3.

1) There has been a serious terrorist attack on the US, and under your skilled leadership, your unit of the CIA has captured the mastermind of the attack, whom we will call ‘KSM’. Before you can accept the Congressional Medal of Honor, you need to ‘debrief’ him. You believe that getting information from him about the members of his group and their future plans will prevent a future attack and save many lives. However, even ‘coercive interrogation methods’ (death threats, sleep deprivation, water-boarding, etc.) are not leading KSM to give up any valuable information. Now his 9 and 11 year old children are also in your custody, and one of your colleagues has a suggestion: let’s torture the children – and let KSM know that we are torturing them – in order to get KSM to talk. Feeling the need for ethical guidelines, you pull out your notes on Utilitarianism from Philosophy 3… How would Utilitarianism approach the question whether it is permissible to torture the children, and does it give an acceptable conclusion? To answer this question, first explain some of the main ideas of Utilitarianism. Then consider how Utilitarianism would approach this question. Here consider both utilitarian reasons for and utilitarian reasons against torturing the children. What will Utilitarianism tell you to do in this case? Does Utilitarianism yield an acceptable conclusion here? Explain.
[For more background about this case, read the selections from Ron Suskind in the Course Reader.]

2) Both Mill and Kant have accounts of why deception is wrong. For Mill, deception is generally wrong because it tends to have bad social consequences. [See Mill, Utilitarianism, pp. 22-23.] Kant, by contrast, argues that the maxim of deceiving for reasons of self-interest is wrong because it cannot be conceived as universal law without...