I just purchased Michael J. Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? On an NPR program today, Sandel had some interesting comments on Dick Cheney’s moral calculations on torture and the limits of the same. Before discussing those comments, let me first set the stage for them.
Sandel is a philosphy professor at Harvard University. He specializes in Moral Philosphy AKA Ethics. Dick Cheney is a policitian.
In Dick Cheney’s moral calculation if torture “saves lives” torture is not just permissible, it is a moral imperitive. Like really good teachers, Sandel asks questions that helps one understand the limitations of one’s argument. His question was, “if torture is good and the only way to get our Arab captive to tell us where the bombs are, it is necessary to torture his 12 year daughter – be aware, she has no idea where the bombs are located, but torturing her will have an impact on our captive – in this case, is torture permissible?” Sandel believes that even Cheney might blanch at that thought (I’m not so sure, however).
This link is to a lecture series done by Sandel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBdfcR-8hEY . An interesting detail: supposedly some of the writers for The Simpsons took Sandel’s class – Sandel is the model for the character Mr. Burns. I am assuming that Mr. Burns is Sandel’s evil twin – they do look, at least a little, alike.