<< ARI Watch

Torture and Intrinsicism

Some faux-Objectivists have said that ARI Watch “treats torture as inherently evil” and they denounce this as “philosophic intrinsicism.”

ARI Watch addresses government institutionalized torture in several essays, among them:

Harry Binswanger on Torture
A Question for Leonard Peikoff
Leonard Peikoff on Torture
“World Opinion Be Damned!”
“The Wreckage of the Consensus Revisited”
Ayn Rand on Torture
The Military Commissions Act of 2006
Yaron Brook on Torture

(These essays reply to statements by Harry Binswanger, Leonard Peikoff, Yaron Brook, Alex Epstein and other writers at the so-called Ayn Rand Institute.) And ARI Watch provides links to various articles about actual U.S. government institutionalized torture:

Torture USA

Any decent person reading the above would, I think, conclude that government institutionalized torture is evil. I’m not sure what distinction “inherently” would make. The context of the statement “Government institutionalized torture is evil.” is the government of a civilized, free country. The Trotskys of the world can worry over a larger context, and claim it isn’t inherently evil.

An “intrinsicist” is someone who, in evaluating an object or act, ignores the whole picture when in fact an enlarged view would change, and properly change, his evaluation. The classic example involves firearms. “Guns are evil.” – without considering what the gun is used for. Or “Shooting someone is evil.” – without considering whom and why. The gun or the act of shooting it is evaluated out of context.

Thus the faux-Objectivists mentioned above are saying that sometimes government institutionalized torture is good, sometimes not, it depends on something. ARI writers say it depends on “helping our troops” – “our troops” really being “the government’s troops.” If government institutionalized torture, and apparently anything government does, helps its troops, then it is good.

Yet there is a gap in the argument. ARI writers never address the question “Does torture, in fact, help ‘our’ troops?” – and you have to wonder why they ignore the point. And you have to wonder why they ignore the larger picture – talk about intrinsicism ! – when in the long run the torture may (in fact, does) harm America and Americans, not to mention the torturers (who deserve it, I would say).

ARI Watch makes the point that historically torture has never helped a free country as a free country, and it offers arguments why. This is a reality/Objectivist inspired position not an intrinsicist one.

Denouncing as an “intrinsicist” anyone who objects to government institutionalized torture is part of a pragmatic program:  eyewash and sophistry that will justify any crime, including setting up a police state. Arrest without warrant and indefinite detention without trial is all right, it depends on the context, etc.

Do try a few of those links to what is really happening. Again:

Torture USA

The usual faux-Objectivist retort, by the way, for bringing in the real world like this, is the epithet  “concrete bound mentality.”