Saturday, January 08, 2005

Consequentialism, Deontology, and Torture

Keith Burgess-Jackson asks a very good question:

Many respectable philosophers are consequentialists. Why are they not publicly articulating and defending their view that torture can be justified?

In the same post Dr. Keith distinguishes between nonabsolute deontology and consequentialism by saying that the former affirms what the latter denies, namely, that torture is intrinsically wrong. But if torture is intrinsically wrong, if the very nature of the act makes it wrong, then doesn't it follow that every tokening of this act-type is wrong? How then can the act be justified in certain cases if sufficient overall good is the outcome? I'm not understanding the distinction between absolute and nonabsolute deontology: I don't see that there is 'conceptual room' for the latter. I must be missing something. But then I am no expert in ethics.