Richard Marshall interviews Matthew Kramer
Originally published on August 22, 2015
Here is an excerpt:
3:AM: If capital punishment is a central contemporary issue so is the use of torture. Why do you argue that torture is always wrong?
MK: There is no single answer to that question, because there are many different types of torture, and the explanation of the wrongness of torture is not uniform across those types. (When I refer to the sundry types of torture, I am not differentiating among them on the basis of the techniques employed; rather, I am differentiating among them with regard to the chief purposes for which torture is undertaken.) Let me say a bit here about the most frequently discussed type, interrogational torture. My 2014 book Torture and Moral Integrity maintains that such torture is always and everywhere morally wrong. The gravity of the wrong varies, but the wrongness itself does not. Hence, it should be apparent that that book is as robustly deontological as any of my previous volumes. (“Robustly deontological” is definitely not equivalent to “robustly Kantian.” My book on torture contains numerous objections to Kantianism as well as to consequentialism.)
Interrogational torture involves the deliberate infliction of severe pain for the purpose of extracting information from someone (either from the person on whom the pain is directly inflicted or from someone who is likely to care deeply about that person). The deliberate infliction of severe pain for that purpose is always morally wrong because of the overweeningness of the control exerted both through the infliction itself and through the aim which it is undertaken to achieve. The overweeningness of the control exerted by the infliction itself has been brought out especially incisively in recent years by David Sussman, and the overweeningness of the aim pursued has been brought out especially incisively in recent years by David Luban. Hence, I draw upon their writings as well as those of many other philosophers in my ruminations on torture.
The entire interview is here.