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The Use Of Torture In Guantanamo Bay Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1070 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Since the opening and the use of the Guantanamo Bay as a military prison that was allowing the use of torture to get information from prisoners there has been a rise in public debate over whether there the use of torture on prisoners is right (Greenberg, 3). This paper looks into these public debates through the eyes of Plato, Aristotle and Karl Marx some of the well renowned thinkers that have come to pass. To some the use of torture in Guantanamo bay is morally and incorrect while to some it is an end to a means, which is necessary so as to ensure that America is safe from terrorism and danger. From Plato, Aristotle and Marx the former view is wrong and uncalled for. The former view can be likened to the theory of ethical relativism which both Plato and Aristotle were both against. It can also be likened to the ulitarism principle, which Marx was against.

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For the ethical relativism theory, it claimed that moral judgment and acts vary from one society or culture to another. It also proposes that moral judgment varies depending on the situation that an individual or group of individuals are placed in (Peters, 138). The theory proposes that in one culture an action can be viewed to be morally correct while in another the action can be viewed as inappropriate. If applied in the current situation the theory upholds the use of torture if the American society does not view it as wrong then it is right for the torture in Guantanamo bay to continue. The theory proposes that no one set of moral values in any society is better than the other. However, Plato and his student Aristotle were not for this view (Huard, 20). Plato and Aristotle were for the ethical objectivism theory, which states that. In Plato’s dialog, titled The Republic the conflict between the two theories becomes apparent. In the dialog Socrates is seen trying to engage Thrasymachus about his thoughts on what justice is. Thrasymachus a large proponent for the relativism theory argues that justice is in the interest of the strong and there is nothing more to it. He further explains how he has travelled to so many countries around the world and all the laws have been tailored so as to suit the strong while oppressing the weak (Plato)

In Plato’s and Aristotle’s view however this is not correct. In the present situation, Plato and Aristotle would be view the use of torture in Guantanamo bay as ethically wrong and lacking in moral judgment. In Plato’s argument, the use of torture and the detention of criminals is not justice. The strong that Thrasymachus is referring to can be viewed to be the United States of America and the weak are those who have been detained in the camp. Plato and Aristotle did not agree with the view that justice and law were tailored to the benefit of those in power while disregarding the human nature of those being oppressed. Plato in the dialog believes that justice is universal, that it was a constant, and that it applied to everyone. According to Plato and Aristotle, all men were created equal. This is stated in the declaration of independence and is gifted with a number of unchallengeable rights, which are the right to life, the right to liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. This is contrary to what is going on in Guantanamo bay. The prisoner’s right to liberty and their pursuit of happiness have been curtailed by their detention as well as the use of torture on them (Malcolm, 89).

The view of Karl Marx is also against the use of torture and the detention of prisoners without trial. Marx is known for his teachings in his work that human were different from animals and that they could not behave in the way animals do. In his argument, he argues that the main difference between man and animals is the human conscience, religion and a host of other factors that are present in everyday life. In his argument, he says that humans distinguish themselves from animals the moment they start producing for their own survival and organizing themselves in social groups (Wood, 30). Therefore, his argument can be interpreted to mean that he does not expect human beings to behave and act like animals. The torturing and detention of military prisoners in Guantanamo Bay can be interpreted into animalistic behavior which according to Karl Marx is not human. Karl Marx further argues that human beings have the will and conscience to do what is right unlike animals, which only act on their basic instinct of survival. The torturing of inmates in the Guantanamo bay prison can be viewed as America’s basic instinct to try and survive just like the animals in the jungle (Rejali, 98). This is because every human being has his or her basic human rights, which are not being upheld in the prison.

The life of the prisoners in the prison can be compared to that of animals, which Karl Marx is against. Marx is also known for his fight against the unitarianism theory, which is a theory that looks into the moral merit of a deed and determines the merit of the deed depending solely on the usefulness of the deed in maximizing what an individual is to gain out of that deed. The theory proposes that the moral worth of any action that a human being takes can be judged by the outcome of the deed. This is in line with ‘the end justifies the means’ (Allen Wood pp 33). Karl Marx was largely against this mode of thinking arguing that it was against his theory that human nature was different from that of animals and that free will was the main control when it came to the measurement of the moral merit of an action.

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If the unitarianism theory is placed in the present Guantanamo bay situation, the theory proposes that if the product of the use of torture on the detainees produces a good outcome that was beneficial to the American people then the actions are justified. Karl Marx was however against this theory and he argues that human nature is dynamic and he argues that the theory is just a measure for present situations. For example if torture is used effectively to the benefit of the United States government it does not mean that it is opposing human progress. His argument is that not all the merit of any action can be placed on the outcome since actions like torture, which may lead to a positive outcome, are not human and they go against the basic human nature (Smith, 4).


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