Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took to Facebook on Monday to defend her stance on waterboarding and declare her intent not to apologize for the comments she made last weekend. “Darn right I’d do whatever it takes to foil [terrorists’] murderous jihadist plots – including waterboarding,” Palin, a Republican, wrote in her most recent Facebook post on Monday night. Whatever it takes? Palin is making a moral judgment here, which is of course, what the situation calls for. There are two ways in which we look to form our morality. One is consequentialist moral reasoning. 1.The right thing to do, the moral thing to do depends on the consequences that will result from your action. It locates morality in the consequences of an act. That’s basic Utilitarianism – Jeremy Bentham. 18th Century English political philosopher. The other is 2. Catagorical Moral Reasoning which locates morality in certain duties and rights. 18th Century German philosopher Emmanuel Kant. Palin takes the Utilitarian form of reasoning as her moral guide; at least with regards to this issue. She’s quite the religious zealot so, I’m sure on other issues she takes a different approach but on this issue she’s using utilitarian consequentialist moral reasoning. The Consequences of Utilitarianism are this: The right thing to do, the just thing to do, is to maximize utility. Utility = the balance of pleasure over pain, happiness over suffering. All of us are governed by two masters: Pain and Pleasure. We human beings like pleasure, and dislike pain. The right thing to do individually or collectively is to maximize the over-all level of happiness. “The greatest good for the greatest number”. And in this case the greatest good for the greatest number is to waterboard the suspected terrorist, for the sake of saving hundreds or maybe thousands of others. As a Cost/benefit analysis there are problems with this. Namely, Utilitarianism fails to respect individual or minority rights. It’s likely that nobody is concerned with anybody’s individual rights in this situation, so, what’s really involved here, is whether the position that she holds has any moral worth for a person (Palin) that likes to project her moral values. So, Is torture ever justifed? Her statement raises the question about whether torture is ever justifed in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. Consider the ticking time bomb scenario: Imagine that you are the head of the local CIA branch. You capture a terrorist suspect who you believe has information about a nuclear device set to go off in Manhattan later the same day. In fact, you have reason to suspect that he planted the bomb himself. As the clock ticks down, he refuses to admit to being a terrorist or to divulge the bomb’s location. Would it be right to torture him until he tells you where the bomb is and how to disarm it? Sarah Palin says, absolutely, and defends her position as morally justified. The argument for doing so begins with a utilitarian calculation. Torture inflicts pain on the suspect, greatly reducing his happiness or utility. But thousands of innocent lives will be lost if the bomb ex-plodes. So you might argue, on utilitarian grounds, that it’s morally justifie d to inflict intense pain on one person if doing so will prevent death and suffering on a massive scale. Former Vice President Richard Cheney’s argument that the use of harsh interrogation techniques against suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists helped avert another terrorist attack on the United States rests on this utilitarian logic. On the face of it, the ticking time bomb scenario seems to support Bentham’s and Palins side of the argument. So what if thousands of innocent lives are at stake, as in the ticking time bomb scenario? What if hundreds of thousands of lives were at risk? The utilitarian would argue that, at a certain point, even the most ardent advocate of human rights would have a hard time insisting it is morally preferable to let vast numbers of innocent people die than to torture a single terrorist suspect who may know where the bomb is hidden. As a test of utilitarian moral reasoning, however, the ticking time bomb case is misleading. It purports to prove that numbers count, so that if enough lives are at stake, we should be willing to override our scruples about dignity and rights. And if that is true, then morality is about calculating costs and benefits after all. But the torture scenario does not show that the prospect of saving many lives justifies inflicting severe pain on one innocent person. Re-call that the person being tortured to save all those lives is a suspected terrorist, in fact the person we believe may have planted the bomb. The moral force of the case for torturing him depends heavily on the assumption that he is in some way responsible for creating the danger we now seek to avert. Or if he is not responsible for this bomb, we assume he has committed other terrible acts that make him deserving of harsh treatment. The moral intuitions at work in the ticking time bomb case are not only about costs and benefits, but also about the non-utilitarian idea that terrorists are bad people who deserve to be punished. We can see this more clearly if we alter the scenario to remove any element of presumed guilt. Suppose the only way to induce the terrorist suspect to talk is to torture his young daughter (who has no knowledge of her father’s supposed nefarious activities) and doing it in front of him. Would it be morally permissible to do so? I suspect that even a hardened utilitarian would flinch at the notion. But this version of the torture scenario offers a truer test of the utilitarian principle. It sets aside the intuition that the terrorist deserves to be punished anyhow (regardless of the valuable information we hope to extract), and forces us to assess the utilitarian calculus on its own. If torturing somebody would prevent a bomb from going off, then who gets tortured is irrelevant as long as the bomb is found before it goes off and kills others. So what possible difference can it make who gets tortured as long as the use of torture prevents the killing of others. Torturing a hardened terrorist may not prevent the bomb from going off, but torturing his young daughter in front of him might be more effective in getting him to talk. If the logic of Sarah Palins position holds as a moral justification for torture, then it would make no difference who gets tortured, as long as the bomb is stopped. Or, would she object to torturing an innocent young girl to save the lives of hundreds or maybe thousands of others? I suspect that Sara has never actually considered this in her reasoning process. If she believes in her position as she says, “Darn right I’d do whatever it takes to foil [terrorists’] murderous jihadist plots – including waterboarding,” Palin, a Republican, wrote in her most recent Facebook post on Monday night.” Whatever it takes? Would she agree to torturing an innocent young girl to stop the bomb? Maybe she would. I’d like to know just how far she’s willing to go and how consistent she is with her moral reasoning. .