Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Torturers Enlightenment

Water boarding, the CIA old school.
At the time of the Inquisition the torture of suspected heretics was held to be, though an affront to Christian love, a necessary evil. Better a little suffering here and now then that far greater and eternal suffering in the great beyond.

It is a similar line of thinking which appears to support the use of torture today except, without the pretense of saving a soul. They already believe the subject is damned, but still construe his suffering as a means to an end.

It is for good reason the dreaded Auto-de-fe was such a popular example of religious hypocrisy among Enlightenment thinkers. It implied in dramatic fashion, that no man was allowed liberty, even within the confines of his own head, and free will could freely choose what was determined in advance. The thought police are nothing new.

Today torture is no longer explicitly tied to religion, but the conviction of its necessity to achieve a greater good remains. Instead of the pretended torments of hell, we instead are frightened by the seemingly more immediate threat of the ticking bomb, though just as imaginary.

The irony is that just such coercion through fear is exactly the form of tyranny the Enlightenment sought to extirpate. As Kant reminds us in his little essay What Is Enlightenment?:
Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men...remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians.
Such concerns were warned against by America's founders, but appear to stand now as much of a possibility as they ever did, and the stage is set for a far greater threat to human liberty from within than any Jihadist could ever hope to present from without.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Genealogy Of Pop

The following is (the most updated version of) a paper of mine published in the sixty-seventh issue of Philosophy For Business, an online journal of philosophy.  Due to its controversial subject matter I must praise the journal's editor, Professor Geoffrey Klempner, for his open-mindedness and generosity in giving such a forum to a novice.

Genealogy of Pop