Michael Levin's the Case for Torture (Review)

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Michael Levin’s “The Case for Torture” argues that there are various reasons for allowing torture to exist in the United States of America. Levin would love to see society change its negative views on torture so that, under certain circumstances, torture would be permissible. The article starts off with a very brief description of how he believes society views the subject of torture as a negative thing. He leads on to oppose that way of thinking and provides three cases in which he believes torture must be administered with various reasons attempting to support his thoughts. The hypothetical cases Levin uses range from very extreme situations, to a situation where we may sometimes see on the news. Levin makes it clear to the audience that he does not agree with torture as a punishment and focuses on exactly what it should be used for. He also stresses that there is an important difference between terrorists and victims and he believes it would stop the talk of “terrorist rights”. Levin also writes on his belief that most terrorist do their crimes for publicity and because of that, the terrorist shall be fairly easy to identify and later be tortured. He closes the article by saying torture would cause little danger to western democracies and predicting what he believes will happen in the future.

After many through readings of Michael Levin’s article, I feel the attitude he carries along thorough the article presents him as an aggressively self assured person. Most of the reasoning he gives is heavily based on pathetic appeals. The force of pathos he puts into the reader is very compelling but does not fulfill the argument as well as it should because of the lack of good logic and reasoning.

Levin uses three main points to convince readers why torture should be used. The first major point includes three hypothetical cases as big reason to why it‘s important. His second point explains the reason for the need of torture. Finally he states who gets to receive the torturing and briefly describes what the outcome may be.

Levin's biggest point is generated from the three hypothetical cases he provides the reader with. In my opinion, they are clearly work more as an emotional example and not a sound reason. The 1st case is one in which an atomic bomb is planted on Manhattan Island and will blow at noon. The suspect demands money and release of his friends from jail. He is caught at 10 A.M. and the man won’t disclose any information on the bomb. “What do you do” (201)? The 2nd case speaks of a bomb on a jumbo jet. The suspect's demands cannot be met. Won’t we do anything to the extortionist to the save the passengers (201)? The 3rd hypothetical case is provided with results from a four person poll. The case is one in which a newborn baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Would you allow the torturing of the kidnapper in order to get him back?

I feel that all three hypothetical situations have something about them that do not make me feel convinced. The first situation in which the bomb is planted Manhattan Island seems too unrealistic due to reasons that you don't always hear of this kind of stuff on the news and also that the bomber is captured. Even if a person demands money and release of his friends from jail, Levin does not explain how somebody would go about finding this person wherever he is hiding? Levin also has a very weak spot in explaining the situation because when he speaks of the bomber, he says “Preferring death to failure - Won’t disclose where the bomb is.”(201). Saying to readers he prefers death to failure would logically mean that, even if tortured, the man is still not going to disclose the information because he would rather die than failing his mission in receiving his needs. The second situation's weakness' comes from a lack of critical information and once again the rareness of the situation. The situation involves a Jumbo Jet in which a bomb has been planted which can be defused ONLY by the...
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