In a recent interview about torture, Raimond Gaita has suggested that there are some things that are—or perhaps, should be—“undiscussable.” This paper seeks to unfold Gaita’s ideas about why some things are undiscussable, and, by way of illustration, to suggest that the use of the ticking-bomb scenario as a frame for recent discussions of torture may lead us away from sober moral discussion on this issue. The treatment of this particular example points to some general concerns about the use of thought experiments in ethics, especially those that appeal to fantastic and desperate scenarios. For it is not entirely clear what the real world implications of discussions (and intuitions) about such scenarios should be, or whether discussion of such cases can simply be assumed to play a part in a sober discussion of a moral issue.I'm hoping to present this paper at a conference in the spring, so any comments would be appreciated (or a slap, if this is all actually quite silly).
If you haven't already been hooked, there's also a tasty discussion of cannibalism to be found therein...perhaps this spring I can follow up on this and host a panel discussion at EKU: "When is it ok to eat another person?" Any volunteers?
Update (1/31/10): I've updated the link above to a more recent version of the paper.