Torture, Law, and War: Law and Philosophy

Should the law absolutely ban coercive interrogation? And can and should it really mean it?

Chair: Andrew Koppelman, Law, Northwestern University

  • Scott Anderson, Law, The University of Chicago, and Philosophy, The University of British Columbia
  • Jeff McMahan, Philosophy, Rutgers University
  • Eric Posner, Law, The University of Chicago

This panel was recorded March 1, 2008 as part of the conference "Torture, Law and War."

Recent events combined with shifts in government policy have reopened questions about how much and what kinds of coercion are appropriately used in the interrogation and detention of suspected criminals, enemy combatants, and accomplices. For the sake of protecting security and pursuing justice, some have urged we reexamine the usefulness and broad prohibitions of torture. Yet some basic questions about torture and coercive interrogation in particular are also in need of answer: How should we define torture? What can we learn from history about it? What are its effects on the tortured, on those who torture, and on societies in which it occurs? What should the law say about it?

In conjunction with the University of Chicago Law School’s year-long Law and Philosophy Workshop focused on coercion, the Law School hosted this conference to draw speakers from a variety of disciplines together to discuss these and related questions.