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October 30, 2007


aleph null

I am saddened by your recent posts in the SmallWarsJournal blog. I don't want to be defending Nuzzolillo, and yet he has been more erudite there than you have been.

"I'm a professional..." - being paid for something doesn't make you better than an amateur. Ramanujan's three notebooks were written by an "amateur". Being a professional does not make you qualified to judge on a "poverty of intellect", as I have met many doctors who possess a seeming lack of intellect (and professional conduct).

I disagree with Jared's arguments, and find his first statements offensive (about which he has apologized, and has since been much more civil); however, you, as a philosopher, didn't make a single statement that reflected well on you, your profession, or your University. For God's sake, man, lay some philosophy down on his ass, or shut up! When I've had discussions on free will and consciousness with a philosopher friend (has a PhD, not sure if he's a "pro" at it, however), and he started into quantum physics, I explained to him in laymen's terms (the math is hard enough for me) why his arguments were wrong or shaky. I didn't just say "I'm a professional, and you, my dear sir, are a jackass!"

The only thing philosophers are good for are conversations. So converse. (If you disagree, why? Give an example where I'm wrong (and natural philosophy doesn't count, as physicists count them as ours ;)).)

I agree that the position is depraved (or at least seriously flawed to where I find it disturbing), but make some cogent arguement that makes him think and defend his beliefs (or rethink); don't just belittle him by saying "I have a degree, and think you are an ass". Prove to us that you earned that degree, and are better than us armchair philosophers (I try to be a good corrupter of youth, in the best possible fashion).

John Protevi

Aleph, I have explained my reasons why I didn't engage Nuzzolillo. Read the posts again, please. His positions are depraved, and don't deserve acceptance in the realm of political discourse. They are contrary to the principles of our republic and to the best traditions of the West, to the extent that we have progressed since the Enlightenment. His "civility" is a sham and you should be able to see through it. As to my professional judgment, why don't you see it as a valuable contribution? If a charlatan is hawking snake oil, do you expect a physician to engage his "arguments" or just to say that he's a charlatan? Torture is the snake oil of security issues; the arguments against it on practical grounds are uttlerly convincing and are common knowledge to all with an elementary acquaintance with the field. In these cases, why not accept the expert's opinion and put the onus on Nuzzolillo -- who is in any case worse than a charlatan -- to prove that he is not what the expert says he is? Engaging moral monsters like Nuzzolillo in "civil" discourse cheapens our republic and demeans you in the process. His type is to be scorned and shunned, not engaged. Torture is beyond the pale. Why can't you see that? How can I prove that? It's a moral litmus test, and engaging with those who fail it is just not acceptable. Sorry.

John Protevi

Follow up: Aleph, the key is this. Through long experience with internet trolls who espouse depraved positions like those of Nuzzolillo, I've long ago given up trying to get them to "rethink." It's not about "thought," it's about affective structure. Nuzzolillo and his type get off on torture fantasies. You can't reason with perverts like that; you can only hope to hurt them worse than their masturbatory torture fantasies give them pleasure. His is not a reasonable position; it's the symptom of a diseased mind, body, and spirit. Two slogans express my stance toward the moral perversion of torture apologists: (1) you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into in the first place; (2) an emotion can only be conquered by a stronger emotion.

Jared Nuzzolillo

Haha! More unreasonable, unsubstantiated assertions.

Mr Protevi, rest assured, you are not hurting me. At worst, you are consuming an inordinate amount of my precious time by providing me free but utterly useless entertainment. Please, do continue making a fool of yourself at my expense, and torturing all of the laws of reason and logic in the process.

I think I am starting to "get off" on it.

The only aspect of this that saddens me in the slightest is that you've had several chances to apologize and move on, or at least abandon the issue. Instead, you continue in an explosive display of arrogance, flawed logic and utter childishness, deluding yourself in your hubris to the point of continuing to brag about something of which you ought to be only ashamed.

You are a disgrace (albeit a somewhat humorous one) to your noble profession.

aleph null

Just because his positions don't deserve to be accepted in the realm of political discourse, doesn't mean they aren't already, or did you not read Malcolm Nance's article? I /have/ read your posts (it's all that you have on this post...), and I'm saying that /you/ did not /say/ anything. Whether or not his civility is a sham does not bother me. Your condescension does.

Long ago, when I took philosophy class on morality, my prof. had us argue on either side of a morally contentious issue. We would often need to come up with a defence for an opinion that we would find morally reprehensible, or fail. It was enlightening, for at the very least we could see how someone could delude themselves into the morality of their beliefs, and caused us (I hope) to make sure that our own beliefs are not just due to our own cultural beliefs/mores. The fact that so many Americans tend to believe in the Jack Bauer "do anything at all costs to win" ideology so prevalent in your neck of the woods (we do have the same view a lot here in Canada, just to a lesser extent, I think), does show that maybe intelligent discussion is needed.

I agree with you that torture is reprehensible. But I also think that your condescension is offensive, and your attack on Jared served absolutely no purpose. Did decent philosophers in the 30s and 40s just "[give] up trying to get them to "rethink"" when even intelligent people were misled by nazi philosophies (even Heisenberg was a Nazi, and a horrible man in that regard). If I saw that quality of "argument" from one of my philosophy profs, I would drop his classes. I had a burned out phil prof who was more articulate, and he would pause in mid-sentence for 5 minutes before continuing exactly where he left off. Also, your use of emotional, inflaming words like "masturbatory" seem puerile and more troll-like than anything.

Like I said before, lay some philosophy down, or shut up. If I am reading a philosophy discussion and see someone misusing scientific/mathematical terms like "quantum gravity", "matrices", "relativism" or "discrete numerical analysis" ;) to appear knowledgeable, I should lay some science down and show why the probability wavefunctions of electrons does /not/ *necessarily* allow for consciousness due to the scale of the appropriate reactions within the neuron, or that "the erectile organ -- is equivalent to the square root of -1" is complete f---ing nonsense and does nothing but prove that modern philosophers don't even know the meanings of the words they use. Or I should leave the discussion and keep my opinions to myself. But to enter the conversation and say "I work for a world-renowned scientist, and boy do I get a kick out of what idiots you are", just shows me to be ignorant. Whether I am or not, who knows...but it makes me appear so.

You may be right, and Jared may be just trolling. But he is doing it in a somewhat more intellectual manner than you. By insulting the intelligence of Mr. Nuzzolillo, and everyone else who is debating with him, you are just acting like a condescending prick.

I will not say you are a disgrace to your noble profession. I will say that your noble profession has fallen to such depths that the sophists would look down upon you. You people don't even know what words mean, do you? The fact that Social Text, a peer-reviewed journal, published "Transgressing the Boundaries" without noticing that none of it made an ounce of sense shows that many philosophers are so because they can't be useful, so they string academic-sounding words together in a nonsensical fashion to appear intelligent and gain respect from people more ignorant than they (sophists, in other words, and don't tell me I'm misusing the term). If you had a love of wisdom (philosophy), you would be a physicist (physical philosopher), or a mathematician (probably with a philosophical bent), or drop some kick ass logic on Jared. Instead, you sound like a 12 year old with a dictionary and a dad at the local community college who hijacked the name of some professor in the french dep't of LSU. Why not say Jared is obsessed with "accelerations without electromagnetic reequilibrations" and try to fool someone without a knowledge of electromagnetic theory? "How can you prove that" "torture is beyond the pale"? You didn't even try. So don't bother speaking up.

Dammit, all I wanted to say was "piss or get off the pot", and instead I'm railing on about what is wrong with the state of post-modern philosophers. Oh well, now I feel better, and according to you, my stronger emotion has conquered your emotional arguments... (I know that's probably not where you were going with that, but don't care.)

Of course, no point in getting upset at what I've said, I'm just an ignorant man without a Dr. in front of his name yet, someone who dropped out of the Arts because of the lack of challenge (too ignorant to realize that I could have handed in some of my 1st year stuff as a doctoral dissertation due to my skill to BS my way around anything and been a Dr. at 17), and went into the lowly field of Engineering Physics because I can't deal with deconstruction and ubermensch (I'm a halber mensch myself, haha)<|;{P> ...Man, I must have gotten into some bad s*** with a philosopher in the past or something... Oh yeah... *shudder*

Oh well, ignore everything, and it will go away, as it's no more than vacuum anyway, if you average it all out. Insubstantial.

John Protevi

Nuzzolillo, I'll apologize to a grotesque torture apologist like you when hell freezes over. Don't bother coming back; you're banned. I don't accept torture apologists here any more than I do racists or apologists for slavery.

Aleph, you need to chill. If you don't like what I say, don't come to my blog.

aleph null

And technically you did use an ad hominem: "you are more like a clever parrot who has imbued some jargon which you spit back in great clots of pseudo-meaning." This is attacking a characteristic of the person making an argument, and not producing evidence against said argument. Ad hominem. Look it up.

Seriously, the reason I'm mad at you: I'm defending Nuzzolillo. If you make me defend Wal-Mart next, no more Christmas parties for you ;)

I bear no grudge. Really. I'm just arguementative (ask my wife...)

aleph null

I was going to ask what you think about "A Modest Proposal"? I think that was even more offensive than torture (cannibalism of babies? WTF??), but it makes you think about why doing nothing to help those dying of hunger is any less morally repugnant. Again, not defending Nuzzolillo here, but to just ignore him and Bush & Friends is no better.

As for slavery, could one argue that slavery in OT Israel, with the owner responsible for the well-being of his slaves, and guaranteed freedom after 7 years, is no worse and, possibly, better than, a lifetime of minimum wage with no health care working for Wal-Mart? 3 meals and a place to sleep, many didn't have much more back then.

Not defending slavery, again, but gedankenexperiments arguing for something you find distasteful, like slavery, eugenics, etc. make you ask why exactly is that wrong, or why abortion is not.

And I don't dislike what you say, I dislike what you don't say.

Jon Cogburn

I think it is a profound mistake to use the Cartesian method as a way at arriving at moral knowledge. For Descartes we could only justify our knowledge to the extent that we could disprove radical skeptical hypotheses. Seeing where that project leads is an essential part of the history of philosophy. . . However it can deform us in large and small ways. One such way is that moral objectivity requires that one be able to justify (in a strong enough sense to refute skepticism at least) every moral belief. But some such beliefs are so basic that the call for such justification doesn't really work. How do you justify the beliefs that, for example, (all else being equal) pain is bad and autonomy is good? You don't, human beings are the kind of willing, feeling, and communal creatures constituted by the affective experiences that give rise to those beliefs. And, contra Descartes, to psychopathic outliers who miss some of that, argument is neither necessary nor even helpful.

I'm with John on this one. Any minimally informed person knows that the supposed prudential gains from torture are infinitesmally small compared to the moral (and prudential) burden, and he's absolutely right about the psychological motivations girding all the pathetic couch potato bullies getting off on torture fantasies. It would take us too far astray to get into this, but a very good case can be made that the real point of all of these renditions and torturing is getting those bullies off the couch and into the voting booth to elect Bush Republicans.

I love America so much that when I come back into the country, if the border agent says "Welcome home," it makes me cry. Bush's partial success at erecting a torture state here makes me thus all the more deeply ashamed.

Humanity is very good at constituting itself into smaller body politics of people who treat each other decently, and then using these bodies to resist and undermine psychopathic bodies, political and otherwise. This is, I think, some of the most important history that gets left out in both narrative and materialist accounts. It gives me hope.

One more note for the record- John and I disagree about a lot of political issues, and I know lots of students in his classes who disagree with him about a lot of things. He does not take the attitude that you are a bad person if you disagree with him. He changes his mind and learns from those he teaches. His point here is that defending torture is morally analogous to defending the rape of children. People who love wisdom don't need to respectfully engage in conversation with those who defend such monstrosity.


Well, my comments won't be nearly as high-toned as those that came before, but finding a pomposity of such density (Protevi-level density?) is such a rare treat I can't resist saying something -- it's so massive it's like a black hole drawing me in. So here are a couple of palate cleansers:

John: If waterboarding is in fact undeniably torture and the most evil thing you can apparently think of, then why do journalists and protestors (not to mention SERE) practice it on themselves? It's not like people are lining up to say, have their fingernails ripped out.

And Jon, where are "all of these renditions and torturing" that you speak of? ABC News found that the CIA had waterboarded a total of 3 Al Qaeda folks, about four years ago. Three. Yep, sure is an epidemic.

truth machine

I am saddened by your recent posts in the SmallWarsJournal blog. I don't want to be defending Nuzzolillo, and yet he has been more erudite there than you have been.

Erudite? I don't think that word means what you think it means. Nuzzolillo shows no familiarity with any of the philosophical literature; he turns absolute and relative moralism on their heads, and misuses such words as "amoral". What's sad is that someone on that thread referred to his arguments as "logical" when they are completely devoid of logic. Not only are none of his statements backed up by any sort of reasoning, but many of them are transparently false. Nuzzolillo's claim that there are "objective" moral standards that justify torture of persons that Nuzzolillo personally judges to be evil is worthy only of contempt and ridicule.

truth machine

If waterboarding is in fact undeniably torture

That you question it after reading Nance's piece indicates that you lack the facilities necessary to provide useful commentary.

and the most evil thing you can apparently think of

That's a whopper of a strawman.

truth machine

I'm saying that /you/ did not /say/ anything.

He said what matters -- that Nuzzolillo's "arguments" are horrible. It's like someone offering a "mathematical argument" that pi is a triangle based on a complete misuse of mathematical symbols and logic -- it should be enough for a mathematician to point out that the argument is horrible.

I will say that your noble profession has fallen to such depths that the sophists would look down upon you. You people don't even know what words mean, do you? The fact that Social Text, a peer-reviewed journal, published "Transgressing the Boundaries"

You're being stupid; a pomo journal isn't the profession of philosophy.

truth machine

As for slavery, could one argue that slavery in OT Israel, with the owner responsible for the well-being of his slaves, and guaranteed freedom after 7 years, is no worse and, possibly, better than, a lifetime of minimum wage with no health care working for Wal-Mart? 3 meals and a place to sleep, many didn't have much more back then.

Justifying an evil by comparing it favorably to another evil is evil.


Truth Machine,

aren't you being a little close-minded? You seem afraid to question your own assumptions about any issue. Assertion isn't argument, as they say.

Take slavery. Some libertarians think taxes are fractional slavery. Are they justified in thinking taxes are therefore evil?

You and Protevi see the world in stark black-and-white terms, one extreme or the other, with waterboaring precisely equal to fingernail-plucking (even though I know which one you'd volunteer for if forced to choose). Can't you concede that there's a continuum, that reasonable people can find waterboarding acceptable and say, cigarette burning not? I'm sure you consider yourself a deep thinker. Try it, instead of spouting glib cliches.

Michael Roetzel


Waterboarding is known to produce false confessions. Colin Powell's infamous UN speech contained misinformation gathered by waterboarding. How's that strike you? One of the dangerous here that I don't think you've considered: these people actually *believe* what suspects say in order to stop the torture. That, by itself, is reason alone to stop it.

And it's just one reason.

The US, under Bush, has taken a very dark route. Are you following the case of Higazy? The FBI threatened to have his family tortured unless he confessed. Turns out he was innocent. And then the Justice department tried to cover up this bit of illegality.

How can you possibly trust these people?

The Bush people are fibbers. Remember Maher Arar? We don't know how many people they have standing for days at a time (or forced to squat), without sleep, in cold, wet cells, who are then waterboarded.

And think for two seconds on how different waterboarding when it's done for real. They suspect is mad with sleep deprivation and painful discomfort. And they believe they may die. That's a world of different.

Remember the US Military confirmed an instance, at Abu Ghraib, of an prisoner (Manadel al-Jamadi) dying from interrogation abuse. We just don't know that there's only the one instance. We don't.

The sad part is, everything I'm saying to you right now is out there, in spades and better written, on the internet. I just don't believe you've properly researched this subject before forming your opinion. If you have, I suppose that's even worse. You shouldn't trust the Bush administration. "Fool me once..." etc. And they've fooled us, collectively, many times. It's embarrassing that we keep falling for it.



Yes, Bush the nightmare. Too bad Gore didn't win instead, because he was 100% against all that nasty secret stuff...oh wait:

"Snatches, or more properly 'extraordinary renditions,' were operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, usually without the knowledge of and almost always without public acknowledgement of the host government....The first time I proposed a snatch, in 1993, the White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, demanded a meeting with the President to explain how it violated international law. Clinton had seemed to be siding with Cutler until Al Gore belatedly joined the meeting, having just flown overnight from South Africa. Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides for Gore: Lloyd says this. Dick says that. Gore laughed and said, 'That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'" (pp. 143-144 of Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke)

Anyway...I can't find anything about Powell's UN speech, so I can't comment. But the FBI allegedly threatened Higazi that Egyptian security would torture his family, not that the FBI would do it. Doesn't that say more about human rights in Egypt than it does the U.S?

Michael Roetzel

1. Since I'm not Al Gore, a position he's taken really isn't relevant to my principles. But, to address it anyway, there's a difference between what Gore was proposing and what Bush is doing is stark. If what Gore was proposing was the normal route of extrodinary rendition, then the suspect would be apprehended outside of our normal bounds, but then brought back to US territory, tried using normal methods, and not tortured. See the difference? Torture vs. not torture. Tried under the US Consitution vs. not tried under the US Constitution. Pretty stark.

Doesn't that say more about human rights in Egypt than it does the U.S?

HELL NO!! How can it possbily matter if we do the torture personally, or outsource it? We're still an agent responsible for torture. Do you really think it's OK for the FBI to torture an innocent guy's innocent family (and ruin their lives, because after such an episode everyone in Egypt would be afraid to have dealings with them) as long as they're doing it at a bit of a distance. If so, then I have to say that something seems wrong with you, and by "wrong" I mean that in some fundamental way you are different from me.

Michael Roetzel

By the way, there are some references to the use of faulty intelligence gained by torture here, including a brief reference to the UN speech.



The Dodd piece doesn't say Al-Libi was waterboarded, just says "tortured." And I don't consider waterboarding torture. Fingernail-plucking? Yes. Waterboarding? No.

And the idea of not outsourcing torture sounds noble, but if you push the idea hard enough in real world scenarios, it becomes useless.

Say Egypt has extracted a hot tip about a possible terror plot targeting, say, The Great Mall of America. Would any president, Democrat or Republican, refuse to act on that tip to keep our hands clean, just because we suspect the information was obtained through torture? Of course not. It's not all black and white. The U.S. has acted on torture tips in the past and will in the future.

Jon Cogburn


I don't know what you are talking about, and neither do you. What you are saying doesn't make any damn sense.

For the benefit of anybody reading this with an open mind and no destructive psycho-sexual fixations-- There are over one enemy hundred documented detainee deaths in American custody (this does not include the renditions) during the War on Terror. During the entire Vietnam War, only 91 American troops died in North Vietnamese detention. On September 11, about 3,000 people died due to Saudi and Egyptian (our allies!) terrorists. During the Vietnam war, about three million Vietnamese died.

Bush et. al. have had our troops employ the full panoply of torture techniques that they are taught to withstand in the school covering capture. These techniques were culled from techniques the Soviets and their allies might have conceivably used on American soldiers. They prominently include so-called "stress positions" which the Vietnamese used on our soldiers, sleep deprivation, and beating the hell out of people (this was the cause of many of the deaths at Bagram).

When Clinton had non-military intelligence do things like this (and yes, he had a terrorist sent to Egypt for torture), each case got reported to the appropriate congressional oversight committee. Bush stopped doing that, and as a result there is no accountability.

I've known a number of veterans from Vietnam, to Panama, to Iraq. How anybody can claim to support the troops and then pressure them into torturing people is completely beyond me. One of my students was involved in the Abu Graib debacle (I won't write how, because I can't have him identified). It was just one instance of Bush et. al.'s criminal and corrupt mismanagement of every aspect of the United States government.

Our troops were forced to pull 12 hours guarding prisoners, 12 hours guard duty (where they got shot at), 12 hours guarding prisoners, and then 12 hours off. There were not enough of them to do a decent job. They were kids just out of high school, not decently trained to run a prison, and due to being massively understaffed were sleep deprived for months on end. Then intelligence people came in and constantly harassed them to "soften up" detainees prior to interrogation. As we all know now, this came directly from the Whitehouse.

That Lyddie England (the rope woman) is in jail (yes, she deserves it) and Rumsfeld, Bush, and Gonzales aren't is obscene. This being said, in only a tiny minority of the documented torture deaths have charges been brought. This is only due to the media doing at least a half assed version of their job with Abu Graib.

Finally, the hypothetical ticking-bomb defense of torture is submental. Say some terrorist put a bomb in the digestive track of a child, and the only way to stop it is to eviscerate that child. Well doggone it we better give the President of the United States, the CIA, and Military Intelligence free reign to eviscerate children.


"For the benefit of anybody reading this with an open mind and no destructive psycho-sexual fixations..."


Do you really think people who believe waterboarding should be legal get off on thoughts of terrorists being tortured? If you do, then you're a fracking lunatic, so I trust that's just wishful thinking on your part (what that says about you I'm loathe to contemplate).

BTW, the topic under discussion is waterboarding. Why not address it, hmm?

Jon Cogburn

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Michael Roetzel


Yes, I knew that link did not contain a source for the information I mentioned earlier. It was a quick source of info for you b/c my time was short.

This I do not understand:

And the idea of not outsourcing torture sounds noble, but if you push the idea hard enough in real world scenarios, it becomes useless.

Say Egypt has extracted a hot tip about a possible terror plot targeting, say, The Great Mall of America.

Your example is a non sequitor. You propose that in the "real world" countries have to torture (and you assert this despite 200 years of American history that argues to the contrary) but your example isn't about America torturing anyone or having someone tortured. Surely you agree, then, that your example is plain useless?

More broadly, all ticking-time-bomb scenarios are useless. There is no need, and indeed one should not, build law around them. If they come to pass, the issue will be dealt with. But, outside Holywood, which is not, you know, a mirror of the real world, these situations really don't happen.

And Sam, what is your motivation for supporting waterboarding? I find that you get a rush out of the idea of torturing terrorists to be very plausible. It's not at all a weird idea. Look at how many billions of dollars the movie industry makes off of giving people such rushes.

Michael Roetzel

I want to add that you don't have to take my word that ticking-time-bomb scenarios are legally irrelevant. Bill Clinton said so outright in an interview. And I think the former President might know a little about whether you'd really need a law in order to get away with coercive interrogation in the highly, highly, highly unlikely situation that it was necessary.

The only reason anyone wants torture protected actively by law is because they want to use it in more mundane situations.

Cheney is on record wishing that the United States was feared like the Soviet Union was in its heydey. What do you think? Is the USSR a good role model? Cheney believes we should be afraid of the world, and wants the world to be afraid of us. That's not a world I want.


Roetzel: What's my "motivation" for supporting waterboarding?

Um, that it might stop terror attacks? If that's not a good enough reason for you, then I'm sorry. Question: If you could be convinced that waterboarding was an effective tool of interrogation, woudl you support it then, or would you risk lives just to stay on your moral high horse?

Roetzel wrote: "Your example is a non sequitor. You propose that in the "real world" countries have to torture (and you assert this despite 200 years of American history that argues to the contrary) but your example isn't about America torturing anyone or having someone tortured. Surely you agree, then, that your example is plain useless?"

I thought I was pretty clear. Do you have a problem with the U.S. relying on a tip from another country obtained through torture? Apparently not.

Roetzel: "More broadly, all ticking-time-bomb scenarios are useless. There is no need, and indeed one should not, build law around them. If they come to pass, the issue will be dealt with. But, outside Holywood, which is not, you know, a mirror of the real world, these situations really don't happen."

Glad to here that "these situations really don't happen" -- until they do, of course. Also glad to know that when it comes down to it, you do bow to reality ("the issue will be dealt with").

And who said anything about a ticking-bomb scenario? I'm not imagining some "24" deadline. But if Egypt tells us they think there's a a plot in the works (no ticking clock time-line necessary) to blow up the Mall of America and provide us a name, we'd certainly act on the info, even though we knew it was obtined through torture. It's not black and white.

And thanks for the 10-cent psychoanalysis, but no, I don't get off on imagining terrorists being tortured. You folks seem to have an unhealthy fixation on the idea. Grow up, already, and get off the moral high horse. When you've got Ted "Chappaquiddick" Kennedy lecturing people about the cruelty of Simulated drowning, perhaps you should have second thoughts about where the moral high ground truly lies.

John Protevi

I'm getting close to stopping comments on this issue. Sam, you have not provided any links to experts who support you, because none of them do. Go back to the Malcolm Nance post (linked above) that started this off. He's the expert. You and Nuzzolillo and the other torture apologists have no real world knowledge but constantly rely on the same old ticking bomb scenario. But all the experts agree that never happens. So you have nothing to support you. So this is your last chance. Provide us a link to an expert who supports your position or else you will be banned too. I don't pay money for this blog to give room to people like you to fantasize about justification for torture. If you want to do that, pay for your own blog.



You sound like the nutjobs I met in college who think conservatives have wargasms thinking about Reagan and Rambo and the Pentagon. Projection city baby!

Given your apparently sincere belief that people "like me" masturbate to terrorist-torture porn, I doubt you have much "real-world knowledge" on any subject.

Case in point:

Genealogies of Postmodernity; Foucault; Deleuze/Guattari; Derrida; Kant; Women's & Gender Studies; Western Civilization:

That puts you about 1,000 light-years from the "real world," n'est ce pas?

And it's NOT a ticking bomb scenario, as is pretty clear to anyone who read my comments with an open mind. In fact, everyone here has dodged my questions about waterboarding vs. cigarette burning; the ethics of acting on info received second-hand from a country that performs torture; whether they'd support waterboarding if it was an effective means of interrogation and would save lives; and why people volunteer for it as protest.

And if waterboarding is torture, perhaps the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate should, you know, ban it. Since it's so obvious to all right-thinking people. Or maybe not.

"I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are stake" -- Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat, in a June 2004 Senate hearing on terrorism.

BTW, sorry, I didn't realize every comment of mine was costing you money. You really should have negotiated a better deal with your provider. Then again, you lefties never really did have a firm grasp on capitalism.

Hope I'm never sitting on a plane with you folks -- you'd all be USELESS in a crisis.

Jon Cogburn

Sam, as a famed master of drunken monkey style kung fu, I resent your insinuation that I'd be useless in a crisis.

Perhaps your point is that with the new security measures, I can't bring my distilled rice wine on-board the airline and so will be hampered in awesome displays of my martial prowess? You needn't worry, they sell clay jugs of the stuff once you get past the security gates.

So next time we're flying together, DON'T WORRY SO MUCH. You're safe with me.

Michael Roetzel


It's been plain since the beginning here that you weren't really interested in a truth-seeking discussion, but I thought there was a chance that you could be lured into one. But it seems plain you've made up your mind against that. You're not into trying to understand the issue. You're about point scoring and political sides (Dems and Repubs), neither of which, I think it's safe to say, interests anyone here. I'm done with this discussion.

John Protevi

Sam, you've embarrassed yourself quite enough and in the process cheapened and demeaned all of us. You've failed to provide any links to anyone who knows anything about torture. All your "arguments" (enthymemes, really) are based on fantasies; it's more than probable that they contain a deep sexual content; why else do you relish them so much, you and your proud "tough guy who will save America by doing things the weak liberals won't" stance. Our arguments, on the other hand, are based on those who are experts in the field, all of whom completely dismiss your point of view. As far as my courses go, if you went beyond their titles, you'd see they are thoroughly rooted in the real world. You see, the people you contemptuously cite, yet obviously have never read, write books *about* the real world. Since you started off by complaining about my "pomposity," let me put this as clearly as possible: fuck you and your torture fantasies, you sick fuck. You're banned. Is that non-pompous enough for you?

John Protevi

Let me state my banning policy: there's no room on this blog for "civil" discourse with torture apologists, any more than there is for rape or slavery apologists. I put this in economic terms about not wanting to pay to give these monsters room to spill their bile, but it's really an issue of political morals. I let Sam Tyler go for a while, because he didn't seem quite so bad as Nuzzolillo, but his shameless invocation of the heroes of flight 93, tying their magnificent sacrifice to his tawdry and pathetic torture fantasies, was the last straw.



I'd be interested in what you think of error theorists like Mackie; on their view, as you know, there's nothing wrong with torture, for all statements like "x is morally wrong", "x is morally permissible", or "x is morally obligatory" are false. Do you think them depraved? Your response to the torture apologists makes me think that you might, but there might be important differences between error theorists and torture apologists, since error theorists do not, it seems to me, arrive at their position in order to rationalize a belief that most people find morally offensive.

Just wondering.

Matt Weiner

I'd just like to point out, very late, that aleph null's comment about "Social Text, a peer-reviewed journal," is false; at the time Social Text was not peer reviewed. It's pretty laughable for someone who claims to be upholding academic integrity to louse up a basic fact like that.

John Protevi

Hi Bobcat, I'm not that into meta-ethics, so I really can't say anything too informed on error theory. My comments are more in line with the Spinoza / Nietzsche / Deleuze naturalism tradition, which is nicely summed up in the title of Jonathan Haidt's psychology article, "The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail." So it's all about the affects generated by the encounter of "bodies politic," to use my own phrase, that is, historically / politically formed bodies subject to multiple subjectivation practices. Hence a little Foucault in there too. I've got a longish treatment of this in a book ms. under review, which I hope will be out soon. I should post part of it one of these days I guess.

David Slakter

Mackie's error theory couldn't be used as a defense of torture, as "Sometimes torture is morally necessary" would be false, as well. Mackie also argues that, despite his error theory, there are still some moral theories which we have good reason to prefer to others.


"Jared Nuzolillo, I rarely pull rank like this, but I'm a professional philosopher"

I'm no professional philosopher, but I'm a thinker. It's probably best not to start off with such laughable pomposity - worse not to follow it up with redeeming content.

John Protevi

Your mistake, Vernunft, after your choice of screen name, is to assume "thinker" is less pompous than "professional philosopher," since the latter set is much larger than the former. But as I've explained at length, there's no "content" that needs to be adduced in re Nuzzolillo; to name him as torture apologist is enough to shame him, as you too should realize.


I think there can be a middle ground reached here. (1) Internet arguments very often are pointless. Perhaps this Nuzolillo falls into the category of "not honestly debating." On the other hand (2) if one is committing oneself to debate, the least one can do is address the arguments. Appealing to your authority as a professional does not address the merits of whatever claim (however deluded) Nuzolillo makes. The options are explain that debate is pointless, or drop it. You can't start addressing the merits of the claim on the grounds of authority.

Really I find the posts above (I didn't leave this site to explore the whole matter) to be ambiguous. I can't tell whether you were explaining that debate is pointless because he is a buffoon (in which case the "I'm a professional" line might be relevant), or you were actually attempting to refute him (in which case the "I'm a professional" line is indeed ridiculous and fallacious). So I'm curious as to which it was.

John Protevi

Michael, thanks for your comment. I reply above in the "Appeals to Authority" post.


Not much better than the 'Philosophy' forum on Craigslist.

Actually, worse.



Dr Protevi,

I'm glad you shut that idiot down. People on the internet can't argue but they all want to seem important, so they waste the time of people more advanced than themselves.

Especially in the political arena, there are talking monkeys all over the web. They are usually people who have failed in life and figure having a giant avatar is going to make them feel better.

Sometimes, I shut off the computer, go outside, or read the words of people who have proven their intelligence, and I feel so refreshed. Suddenly, the false plastic world of the internet is far away.

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