In his article "The Case for Torture," Michael Levin tries to show that it is morally mandatory to torture in certain extreme situations, specifically when a terrorist has information about a bomb which is set to go off soon and which, if detonated, would result in the deaths of thousands, if not millions, of innocent people. Levin has constructed the hypothetical "ticking-bomb" situation in such a way that it would be impossible to use any other method of interrogation to obtain the information necessary to prevent the tragedy. .
There are a number of problems with Levin's argument. First, his conclusion is limited to one particular hypothetical situation that we are unlikely to confront, making his conclusion not only inapplicable to the real world, but also false. Second, his justification of torture rests on a utilitarian principle that opens the door to torture in a variety of cases. Finally, Levin's claim that torture is justified because the terrorist puts himself in harm's way voluntarily is problematic. .
The first problem with Levin's argument is that he attempts to justify torture only in certain situations, but because these scenarios are improbable and unrealistic, he will not be able to justify torture as morally mandatory at all. In the way that Levin has constructed the hypothetical scenario, he is making the following assumptions for justifying torture: 1) that the bomb actually exists; 2) that the person we have in custody is in fact the "right" person; and 3) that the torture will lead to the disarmament of the bomb. The first two are big assumptions to make. If we cannot be sure that we have got the right person who has the information or that there really is a bomb set to go off soon, then we cannot be sure that we are justified in torturing. Because the possibility of torturing an innocent person is so serious and morally offensive, we had better be absolutely certain about the facts in the case.