The second heading: Reasons of principle

Torture treats the victim as a means to an end and not an end in themselves

[First bullet] ● it treats the victim as a 'thing', not as a person with all the value that we associate with persons

[I omit the other bullets because I want to understand this sentence only from itself, alone]

What does 'thing' mean? Is this use right?

I interpreted this sentence differently as follows but please correct me. If a person with depraved, heinous values is tortured, then torture is treating the values of this victim, and thus this victim him/herself? In other words, torture is treating this person, with his negative values, which can be associated with persons? So how does 'not as a .... associate with persons' make sense?

  • I hope you're not confused by the word treat. This treat is about regarding or considering the victim (as a thing), not to heal or to cure them. Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 6:05
  • @DamkerngT. Thanks. Yes, I recognise thhe former correct definition.
    – user8712
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 6:14

1 Answer 1


The object of torture, generally, is to get something from the victim. Information, possibly, or simply the thrill of seeing somebody in pain/under the power of another. To the torturer, then, all that matters is that end goal. To them, the victim becomes an object, out of which the end goal can be (hopefully) extracted with sufficient force. The victim is not treated as a person - they are given none of the rights of personhood. They might as well be a wooden table for all the difference that makes to the torturer.

So when that passage says that the victim becomes a thing, rather than a person, they are saying that the torturer considers them to be the equivalent of an inanimate object - something to be used and then discarded, without care for the trauma inflicted.

Edit: As requested by question asker:

Well, that opens up another discussion entirely. Does anyone ever deserve to be tortured? Is it possible for a person to do things so terrible that they forfeit their right to personhood? And even if you torture somebody and believe that those two things are possible, does it make you any better than the depraved person? That's a question of morality, and not one I really have an answer to, honestly. Probably also a bit beyond the scope of this section.

  • +1. Thanks. Would you please explain whether your answer changes if the victim deserves to be tortured or is justifiably/rightly tortured? Somehow, I feel that a depraved person may not require 'care for the trauma inflicted?
    – user8712
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 6:16
  • Added to answer.
    – Damien H
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 6:22
  • Thank you! If anyone's interested, I enlarged on my questions at philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/17672/8572
    – user8712
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 14:31

You must log in to answer this question.