Tag Archives: argument from definition

The comfy chair*

This is an argument from definition:

Bob is a bachelor, then ipso facto Bob is unmarried–and male.  

This is not:

Q: Is waterboarding torture?

RICE: The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture. So that’s — And by the way, I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department’s clearance. That’s what I did.

Q: Okay. Is waterboarding torture in your opinion?

RICE: I just said, the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

Bob, by the way, might not in fact be unmarried (and therefore not a bachelor) but it is certainly the case that if he were unmarried than by golly the definition of an umarried male is a bachelor.  Now unless the Convention Against Torture includes the provision that anything authorized by a President is not by definition torture, then the President probably has no power under it–logical or otherwise–to make it not torture (or maybe even, in a bizzaro soft pillows way to declare something torture which isn't).  Here, by the way, is the definition of torture in the 1985 United Nations Convention Against Torture:

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.  

*=click here.