On Torture

Torture is a dangerous innovation; it would appear that it is an assay not of the truth but of a man’s endurance. The man who can endure it hides the truth: so does he who cannot. For why should pain make me confess what is true rather than force me to say what is not true? And on the contrary if a man who has not done what he is accused of is able to support such torment, why should a man who has done it be unable to support it, when so beautiful a reward as life itself is offered him?
I think that this innovation is founded on the importance of the power of conscience. It would seem that in the case of the guilty man it would weaken him and assist the torture in making him confess his fault, whereas it strengthens the innocent man against the torture. But to speak the truth, it is a method full of danger and uncertainty. What would you not say, what would you not do, to avoid such grievous pain?

Etiam innocentes cogit mentiri dolor.
[Pain compels even the innocent to lie.]

Montaigne, Michel de (1580) Of Conscience

Have your say