A Synthesis Of Conscience Vs. Obedience.

956 words - 4 pages

conscience vs. ObedienceWhen individuals relinquish their own autonomy for the benefit of the larger group, they are no longer individual but products of conformity. Obedience to authority can become dangerous when morality and independent thought are stifled to the point that harm is inflicted upon another person. "The Perils of Obedience," by Stanley Milgram reports on his controversial experiment that tested how far individuals would go in obeying orders, even if carrying out those orders caused serious harm to others (Milgram 316-28). In Ian Parker's article, "Obedience," he introduces the concept of situational forces influencing how one would react in a given situation. He points out that people will behave according to where they are and not necessarily because of whom they are. And in "The Stanford Prison Experiment," by Philip K. Zimbardo, he discusses the results of his controversial experiment designed to examine the ability of individuals to resist authoritarian or obedient roles, if the setting and circumstances required those roles (347-58).Milgram summarizes his experimental findings on obedience to an authority in what some would view as dispassionate detail. Subjects in the experiment are seen suffering over the actions they should take with their moral dilemmas. Obedience is a basic structure of social life and systems of authority are required by all communal living. Social order is dependent on some obedience accepted by the majority (Milgram 371). Yet, as Milgram sought to illustrate in his experiment, obedience to authority becomes dangerous when one obeys commands that are harmful to others. Parker takes this idea and expands upon it by mentioning how people act depending on situational influencesAmanda Ramos Page 2and not because of any sadistic tendencies ingrained in their psyche in reference to what Professors Lee Ross and Richard E. Nisbett believed. This concept focuses on the ethical issues involved in Milgram's experiments arguing that if subjects had felt there was an escape from obedience, Milgam' s results would have differed. Therefore, the subjects acted the way they perceived they had to behave due to the situation they were in (Parker 343). Zimbardo also questions the ability of individuals to resist an authority. In his prison experiment, normal ordinary subjects acted in what they perceived appropriate behavior for the roles they were placed in. This experiment has many similarities to Milgram's because it also focuses on the extreme lengths an individual will go to in order to obey authority (Zimbardo 357).When one feels responsible to the authority directing him and no longer feels responsible for the actions being done is the main danger of obedience. Moral views change when one feels that they have no other choice but to follow orders and relinquish all responsibility for their actions. Milgram explained how the essence of obedience occurs when "a person comes to view himself as the instrument for...

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