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Summary Paper On The Perils Of Obedience By Stanley Milgram Response To His Writing Christina Mahoney

1122 words - 4 pages

In Stanley Milgram's, The Perils of Obedience, Milgram states "obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to."(1) Milgram then shows how submission to that authority goes back as far as Abraham. He makes us look into ourselves and see why we obey these commands against our better judgment.Milgram then goes into detail about the experiment he set up at Yale University to test how much pain a person would inflict on another person just because they were ordered to do so. He explains the details of this experiment by setting the scene. They brought in 2 people one to be the "teacher" and one to be the "learner"(3) The learner is then strapped to an electric chair while the teacher asks questions. For each wrong answer the learner gets an electric shock, which progressively grows stronger.The outcome of this experiment shocked Milgram since he had spoken to many people about this subject and they deduced that most people would not go beyond 150 volts. This experiment showed that the majority of people would shock the learner all the way into the danger zone, which was marked on their board with XXX representing 450 volts.There were many different reactions from the participants in this experiment. Some questioned whether they should continue to issue the shocks, while others simply shocked all the way thru occasionally acting nervous or upset. One subject in particular stated; "what appalled me was that I could possess this capacity for obedience and compliance to a central idea..."(91)Milgram's Experiments showed another interesting fact, when left to decide how much of a shock to administer to the learner, the teacher usually chose a painless level. There were very few occasions in which the teacher chose to shock at a high level we can assume by this that "they come from the sadistic fringe of society."(96) The experiments also showed that while some people protested they still obeyed orders and issued the shocks. But obedience to authority only went as far as when the person issuing orders was there with you. When this was done via the phone then the obedience level dropped to thirty percent.Milgram states "The essence of obedience is that a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying out another persons wishes, and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions."(108) This obedience is a moral obligation just like "loyalty, duty, and discipline." When we are ordered to do something we can easily act as if we are not responsible and that by following orders we do nothing wrong.Milgram shows us how if we cannot see the entire situation as it is occurring we can isolate ourselves from the final "evil" outcome. He brings up Eichmann who was sickened by visits to the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Eichmann ordered the execution of the Jews and was able to say he was simply "following orders". By alienating ourselves from the final outcome by saying we were following...

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