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Obedience to Authority: Milgram & Zimbardo

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Introduction

Obedience to Authority: Milgram & Zimbardo "Obedience is a virtue, disobedience is a vice" (Fromm 267). In "Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem", the author Erich Fromm implies that "to be a human an individual must be free to obey and disobey" (272). Being obedient requires the removal of freedom, which comes from expressing your thoughts, feelings and emotions, without any boundaries or pressures from other individuals. An obedient individual is submissive towards another's' will and does not have very much freedom. Obedience occurs and can be analyzed when there is a setting of power and expectations to follow authority and a shift in viewpoint. The Stanford Prison Experiment can be interpreted in terms of Milgram's findings on submission to authority. In "The Perils of Obedience", Stanley Milgram conducts an experiment where individuals are forced to violate their conscience and to either obey or disobey the dissolute demands of an authority. The experiment tests the extent to which individuals will obey immoral commands when they are ordered to inflict pain on to learners. ...read more.

Middle

They made the prisoners feel "powerless, arbitrarily controlled, dependent, frustrated, hopeless, anonymous, dehumanized and emasculated" (Zimbardo 256), simply because they were obeying rules. The authoritarian nature of the guards became serious when they "insulted the prisoners, threatened them, were physically aggressive, used instruments to keep the prisoners in line and referred to them in impersonal, anonymous, deprecating ways" (260). In order to fit into the setting the guards were in competition with each other to be stronger and more respected. They wanted to follow "the behavior of the good guards [which] seemed more motivated by a desire to be liked by everyone in the system than by a concern for the inmates' welfare" (261). We learn that if the setting requires an individual to become an authoritarian, others will be submissive and obedient towards them. Also, the expectations to follow authority are highly regarded until a shift in viewpoint occurs within the individuals. A shift in viewpoint occurs when an individual realizes what they have done or are doing is not civilized and wrong. ...read more.

Conclusion

It's almost like a prison that you create yourself-you get into it, and it becomes almost the definition you make of yourself." (261) The guard implies that you become a prisoner of your own obedience. He treated the prisoners unfairly because he wanted to be seen as a "good" prison guard. As a result, at the end of the experiments, the teachers and prison guards don't see themselves as being responsible for their actions; they hold others responsible for their actions. The teacher's implicitly blame the experimenter and the prison guards implicitly blame the higher authority. In order to be obedient, individuals must be provoked by some sort of authority for the shift of viewpoint to prevail and become successful. Milgram implies that, "[obedience is] socially organized evil in modern society" (233). Therefore, in conclusion, obedience is a vice because it is an immoral practice, which causes human beings to play the blame-game in life. ...read more.

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