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April 03, 2004



Excellent post, and timely for me as it's a subject I've been giving a lot of thought to lately while reading Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust." The other thread of thought it brings to mind is the idea that having an education, even an advanced one, somehow contributes to making one morally superior as well as intellectually. As can be seen in innumerable examples, absent some independent moral context, it can even be an impediment to moral behavior, as can be seen in Milgram's, what might be called extremely egotistical behavior. (His experiment is so important, he's dulled himself to the misery he's causing - misery that would be obvious to a person not so obssessed with the "science.")


Justman's critique of Milgram as you describe it is insightful, and I agree that Milgram's behavior is in fact the most shameful aspect of the experiment. But I don't understand how you can claim that "This experiment tells us nothing except the lengths psychologists will go to to justify disgraceful behaviour and then build a career on it" without pointing to some methodological problem (aside from any moral issue, of course). It's still the case that these subjects continued to inflict what they believed to be ever greater pain on another person. It's heartening that the detailed results show the subjects resisting the scientist's orders--just one other conscience around would probably have steeled them enough to say no. Nevertheless, they did submit to the scientist's authority. I think the main problem in applying the results broadly is the peculiarity of the situation--the authority figure is a scientist, which had its own peculiar implications in 1960. I wonder if the subjects would behave the same way today, in an era of homeopathic medicine and toxic waste. But this weakness doesn't mean the results are meaningless.

Have you ever read "Ordinary Men"? It describes in excruciating detail the activities of Reserve Police Battalion 101, the men responsible and their attempts to rationalize what they had done. The book does not forgive them. Here are the reviews on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060995068/104-3195012-9903916?v=glance

Mick H

Clay - Okay, the phrase of mine that you quote was a touch hyperbolic, but I do think that what was demonstrated was entirely trivial. So, people submit to authority? Well who would have guessed? Reading the comments of the subjects, it's like they're being polite: they've been invited to participate in this experiment which they believe will advance our understanding of learning, and they don't want to let anyone down. That's the way it goes. It may be true that the results would be different now: people are more sophisticated.


here it is


I am just wondering if anyone knows abt any replica of the Milgram's study, apparently, there's been one done not long ago on TV or something, I want 2 find out, as I am doing a uni essay on it. And i just want people opinion's about if the experiment is 2 be done on now, wud the results be the same or different???


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