ssaysSince childhood, one of the wisest adages that parents have drilled into our minds is to always take responsibility for our actions. However as children there have been many times when we feel as though we are not responsible for a wrong doing, just because someone else takes the blame. In reality only we know if we our responsible or not. For example as a child I was playing ball inside the house with my older cousin, and I threw ball in the wrong direction, which broke my mothers flower vase. When asked who broke the vase, my cousin took the blame. It was a sigh of relief for myself because I thought I was off the hook. Being elder than myself, my cousin thought it was his responsibility to take the blame for the broken flower vase. I offered to tell the truth and tell my mother it was really I who broke the vase, but my cousin convinced me it wasnt my fault, when it actually was. So just because by word of mouth from my cousin telling me that I wasnt responsible, made me believe that I really wasnt. My cousin probably should have let me take the fault, because the incident spoiled me. In a way it encouraged me to do more mischief, and whatever I pleased because I thought it was not my fault. Just as Stanley Milgram describes in his essay, The Perils of Obedience I had once behaved as the teachers in Migrams experiment. Michael Levins essay The Case for Torture Levin declares his belief in that it is the responsibility of a person in authority to torture someone who is believed to be guilty of planting a bomb. Cesare Bonesanas essay Torture concerns Bonesanas principles concerning the law and how no man is guilty until proven innocent. He argues against Levin, saying that because of the law, that no one should take the responsibility to torture someone who is just believed to be guilty. All three of these essays have two main concepts, torture and responsibility. Milgrams essay focuses on how a person accepts responsibility as the torturer or not. With Bonesanas essay arguing against Torture and Levins essay arguing for Torture, many connections can be made with Milgrams essay regarding when people accept him or herself as the torturer. After reading Milgrams essay one can begin to understand the question ofhow does ones concept of responsibility for ones actions affect the willingness to become the torturer. Milgrams essay is about his encounters with people and what he observed from them while conducting his experiment. As a result of his experiment Milgram found, surprisingly, that most of his subjects who had the title as the teacher in the experiment who were ordinary people. They were willing to give harmful electric shocks-up to 450 volts. A person with the title of a learner would behave as a protesting victim. The learner would receive these shocks from the teacher, because a scientific authority commanded them to, and in spite of the fact that the victim did not do anything to deserve such punishment. The victim was, in reality, an actor who did not receive shocks. This fact was revealed to the subjects at the end of the experiment. During the experiment itself, the experience was a powerfully real and gripping one for most participants.
All of those teachers thought that they were not responsible for administering the shocks. Here is an excerpt from Milgrams essay, about Fred Prozi one of Milgrams subjects in the experiment: Prozi: Theres too many left here, I mean, Jeez, if he gets them wrong, theres too many of them left. I mean whos going to take the responsibility if anything happens to that gentleman? Experimenter: Im responsible for anything that happens to him. Continue, please(Milgram, 788). Just because the teacher had the assurance of the experimenter that if anything had happen to the learner that they themselves as the teacher would not be responsible. So when the teacher didnt think of himself responsible for harming the learner he was more likely to continue on with the experiment because they didnt feel as though they were being the torturer. In reality they really were responsible and were being the torturer. Just because they had the assurance of the experimenter does not mean the teacher could not have stopped giving the electric shocks.
This brings a certain issue of Timothy Meveighs execution to mind. After Mcveigh had died I heard the warden who gave him the lethal injection speak of how difficult his task of giving Mcveigh the lethal injection was. Does this warden think he is responsible for Mcveighs death? The warden jobs entails him to do so and he has to make sure he fulfilled his duties that his job requires, because he worked for the government, and the government makes sure that the law is followed. Even if the warden were told that he was just carrying out the law, he still would probably feel somewhat responsible for ending a mans life. Akin to Milgrams experiment, the teacher was given a job to make sure the learner receives the electric shock, the warden had to make sure that Mcveigh was dead. I think that if the warden felt very strongly against putting Mcveigh to death, he would have refrained from carrying out the procedure just like the teacher in Milgrams experiment would discontinued from pulling the levers for the learner to receive the electric shock. Then another question comes into mind about Bonesana who was a strong believer in the name of the law. This warden was only doing what the law was obliging him to do. Bonesana says, A man cannot be guilty before sentence has been passed on him by a judge, nor can society deprive him of its protection till it has been decided that he has a broken the condition on which it was granted(Bonesana, 765). Bonesana states here that only the only law can decide a mans fate after he has been accused of a crime. The law decided Mcveighs fate. Even though Torture and punishment are two completely different notions, thought facts of responsibility in both Mailgrams essay and regarding Mcveighs death make for a valid point. The subjects known, as the teachers in Milgrams experiment did not have to go through with giving the electric shocks, as the warden didnt have to give Mcveigh the lethal injection even if another warden had. This way no one would have felt they were responsible in any way. Even though an authority tried to persuade them to carry out the duties that they had agreed to accomplish, theyd let their own conscious consume them to do what they believe to be the right path.
Levins essay The Case for torture pleads in favor of torture. A Levin focus mainly on the situation of making a terrorist confess where the bomb is planted before the bomb explodes. Levin thinks that if a terrorist decides to withhold information about where the bomb has been planted, then authorities have nothing to risk by torturing the terrorist especially because millions of lives could be saved. Levin attempts to make the reader feel guilty when he uses his manipulative writing skills by this statement, If you caught the terrorist, could you sleep nights knowing that millions died because you couldnt bring yourself to apply the electrodes?(Levin, 762). Here Levin makes the readers think as themselves in a situation as a person having torture as their only means to save people. Millions of people will die if this bomb is not deactivated. Levin wants the reader to be persuaded that the terrorist should be tortured, because it is his responsibility to save these peoples lives. However Levin gives the message, that the torturer will not be held accountable for torturing this terrorist, because there remained no other choice and the torturer was only doing what the authorities demands him to do. No matter what the person is still a torturer. The person has become even more willing to become the torturer just because in his mind he thinks he is not responsible for this terrorist, because the torturer was just following orders. What if this terrorist was really innocent and was not a terrorist at all, but died anyways? How can the person who was torturer just say, oh well not my problem, I was just following orders from my boss. Similar to the nazis who claimed, I vas chust following orrrders!-PatelHitler hadnt conducted the acts of torture himself, he just compellingly demanded that they be done. Milgram explains in the essay that For a person to feel responsible for his actions, he must sense that the behavior has flowed from the self. In the situation we have studied, subjects have precisely the opposite view of their actions-namely, they see them as originating in the motives of some other person(795). Milgram goes on to say the teacher would not have gave the electric shock if they had a choice. Milgram also portrays how powerful the influence of another person can be who is in position of authority, by insisting they perform a certain action even though they feel that isnt right. Therefore this shows how both Hitler and the people underneath him in his command(even if t hey did not agree with Hitler they still carried out his plans.) are responsible for the mass murdering during Word War II. Just as the experimenter and the teacher could have been responsible if those electric shocks were real and harmful.
As for the willingness to inflict torture on someone and causing them pain, if I felt that I would be responsible for the innocent person who is known to be a terrorist for dying I would be less likely to become the torturer. My consciouswould know that I would have to take the blame for my actions. However I too would probably fall for the trap that the subjects otherwise known as the teachers in Milgrams experiments who were thinking that they would not responsible if the electric shocks were real.
All three of the readings, Michael Levins The Case for Torture, Cesare Bonesanas Torture and Stanley Milgrams The Perils of Obedience are connected. Levin and Bonesanas arguments are based on why and why not torture should be allowed. Milgram raises the issue of who thinks of themselves as the torturer. Even if they dont think themselves of the torturer that does not matter, it is their actions through which we can we see ,due to the obvious fact that if one accepts responsibility for one’s actions, then if one is the torturer, one accepts whatever guilt so being lays on one.