2017 Abstracts Stage 2

Are humans destined to conform to evil?

Megan Grace Parkinson, 2017, Stage 2

Philip Zimbardo and the Stanford Prison Experiment

Participants were assigned either the role of guard or prisoner in a prion simulation designed to investigate the behavioural and psychological effects of prison life. From that moment they were treated according to their role and the study commenced. Rebellion, excessive punishment and a mass escape plot.

The findings showed that the guards and prisoners conformed wholly to their assigned role to the point where role and reality were blurred. The participants had lost all sense of reality . Why did this happen? Does it say something about an inherent human nature to conform?

Hannah Arendt and the Banality of Evil: Arendt claims that evil can occur when someone simply follows orders to the point that they no longer have their own thought process. They become a cog in a well oiled machine. She basis this theory on the trial of the Nazi, Adolf Eichmann, who she claims was not an inherently evil man but someone who “simply followed orders”. What does this mean for moral culpability? Does this change our understanding of human nature?

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