Chapter

Background

Mona Sue Weissmark

in Justice Matters

Published in print June 2004 | ISBN: 9780195157574
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199848485 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195157574.003.0002
Background

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This chapter discusses the views of German participants and the subjects in Stanley Milgram's experiment on the moral justification of what is good. For the sake of what is believed as a noble cause and because it presented a higher and legitimate purpose, committing heinous acts were considered right, moral, and just. For the victims, those people who rationalized this were the considered evil. Hannah Arendt's thesis concluded that most Germans like Eichmann were not evil anti-Semitic — they were normal people who followed orders — but they are viewed as evil because a representation was needed for the injustice felt and left by the events that transpired. Milgram's experiment, wherein subjects were obligated to commit intense electrocution under legitimate authority, lent the most convincing support to Arendt's thesis. By understanding the views of the Holocaust survivors — Eichmann, Arendt, and Milgram's controversial experiment — the chapter delves into the complexity of justice and the human perspective.

Keywords: Stanley Milgram; injustice; victims; Hannah Arendt; evil; obligation; justice

Chapter.  6378 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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