Monday, May 26, 2008

Why Ethics Might be an Impossible Task

Via Cracked (yes, the humor magazine--so expect some adolescent rantings): The Five Psychological Experiments that Prove Humanity is Doomed.

Among these are the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, the Milgram experiments, and more recent Good Samaritan experiments. All of them show that we are very given to abuse one another if given the authority to do so, are told to do so by an authority figure, or simply think we are to busy to care about the abuse someone has suffered.

I don't tend to believe that these experiments display anything in particular about human nature (whatever that means) other than we are social animals. Indeed, several of these experiments suggest that our tendency to abuse one another is situational, not inherent in some kind of hard wiring of our being ( a topic of a recent post). If put in certain situations, we are likely to act out in certain ways. I'm not sure this is the same as saying that human beings are naturally violent, etc.

These experiments do suggest, however, that even though we might know what the right thing to do is, we are likely to try to avoid doing it. Is that a characteristic that suggests we're doomed?

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