It's not Russia, it's Putin

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This topic contains 262 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  TheEncogitationer 11 months ago.

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    It really is a sickening thing to contemplate the dispensing of pain for no better reason than fear of disobeying an authority figure. Are you saying ethical interest and self interest diverge because self interest is found in obedience?

    Because they weren’t the ones getting shocked.

    One of the potential explanations for the behaviour is that it was very easy for participants to pass off moral responsibility. While study participants were operating the machine, it wasn’t them deciding if the fake subject should get shocked or to what degree. Participants were the instrument, not the torturer.

    And I think we can add to this a certain level of cognitive dissonance. Imagine a doctor ordered you to hurt a child and make them cry. We might ask why or refuse outright. Now imagine that request was actually to administer a vaccine to the child. The child may experience pain, may cry, may protest, but if we accept that the doctor has their patient’s interest at heart, and that the vaccine is beneficial, then sure, why not? Why not hurt that child?

    While the Milgram experiment didn’t present a purpose to participants as beneficial as vaccination, participants were there to help with research into learning (if I recall correctly). There was likely some presumption that the researchers knew what they were doing, knew where the safety thresholds were, and weren’t going to seriously injure or kill a subject. On top of that, participants weren’t merely ordered to administer the shocks. They agreed to do it at the outset. And that can create a sense of obligation. Contrast this all with the apparent pain of the test subject and it’s more of a mindfuck than many of us would anticipate not having participated in such a study (and already already armed with knowing about such a study).



    One of the potential explanations for the behaviour is that it was very easy for participants to pass off moral responsibility.

    Yes it is. That is a big part of submission to authority-we don’t need to or are not permitted to question those in authority whether their doings are benevolent or evil. I stand by what i said. Those subjects were led to believe that the confederates were experiencing greater and greater pain as the shock levels increased. In spite of that most continued to deliver the pain. That is really fucked up.

    In Nazi Germany there may have been sympathy with the idea of wiping out Jews so that no congnitive dissonance occurred. But it does not seem to make a difference. So in Millgram unless there were psychopaths as subjects their moral compass was not aligned with their task. I am not buying the notion that they were terribly invested in the “learning” because they represent virtually nothing in the grand scheme. If they did not participate in the experiment the next Jack or Jill will. The compensation was meager and the subjects were told they keep the money no matter whether they finish.

    Ponder the endless numbers of people who submit to their DUTY and go to wars to die-wars they do not think are necessary or justified and even wrong. So few conscientious objectors. There are so many impositions made on us that originate in some form of authority that we are not aligned with and yet we obey. You mentioned your mom and how she felt she had to or could not do otherwise. Even when we see the marionette’s strings we move as we are ordered to move. That is the bottom line.



    Another aspect I didn’t think to look at until now:


    Simon Paynton

    On the Milgram experiments, from “Moral Psychology as Accountability” by Brendan Dill and Stephen Darwall:

    Consider, finally, the Milgram experiments. Milgram’s subjects were willing to undertake the aversive task of delivering shocks because of the forceful demands of the experimenter, to whom they were held personally accountable. Even if the subjects believed these demands to be on balance unjustified, they nonetheless were in the grip of a strong appearance of their being justified. These subjects disobeyed the experimenter, however, once their accountability to the shock victim was made more salient. In the first study, the subjects who did disobey the experimenter did so only once the victim protested by banging on the wall. When the victim was placed in the same room as the subjects, rendering those subjects directly accountable to the victim as well as to the experimenter, obedience of the experimenter decreased by almost 40 percent, to a minority (Milgram 1974). And when a  confederate subject, also ordered to deliver shocks, vocally defied the experimenter, thereby undermining the  authority of his demands, subjects overwhelmingly defied the experimenter as well (36 out of 40; Milgram 1965).  In sum, though subjects in the Milgram paradigm violated their own reflective moral convictions, this may be because their conscience motives were hostage to the powerful moral appearances generated by the demands of the experimenter.



    Pope that report did not mention that “Patriarch” Kirill was a Soviet KGB agent, LOL. That piece of shit is just another oligarch who has gained himself $4 billions swimming in Putler’s cesspool. Walks around in robes with a staff and a funny hat.



    Simon, the conclusion is crap: In sum, though subjects in the Milgram paradigm violated their own reflective moral convictions, this may be because their conscience motives were hostage to the powerful moral appearances generated by the demands of the experimenter.

    Characterizing obedience in inflicting shocks is anything but moral. By the same token obeying the fugitive slave laws is moral. If the prevailing power structure or cultural milieu is evil then following those dictates is evil.


    About 20 years ago I was forced to endure a company bonding day. Hell is real. I was informed I had to attend. I told my manager that he would have my resignation letter the following morning. I only agreed when it was switched to a working day that I was being paid for. It was only switched when my co-workers heard that I was refusing to attend, they did the same. Not so much in solidarity with me but rather that they also did not want to give up a Saturday.

    I refused to join in the “managers VS staff shoot out” as they were going to give me paint balls instead of real bullets. Later I was told by the HR manager that “I was not a team player and that I was being disruptive”. I asked why it had taken her 3 years to figure that out and why she had not approached me sooner about this. Why had she left me managing various teams for so long, I said, sounding all confused and panicked. I then demanded she tell me her name 😊. I asked her to tell me which of the 29 successfully completed and brought in under budget projects and all ahead of time I managed over the last 3 years showed I was not capable of leading a team. I told her I wanted her it on my desk on Tuesday or I would take her and the company to the labor court.

    Then I was informed that the “fun will continue” with a very highly rated physiological questionnaire. After listening to a management ‘consultant’ waffle on for 10 minutes I had the joy of discovering I had to do the Myers–Briggs personality test. Well fuck me pink Jesus but this day will never end. (see this week’s Sunday School ‘Woo’ post).

    I answered the questionnaire in such a way as to show that I was a highly motivated team player with strong leadership qualities. (Really can nobody else see that this is straight from the halls of Quackademia?). The consultant was very impressed with my scores and the HR manager was looking ill.

    He asked me if I would like to share ‘my thoughts with everyone’. Of course, I would just love to and thanks for offering me the opportunity. I then proceeded to give a full explanation as to why the ‘test’ was utter pseudoscience. I gave the scientific reasons to show why it is pathetic and I explained why it was painfully contorted pop psychology with no more basis in reality than horoscopes.

    I was getting dirty looks from some management and staff at this point. HR was having a serious perspiration moment as the sweat glistened on her big silver crucifix. Maybe later I thought to myself. So, I said I will just finish up with this: Or maybe it all true and it could be a really good indicator of clear thinking and leadership skills. I mean, I am the only one here who was prepared to stand up and call bullshit, give a 6 minutes unprepared speech in front of everyone and give a well-reasoned and coherent assessment of what it wrong with it. This shows my ability to think clearly when troubleshooting an unexpected problem and handling it under pressure without panicking. I will now demonstrate my leadership skills by taking some decisive action. Who wants to follow me to the bar as I am going to have a beer with a certain Stanley Milgram? I discovered a lot about the rules of HR that evening. Well, we were in a hotel and not the workplace after all and like you said, I am disruptive.





    I have wondered whether fetus Glen raised in a religious household/culture would have become religious Glen. Of course i answer that question in the negative. I may be a bit biased.

    One can ask oneself same question in re Milgram. I can’t see myself complying. I have a history of questioning authority and no reason to believe i would have been one of the saps.


    That’s an interesting point raised about ethical interest and self-interest diverging because self-interest may be found in obedience.

    If you just obey the Dear Leader then you have nothing to worry about. The leader provides for all your basic needs and gets you to the half way point on your ‘hierarchy of needs’ quest. If the Leader tells you that some have to suffer for the benefit of all and that all you have to do is press at button that punishes those that try to disrupt the status quo, then why not do it and continue living your easy life. Most people would prefer having a benign dictator in charge and would refuse to see any oxymoron is that statement.

    Yes, the Milgram experiment was repeated a few times. Here is an interesting post on one such experiment. Now where did I leave my white coat?


    Simon Paynton

    @jakelafort – I don’t know, it makes sense to me.  The subjects were personally accountable to an authority figure they’d made a personal agreement with.  That’s what felt moral about it.  When the people being “electrocuted” were in the room, then the subjects’ compassion took over and they felt accountable to the “victims”.



    Simon, feeling moral means obeying an authority figure?

    Maybe so. Feelings are just feelings. Does it mean being moral. Social norms which fluctuate over the ages are tantamount to morality. If so morality is meaningless in terms of what is right and wrong.

    Hypothetical. Lets conduct an experiment.



    So it is like Milgram except the teachers are hurling stones on command over a wall at subjects. If we are forceful in our commands we hypothesize near perfect cooperation in an Islamic nation. They’re gay and apostates and have otherwise disgraced their families. To our surprise a few decline to go on after the wall is taken down. That compassion was elicited by the sight of the bloody victims. Wow that is so moral.


    Simon Paynton

    feeling moral means obeying an authority figure?

    It’s not that exactly.  The hypothesis of Dill and Darwall is that morality is that for which we can be held accountable by others.  So, if we can be held accountable for something, it’s a moral matter.

    However, if someone hijacks that responsibility to be held accountable, if they manipulate that instinct by artificial means, they can manipulate people.  Think about how someone can manufacture a feeling of indebtedness to them, and the unfortunate mark then feels accountable to the debt, out of instinct.  I think the general hypothesis holds a lot of water.



    Simon that just avoids the issue-begs the question.

    Accountable to others for what? Presumably that is a position held by the majority and imposed through authority/custom and in no way speaks to right or wrong. My point is right and wrong can not be dependent on the contemporary mores. That simply renders right and wrong meaningless andn fact enables.

    In an experiment in which the subject is being torn between competing considerations; not causing another pain or death and obeying/conforming and chooses the latter it speaks to the nature of man and an obstacle to decency. Our history is pathetic on so many levels. I am gonna skip the jeremiad. So fill in the blank as you will.



    In an experiment in which the subject is being torn between competing considerations; not causing another pain or death and obeying/conforming and chooses the latter it speaks to the nature of man and an obstacle to decency

    But it’s not just obeying and conforming in the Milgram experiment. If the experiment had been arranged such that someone marched up to a stranger and ordered them to shock this man to death, do you think the compliance rate would be the same? Unlikely. In order for us to be compliant, there are, for most of us, conditions that have to be fulfilled. The Milgram experiment exploits participants’ psychology to a certain degree putting them in a more susceptible state.

    While it is disconcerting, much of what is exploited is likely not inherently good or bad. It’s just the cognitive quirks that have let us successfully coexist and cooperate as a social species, and to navigate the world with incomplete information. This is why I keep saying, it’s not the obedience per se (though that element exists); it’s exploitation.



    You would have to go far and wide simply soliciting passersby to find somebody to shock to death a stranger. Yes context matters. The point is that it is the appearance of AUTHORITY that causes the rank and file to do as they’re told, to go with the flow. That is fairly universal among us and throughout history. I agree it is not inherently good or bad. It just is. It is not working for us though. In a state of nature it is the right way.

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