04 Last Day - Last Day 07/26/06 Overview of Vessels of Evil...

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Last Day – 07/26/06 Overview of Vessels of Evil Thomas introduces the text talking about a conference he attended on the Holocaust. He goes into talking about persons who are evil. He rejects the view that people are innately evil (either from theological conceptions of the Fall or misinterpretations of Darwinistic evolution [Darwin really said that species had to work together, not struggle for survival]). He rejects the view that people are innately altruistic or good. He holds the postion of the fragility-goodness model. Human beings are inclinded to do good, but this goodness is fragile and can be snapped and broken in many ways (twisting, warping, etc.) Fragility model of goodness comes from a famous book by Martha Nussbaum called The Fragility of Goodness . He rejects the idea that either the Holocaust or American Slavery was worse (it’s comparing apples and oranges, or like asking someone would you rather lose your eyes or your hands?). He explains that why he’s writing about both topics is to contrast the configurations of evil that run through each of these two. For e.g., the Nazis threw children into the ovens, shot them or killed them in other ways where as in American Slavery black slave children were the best friends and playmates of white children. The Holocaust was a secret, kept under wraps. It was not worse because it involved death or worse forms of death. Death is not the only form of ultimate evil. In the case of American Slavery, it was social death. Death is only 1 dimension of evil. The numbers of death do not make a difference so long as the destructiveness is there (250 deaths is not worse than 200). The badness of death is what a loss of life means to those who lose it. The killing of 200 mountain gorillas is far worse than the killing of 5000 caribou, because by killing 200 mountain gorillas you’ve killed the enter eidos of the species. The goal (telos) of the Holocaust in Germany was the complete extinction of the Jews; the goal of Slavery was complete control and the conversion of a human being into a “living tool that’s constantly at your service.” In the 2 nd chapter, he discusses the fragility goodness model. 5 characteristics: 1 we are moved by the joy or suffering of others, but 2 we are not inclined to perform great sacrifices for strangers. (We are inclined to prevent suffering but not if it costs us something). The fragility of the parent-child relationship: so many things can go wrong (any trauma, accident, pattern of behavior, a neighboring child, etc.) We prefer not to cause suffering and to do so is disturbing. This model produces a stable society, but allows for the possibility that ordinary people through circumstance can commit horrible acts. (Hanna Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem ordinary people can do the most horrible acts under the right circumstances). The Stanley Milgram experiement – research project was to investigate to what extent people were obedient to
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This note was uploaded on 02/21/2008 for the course PHI 151H taught by Professor Dearmey during the Spring '08 term at University Of Southern Mississippi .

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04 Last Day - Last Day 07/26/06 Overview of Vessels of Evil...

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