WRTG-3020 Education_Authority, Milgram and Socrates

WRTG-3020 Education_Authority, Milgram and Socrates -...

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Conflict between Milgram and Socrates This essay will examine the perspectives of two intellectuals, Stanley Milgram and the Philosopher Socrates. In Stanley Milgram’s book “Obedience to Authority” the author examines obedience from a scientific perspective. Milgram’s book describes and analyzes a series of experiments that were conducted by Milgram to examine the hu- man conditions that lead to obedience. Plato’s’ “Crito” Socrates presents an argument explaining why he ought to obey the authority of the state, despite the fact that obedi- ence will cost him his life. The two writes approach the same subject, obedience, from very different perspectives, and using very different methods. In this essay I will attempt to resolve some of the differences and demonstrate that, although they seem to be ar- guing from opposing positions, both authors would reach similar conclusions on the par- ticular situation presented by Socrates. This essay will first present a summary of each author, and then attempt to demonstrate that the two would reach a similar conclusion about Socrates’ situation, because the two author’s positions on three key subjects, ob- ligations, authority, and obedience, can be resolved leaving no direct conflict between the authors. Stanley Milgram’s experiments and writing attempt to examine the “essential fea- tures” that lead to obedience, and synthesize those human characteristics that contrib- ute to a condition Milgram refers to as the “agentic state”. The agentic state, according to Milgram’s description, is a condition under which a person becomes extremely sus- ceptible to the influence of an authority figure. The obedient individual, or the subject as Milgram refers to them, reaches a mental condition where all his or her activities are dic- tated by the subject’s relationship to the authority figure. Milgram states that the subject 1
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becomes obedient to the experimenter, attempting to preform the requested actions in a “competent manor” and “make a good appearance” (Milgram 143). The authority figure is an “impersonal force” who’s authority is seen by the subject as larger than life, and “whose dictates transcend mere human wish or desire” (Milgram 144). Milgram’s experiments, conduced at Yale University and in Bridgeport Connectic- ut in the early 1960s, were designed to illustrate the agentic condition by creating ex- perimental situations that would “capture the essence of obedience” (Milgram xii). The situations Milgram created in the experiments consisted on one “teacher”, the subject of the experiment, a “learner”, and an “experimenter”, the learner and experimenter both being actors in the experiment. The experimenter played the role of the authority figure, urging the subjects to administer electric shocks to the learners based on the answers to a series of questions. The subject was asked to turn switches that would send an
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This note was uploaded on 04/27/2008 for the course WRTG 3020 taught by Professor Lyons,t during the Fall '08 term at Colorado.

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WRTG-3020 Education_Authority, Milgram and Socrates -...

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