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Expoz-assgn#6 - Saira Bakshi 12.20.07 Final Draft Paper 6 Pilot or Puppet A narrative of self-discovery penetrates the respective works of David

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Saira Bakshi 12.20.07 Final Draft Paper 6 Pilot or Puppet? A narrative of self-discovery penetrates the respective works of David Abram, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jonathan Boyarin. Gladwell, in “The Power of Context,” poses the argument that each of us is in tune with our environments and that this keen perception of the environment is an overwhelming factor in motivating our actions. In essence, Gladwell argues that our inner states are a consequent of our outer circumstances, that the environment has a direct bearing on behavior. This argument holds the implication that humans cannot bear responsibility for their actions, that the “power of context,” or the ability of the environment to shape our actions, outweighs any moral agency humans may possess and thus translates directly into behavior. However Boyarin, in “Waiting for a Jew” and Abram, in “Ecology of Magic,” contrast Gladwell’s assertion with their odysseys of self-realization, which illustrate the ability of humans to maintain their convictions in contrasting environments. Each belief--that either the environment or our own moral compass alone has a bearing on human behavior--entails a corresponding conceptualization of character and behavior. Either behavior is an expression of character instead of the environment, to which the respective experiences of Boyarin and Abram would attest, or rather a function of the environment, as claimed by Gladwell. In truth, it cannot be said that either belief entirely counters the other, and that this is due to the subjectivity of an individual’s strength of character. Gladwell argues that one’s behavior is subject to the fluctuation of the environment.
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Gladwell takes the view that the “power of context” does indeed muffle the power of character. In explaining the role of the “power of context” in motivating human behavior, Gladwell cites the case of Bernie Goetz. “The Power of Context says that what really matters is the little things. The power of context says that the showdown on the subway between Bernie Goetz and those four youths had very little to do, in the end, with the tangled psychological pathology of Goetz, and very little as well to do with the background of poverty of the four youths who accosted him, and everything to do with the message sent by the graffiti on the walls and the disorder at the turnstiles.” (187) Here, Gladwell argues that the “tangled psychological pathology” of Goetz and the respective “backgrounds of poverty” of his four assaulters had a negligible bearing over Goetz’s decision to pull the trigger. The Power of Context says that the respective backgrounds of the five individuals “ had very little to do, in the end ,” with the final outcome. The theory of the “Power of Context” dismisses the possibility of the role of any factor outside the immediate physical context in the final decision--to start shooting--and attributes it, instead, entirely to the graffiti on
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This note was uploaded on 04/01/2008 for the course ENG 101 taught by Professor Sierra during the Spring '08 term at Rutgers.

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Expoz-assgn#6 - Saira Bakshi 12.20.07 Final Draft Paper 6 Pilot or Puppet A narrative of self-discovery penetrates the respective works of David

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