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PH100 Lecture Notes

Than a few individuals that commit atrocities and

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than a few individuals that commit atrocities and many – or most – of these individuals represent a fairly normal cross-section of the societies from which they come” (32) Conclusion: “Determining responsibility for atrocity, then requires, eliminating or establishing the presence of cognitive disruptions that impede the exercise of normative competence by ordinary individuals. It is not typically a matter of finding the cognitively or morally abnormal standing dispositions of a pathological minority” (33) November 27, 2012: Moral Psychology of Atrocity (cont.) Empirical support for P2 : Individuals in combat are typically cognitively degraded Moral cognition and behavior are extremely sensitive to situational variation Given that it takes surprisingly little for people to behave in morally undesirable ways, and that the most insubstantial factors contribute to such behavior, we can reasonably conclude that the extreme and often prolonged situational pressures typical of warfare can induce severe impairment in normative competence. If you can prove that dimes can affect your moral capacities, then warfare should be able to compromise your moral capacities too. The Experience of War (1): On the battlefield combat is extremely distracting cognitive capacities do not function optimally combat environments are perceptually corrupted : it is hard to know what is going on morally appropriate behavior requires an accurate interpretation of circumstances. However, in combat, soldiers tend to be confused, disoriented group processes can influence how situations are interpreted (“diffusion of responsibility”) exhaustion; sleep-deprivation, emotional trauma “In sum, combat conditions place unspeakable cognitive and emotional pressures on soldiers in the
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field...both individuals and organizations at war may undergo substantial 'moral drift...We therefore conclude that soldiers are typically not responsible for much of heir combat behavior” (38) The Experience of War (2): Martial culture and politics Cognitive degradation can also be the result of a variety of “distal” pressures or circumstances. 1. Training and the dissolution of inhibitions: “military training aims to turn civilians into people how reflexively obey orders and unhesitatingly kill other human beings” (39) “Successful military training reconfigures the range of available behavioral options 2. Racial/racist ideology: the enemy is less than human Normative competence and obedience The notion of “military necessity”: certain actions might be permitted if they deemed to be militarily necessary. Doris and Murphy: “If..the perpetrator could have reasonably believed that his conduct, or the conduct prescribed in a superior order, was militarily necessary, he may be entitled to an excuse” (41).
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