Case Study: The Man Who Shocked the World Analysis

Within the case titled, “The Man Who Shocked the World”, there are a whole host of very important points and aspects that are being described and those that relate to the notion of what might be considered as ethical behavior and what isn’t considered as ethical or moral behavior.  This is a case where again a number of important ethical theories could be applied such as that of (1) Utilitarianism as well as (2) Virtue Ethics.  This is a case that comes to show the research experiments that Yale scientist Stanley Milgram had conducted a number of decades ago and the focus here seemed to be to analyze how much pain or suffering one human being might be able to inflict on another.

Among other things, one of the areas of focus of this experimentation was to look at as well as evaluate the role of a teachers and that of the participants.  The teacher was sort of given the power to increase the level of pain or suffering that could be inflicted on the so called participants who had been recruited.  It is in that context where we come to see the use of the Utilitarianism theory.  This is a concept that comes to show that those sorts of actions or steps should be pursued which could bring about the greatest amount of net benefit or pleasure to the maximum number of citizens.

Within the context of this case, it seems that Dr. Milgram might wanted to test the limits of human pain, suffering as well as endurance and that was the reason as to why maybe the point of this experiment was to inflict the maximum amount of pain and suffering on a participant till the participant gives up.  Therefore, rather than being able to provide the most amount of net benefit or pleasure as a result of some activity, this experiment ended up sort of having a rather contrary result which was to look at the maximum amount electrical shock which could be inflicted on the person till they would not be able to handle any more pain.

Of course, the learners in reality weren’t given any sort of real shocks but it was all a setup according to the case and the focus here was to simply look at the reaction of the participants in terms of whether they would be willing to obey the instructions of the teacher who was both in charge and had the power and the capacity to give such orders.  Hence, one could also apply the theory of virtue ethics which again comes to imply that we should be carrying out those types of actions that are virtuous or good in nature and not the vice versa.

But in this experiment, the different participants were sort of aware that the instructions of causing or inflicting pain on the other human being (the learners) were sort of contrary to the views of virtue ethics. But these different people still went on to obey the teacher’s instructions because they were scared that if they didn’t obey the commands given by the teacher, they might end up finding themselves in much more trouble.  Hence, what this case also comes to show is the notion of many people obeying to commit something negative and not ideal if they are scared of authority.  In other words, there seems to be that central human tendency to put more focus on being loyal and faithful to the person in command or in charge rather than going with their own moral values or ethics.

The experiment as such came to show that people at times are very much willing to both sacrifice and compromise on their inner virtues, ethical standards and moral values due to fear of leadership and authority.  If real pain, suffering and torture would have been inflicted on the participants, that indeed would be a violation of important human rights and value systems and hence a very immoral but also an unethical act.  Although real pain and torture wasn’t inflicted on the participants of this experiment, the very fact that the participants were still willing to compromise on their inner values due to fear of repercussions comes to suggest that that many human beings might not adhere to their core value and belief when they are subordinate to someone who has and can dictate more power and direct authority over them.

Therefore, if I were in this situation, I would actually make a very different decision which would be to simply quit the experiment upon coming to realize that my actions could bring about a lot of pain and direct suffering to another human being.  In that manner, I would be willing to uphold both the principles of utilitarianism as well as that of virtue ethics at all times where I would only pursue those actions that have a positive result on others and results in something better or productive rather than something which is both negative as well as detrimental.

Therefore, this is a case that comes to test the limits of humans trying to pursue or not pursue both utilitarianism as well as virtue ethics and at most instances, people seem to be rather ok in putting aside their noble values and giving in to fear of authority.  But I would never give in to any sort of direct or indirect fear / authority and my resolution of this type of a situation would simply be to leave the experiment if it resulted in me conducting a negative act of any sort or type.