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    How Ordinary People Become Evil Beings

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    Please discuss how ordinary people can become evil and be responsible for committing horrendous crimes.

    What makes normal people do bad things?
    How can moral people be seduced to act immorally?
    Where is the line separating good from evil?
    How does the Chain of Command Responsibility play a role in making people commit crimes? How does the concept of "administrative evil" influence others?
    If everyone is capable of being persuaded to commit crimes against one another, is anyone really innocent or is everyone guilty in some aspect, some more than others?
    What happens to people when they resist the system and refuse to follow orders to commit crimes against one another? What are some examples of people in history refusing orders to do so?

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    Solution Preview

    This is a fascinating topic that could be discussed over numerous class periods and one which has been the inspiration for thousands of books and scientific journal articles. So, it is good to begin this post with the disclaimer that it is likely that no fundamental answers will be provided to this question.
    However, it is good to acknowledge the following piece of information. Unless an absolute standard of right and wrong can be agreed upon by those people discussing the question, answering the questions below is truly impossible. If no absolute standard exists then ethics discussions become nothing more than an airing of opinions and a popularity contest rolled into one. Absolute ethical standards should have the following two qualities: they should exist outside of me and they should be unchangeable. Ethical perspectives that don't have these qualities are too subjective or too unstable to provide any confidence upon which to base ones convictions.
    Following is a short list of existing ethical perspectives. Not all of these are mutually satisfactory in providing a foundation from which to make ethical decisions.
    Hedonism - any action or thought that brings me pleasure is good, any action or thought that results in pain for me is bad.
    Utilitarianism - any action or thought that results in pleasure or benefit for the majority of people is good, any action or thought that results in pain or hardship for the majority is bad. Also known as "The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number."
    Pragmatism - whatever works is what is right.
    End Justifies the Means - If the end result is good than I acted in a right manner. If the end result was bad for me then I acted in a wrong manner. For example, if I cheat on my wife and she never finds out then my adultery was right. If I cheat on my wife and I get caught and we get a divorce then cheating on my wife was wrong. In other words the results determine whether the action was good or bad: no action, thought, or lifestyle is good or bad in and of itself.
    Man is the Measure - each individual has the authority to decide what is right or wrong for him/herself. In other words if I think that murder is wrong then it is wrong for me but if you think that murder is okay then it would be right for you. Each individual is the absolute moral standard for himself but cannot impose this standard on anyone else.
    Society is the standard - my culture decides what is right and wrong. So...abortion is right in America because the law protects it but abortion is wrong in Thailand where it is illegal to get an abortion. ...

    Solution Summary

    The solution discusses how ordinary people can become evil and be responsible for committing horrendous crimes.