Blog 7: Empathy Around the World

As a human race, we all understand that we can feel empathy with each other and for each other. We unite under the umbrella of empathy, knowing that we all have the same set of genes that make us both similar and unique. However, even as we are we are connected in so many ways, we are also divided by cultures, traditions, and beliefs. This creates barriers in our empathy that restrict us from relating to people who do not have the same background as ourselves. The consequence of being unable to empathize is that people of different cultures battle and fight, whether physically, verbally, or emotionally. The aspect I’m most curious about is the physical battles and wars that result from the limitations of empathy across cultures. This will include a look into terrorism and how a lack of empathy builds up these actions. An evaluation of the role of empathy in international and intercultural relations, with some solutions, could provide a way for the world to achieve more acceptance of others and hopefully, eventually, peace.

Scholarly Sources:

Cui, Geng, and Sjef Van Der Berg. “Testing the Construct Validity of Intercultural Effectiveness.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 15.2 (1991): 227-40. ScienceDirect. Web.

Finlay, Krystina A., and Walter G. Stephan. “Improving Intergroup Relations: The Effects of Empathy of Racial Attitudes.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 30.8 (2000): 1720-737. Web.

Keohane, Robert O. “Reciprocity in International Relations.” International Organization 40.01 (1986): 1. Web.

Stein, Arthur A. Why Nations Cooperate: Circumstance and Choice in International Relations. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1990. Print.

Zee, Karen I. Van Der, and Jan Pieter Van Oudenhoven. “Multicultural Personality Questionnaire.” Journal of Research in Personality 35.3 (2001): 278-88. ScienceDirect. Web.

The Fine Line of Empathy

One of the largest debates surrounding the concept of empathy is the extent to which it should be used in making decisions. Some argue that in order to be entirely unbiased, as one would need to be on a jury, for example, empathy should be entirely left out from the decision making process and one should focus strictly on facts. Others believe that empathy is an important consideration that makes us human and allows us to empathize with various people and situations. While my blog posts don’t confirm the ‘right’ position in any sense, they aim to investigate these ideas for a further understanding of the practical uses of empathy.

The first blog post about disagreement with Morton’s passage Empathy for the Devil discusses the limits, or lack thereof, of our imagination in empathy. Morton’s argument as a whole revolves around the idea of the limitations of empathy for atrocious acts, but he makes a minor claim that our empathy is unlimited in the fictional world. This is partially because the audience understands that it isn’t real and it’s actually occurring, and partially because the creator of that world attempts to make characters that are easily relatable to the audience, so we feel more connected to them. However, the most atrocious of acts cannot be empathized with, no matter the circumstance, based on basic universal ethics that disapprove of humans committing these acts. In this instance, empathy should not be considered as a viable emotion in how an audience views a character that commits actions that are so horrendous.

My second blog post discussed the implications of empathy and its role in social media, specifically for Ashley Payne, who was fired from her teaching job after an anonymous parent reported her Facebook posts to the principal at her school for inappropriate behavior. Payne posted pictures of herself on summer vacation enjoying some wine and beer, and once referenced a swear word in her post. Because the certain viewer of her post was enraged and didn’t empathize with Ashley’s situation or her reason for posting, they complained and she was consequently forced to resign. Social media commonly lacks this theme of empathy, and users disregard any consideration of others’ feelings when posting.

The final blog post, surrounding the book Go Set a Watchman, develops ideas of the inherent racism found in Jean Louise’s hometown of Maycomb, Alabama that she failed to notice as a young girl, and the gaping hole where empathy for all people should be. Decision making in Maycomb is characterized by white privilege. When she returns in the beginning of the telling of this story as a grown up, she is astonished to see how different the town, and particularly her father Atticus, is from how she remembered it. She came from New York, where racism was dying at the time and cultures were becoming more welcoming and inclusive. However, in her southern little city, empathy for those of different races was still extremely lacking. Jean Louise and the audience discover that most people there, and especially Atticus, act irrationally towards those who they consider inferior, simply because they can. They favor people like themselves and have no empathy for anyone else, therefore they refuse to make decisions that support them.

There are no set-in-stone rules for how empathy can be involved in decisions; it mostly depends on the situation. In general, it’s best to use what Adam Smith, in the context of Martha Nussbaum’s writing, calls a judicious spectator: someone who takes empathy into account and factors in the influences of a victim’s emotions, but still keeping an open mind as to not have prejudices towards any particular side or decision (Poetic Justice, 72). While even this isn’t completely and entirely effective, it’s the best place to start in utilizing empathy as a decision maker.

Works Cited:

Nussbaum, Martha. “Rational Emotions.” Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and                       Public Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. 53-78. Print/Web.

Blog 5: Do People Really Deserve All This Backlash?

In the summer of 2009, teacher Ashley Payne posted the following picture to her Facebook, which she claimed had the highest privacy settings on, during her vacation to Europe.

Costly: Ashley Payne, 24, posed for this picture while travelling around Europe in the summer of 2009. It was later spotted on her Facebook page

But somehow an anonymous parent discovered this and reported the activity to the school’s head teacher’s office, where Ashley was called shortly afterwards. She didn’t understand what was going on, but the principal then offered her an ultimatum: resign from her position or be suspended. Her behavior on her account, which “contained profanity” (which would be one use of the B word) and “promoted alcohol use”, according to school officials, was unacceptable (TSFP). The author of Teacher sacked for posting picture of herself holding glass of wine and mug of beer on Facebook opened the article with “With a pint of beer in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, the worst thing you could accuse Ashley Payne of is mixing her drink” (TSFP). The author suggests that this unfortunate circumstance that Ashley Payne found herself in was unjustified and not what she deserved. They later go on to quote Ashley’s lawyer, since she was in “a bitter legal battle” after her resignation, where he uses the example of seeing your teacher having a drink with dinner at a restaurant with their partner (TSFP). No teacher would get fired for this behavior for any reason, and yet because Ashley shared pictures of this behavior and supposedly promoted it, officials at her school were offended.

Empathy is both present and lacking in Ashley Payne’s situation, and seems to be split into two ‘sides’. One side includes the anonymous mailer who reported Ashley’s account, as well as the school officials involved in forcing her to resign. This group is clearly lacking empathy for Ashley, and they were more focused on the example she was setting for her students, especially since she was a high school teacher and the pressure to get involved with alcohol is particularly high among this age group. However, from experience I know that most teachers don’t allow students to view their social media accounts until after graduation, and this should make sense because of Ashley’s claim that she had high privacy settings on her account. None of her students should have been able to see this. This is an opinion held by the group that does empathize with Ashley, made up mostly of retrospective viewers that see how ridiculous the situation was. She didn’t deserve to lose her job over something so arbitrary, especially since she is a legal adult that was on vacation. These conflict between these two groups arose from the initial social media post by Ashley, and subsequent action taken on social media for this to be reported. This is yet another instance where the audience of social media attacks posters ruthlessly and without consideration for consequences. The person who reported this was most likely astonished that this teacher could be posting something that seemed so offensive, and I’m sure they were happy that she wouldn’t be teaching their children anymore, but they had no regard for her life after this was over. She had to deal with so many legal issues and problems attempting to get her job back, or even a new one, but for someone online who is just responding to the immediate threat to their children’s education, this is all irrelevant.

The author of the article makes it clear that they are part of the group that empathizes with Ashley and the situation she was forced into when she didn’t deserve it. I agree with this stance, as I think the standard forced on her was inappropriate, and they should have cut her some slack. Instead, she was forced to resign from the job she loved because of the barrier that social media creates between an attacker and a victim that destroys any chance of empathy.

Works Cited:

Daily Mail Reporter. “Teacher Sacked for Posting Picture of Herself Holding Glass of Wine and Mug of Beer on Facebook.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 07 Feb. 2011. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.

Blog 6: Who’s the Racist Now?

The most prominent theme found in Go Set a Watchman is growing up. Readers follow the story of one Jean Louise Finch as she recounts her childhood, then revisits her hometown of Maycomb only to find it drastically different from how she remembered. As she has aged throughout the years, she has adapted what we consider more modern views of race, so returning to the southern, traditional, racist town where she grew up is a stark contrast to the beliefs she holds. She spends almost all of the novel trying to understand how the people she knows best, the people nearest and dearest to her, could be so racially blind. However, by the end, she seems to accept their stances even though she considered them so blatantly wrong when she initially comes home.

A substantial part of the evidence towards the racism in Maycomb is found at the coffee held in Jean Louise’s honor by her aunt Alexandra. She is forced to sit around and act formally to women that hold themselves to outlandish standards and discuss topics that they have absurd views on. She sits down to talk with one woman, Hester, about Calpurnia’s grandson that hit and killed a white man with a car. Hester is disappointed when Jean Louise mentions that he’ll be tried for manslaughter, not murder, since it was unintentional, and Hester says she “thought we’d have some excitement” (Watchman, 172). Jean Louise becomes increasingly uncomfortable but chocks it up to her losing her sense of humor. She then becomes distressed because Hester says “[there] hasn’t been a good trial around here in ten years. Good n***** trial, I mean” (Watchman, 172), and she realizes she has nothing to talk to these women about because they all hold such racist views and discuss such meaningless things that Jean Louise feels as if she can’t relate to any of them, and yet she thinks it’s something wrong with her. She is constantly questioning herself because she seems to be the outsider of the town, so it seems more and more apparent to her that her views are the ones that are “wrong”. When they talk about her life in New York, and how unsegregated they are, one of the women says to Jean Louise that “you must be blind or something” for not noticing people of color around her (Watchman, 181). The racial standards in New York differ so heavily from those in Alabama, and Jean Louise goes through very serious self-consideration to figure out which beliefs are the better ones to hold.


For many, the most shocking part of the book was the seemingly unforeseen change in Atticus’s character.

While the citizens of Maycomb are largely influential in Jean Louise’s road to maturing and finding who she is and what she believes in, even more influential are Atticus and Hank. Her witnessing them at the town meeting destroyed her mental images of them in their purest state, because they all of a sudden had become some of them– those who think themselves superior just because of their skin color. After seeing them at the meeting, she spends time by herself and thinks, “The one human bring she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her…had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly” (Watchman, 113). She feels as if he is completely against her, and these horrid views are not ones that the Atticus she knows and loves would hold. She feels equally as betrayed by Hank, who she liked very much and trusted. This makes her feel more alone than ever, as if she doesn’t even belong in this town that she came from. However, after some talks with her Uncle Jack and lots of time, she comes to find that these people, even if they’re not who she remembers, are still actually the same people that they’ve always been. She is the one who has changed and grown up over the years, and matured her beliefs to become a better and more welcoming person, while Maycomb remained static.

To summarize Jean Louise’s growth over her lifetime in one quote:

“Had she insight, could she have pierced the barriers of her highly selective, insular world, she may have discovered that all her life she had been with a visual defect which had gone unnoticed and neglected by herself and by those closest to her: she was born color blind.” (Watchman, 122)

Works Cited:

Green, Amy. “My Take on Go Set a Watchman.” The Monday Heretic. WordPress, 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

Lee, Harper. Go Set A Watchman. Harper Collins, 2015. Print.

Blog 4: If You Can Dream It, You Can Achieve It

The main focus of Adam Morton’s essay, Empathy for the Devil, is the inability to empathize with people who commit atrocities. This stems from the inherent barriers faced when attempting to understand and feel with someone who is committing a crime or act with which we would never normally condone. It is typically easier to understand the why of an atrocious act, and the motives behind it, than it is to understand how someone was able to break ethical standards. This returns to the barriers, which create pseudo-empathy rather than genuine empathy. One can imagine what another may be feeling, but cannot actually experience the emotions and motivations themselves, making it less accurate than the true emotion. However, in the fictional world, Morton emphasizes that we can empathize with fictional characters that commit atrocious acts since they are not real. Morton uses the evidence of Smith to show that we tend to empathize with only emotions we like or approve of, rather than all that we may feel if we were really in that situation. He continues with Hume, who clarifies that it is not that “we cannot sympathize with wrongdoers, but that we have difficulty imagining that what is wrong is right” (324). Morton concludes with the idea that in today’s society, we tend to exaggerate our ability to empathize accurately with those we “should’ empathize with, and suppress our ability to empathize with those who commit atrocities.

Morton highlights in a small section this idea of empathizing with fiction. He explains that this empathy is possible in part because an author works their writing to favor a fictional character that commits an atrocity so a reader understands the motivation, so we more easily understand the why of the action. The character is supposed to be, to an extent, relatable so the distance between the public audience and the fictional character appears to be lessened. The empathy is also possible because we know this to be unrealistic, therefore it is easier to understand the act when we believe it wouldn’t occur in the real world. However, I disagree that these fictional characters are so easy to empathize with. Morton uses an example of characters living in a society where rape is casual or babies are eaten to start off his use of Hume’s argument (324). james bondFor someone in the real world, atrocities are extremely difficult to empathize with regardless of whether or not the character is “relatable” or if it seems “realistic”. For example, in many action films and comics, the protagonist is frequently portrayed as a big hero, they capture the bad guy, save the world, and rescue the female lead. Because this is something many people in the real world aspire to be – a “hero” – they feel as if they can relate to him more, even as they watch him beat up and kill all of the security guards and side kicks that try to stop him. In the real world, this would certainly be considered an atrocity and the man would face severe repercussions. But because this seems so unrealistic, and this character is someone that is idolized, empathy goes forgotten. We hold no empathy for the men that are murdered because they are typically side characters, people so insignificant that we feel no sympathy that they are dead. Their families are not considered, their lives are not considered, we just know that they are “bad” so empathy is not present. The research study entitled “Some Like It Bad:…” discusses empathy for negatively portrayed fictional characters, and how some people genuinely identify better with “bad characters” (Konijn and Hoorn, 5).superman The “good” characters may have the good intentions, but their actions can also be atrocious at times. Looking at it realistically, the villains of films typically do less damage than the actual hero does. Konijn and Hoorn reflect this in their research, because when people recognize that the bad characters are not so bad, it becomes easier to empathize with them. When it is brought to awareness that good characters are not so pure, it becomes harder to relate to them. Once empathy is taken into account and it’s possible that these heroic acts were actually quite atrocious, it seems much harder to relate to the main character and empathize with them. Therefore, in disagreement with Morton, when both the how and why of a fictional atrocious act is easily understood, the realistic effects of this act and its huge negative impact are lost in the fictional world.

This changes the view of Morton’s argument slightly, because he uses this as a counterargument that sometimes empathy can be felt for bad people, but even at this point, it is not relatable enough for an audience to empathize with someone who commits an atrocious act, even if it is not real.

Works Cited:

Charlton, Corey. “Which Bond Is REALLY the Baddest?” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.
Konijn, Elly A., and Johan F. Hoorn. “Some Like It Bad: Testing a Model for Perceiving and Experiencing Fictional Characters.” Media Psychology 7.2 (2005): 107-44. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press 318, 2011.

“Why Does a Superhero Hesitate to Kill a Villain?” Quora. N.p., 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

Formal Assignment 1

The relationship between empathy and justice is complicated, and it only becomes more complex when introduced to the law, as demonstrated in the film A Time to Kill as the audience follows the story of Carl Lee Hailey’s journey to freedom. I believe that throughout the movie, it is shown that empathy does indeed promote justice, particularly in the courtroom, as seen in Carl Lee’s case. His defense of his daughter exemplifies serving justice to the white men, and Jake Brigance’s closing argument evoked empathy from the jurors in their decision to free Carl Lee, thus giving him the justice he deserved.

Before I defend this, it is important to first understand what all of these words mean. Generally, the term “justice” means fairness, and getting what you deserve, whatever that may mean. Justice is a means to make things right, per se, which can come in many different forms. Justice for Carl Lee meant avenging his daughter and murdering the two men that raped her. Justice for Jake meant proving to the jurors that Carl Lee did not deserve to be punished for his crimes. Finally, justice for the jury meant ensuring that Carl Lee got what he deserved. The idea of “what he deserved” is controversial because of the ethics surrounding his crime. It is up to the jurors to decide whether the murder was justified. Another key word in this discussion is empathy, which Martin Hoffman divides into two separate terms: cognitive empathy, or the awareness of someone else’s feelings, and affective empathy, or feeling what someone else feels (230). He gives an example of how the two are connected when a juror imagines how a victim feels (cognitive empathy), which triggers a mental image of their situation and the associated feelings, resulting in affective empathy (Hoffman 231). Empathy strikes feelings in people that connect them to others and result in a thorough understanding of the situation. Related to this is the idea of a judicious spectator, who is someone that accepts the importance of empathy in their decision-making but does not allow it to control them (Nussbaum, 73). They are unbiased in that they consider all facts of the situation, but they let themselves relate to the victim and use that to their advantage. A Time to Kill creates two different versions of a judicious spectator. One of these is the actual jury members, who have a limited view of what goes on outside of the testimonies and are thus less biased towards personal character. They do not see Carl Lee with his family, or the drunken men throwing beer bottles. They only see what occurs in the courtroom, which is both limiting and freeing. They have only the facts, which allow them to make the wisest decision regarding the injustices that take place. The second type of judicious spectator is the audience, which we know to have a much wider view of characters and backgrounds. This, again, is both limiting and freeing. We have a greater understanding of why those men deserved to be murdered, but this also creates prejudice. We have ingrained hatred for the men who committed such a foul act to such a young girl, so we despise them. We know this is what they deserve, but only because we can see the whole story. Both types of the judicious spectators allow for conflicting views on what justice means.

In considering the empathy portrayed in the film, we need to come back to how empathy itself influences the role of the members of the jury in acquitting Carl Lee. An example very similar to Hoffman’s was in Jake’s closing argument. Here we see one of the jurors crying as Jake illustrates Tonya’s tragedy. Others had similar reactions, whereas others were horrified.


The jurors then follow the emotions that Tonya Hailey, the true victim, feels as she is assaulted and violated by the two men. This strikes both cognitive and affective empathy in the jury as they become aware of how she was abused, and they feel as if they were experiencing it themselves. It’s also possible that some jurors with a family pictured this gruesome occasion happening to their own children. They empathize with Tonya, a helpless child, so the consequence is that they transfer their empathy to Carl Lee, a man who did what they felt was right in that situation. They were swayed to temporarily allow their barriers down and make a decision that opposes the racial standards of the time, partially because of Jake’s final statement, “Now imagine she’s white” (TK). Their empathy is broadened when they found themselves sympathizing with a black girl and her father. This final line is what makes them aware of the racial difference in treatment. This encourages them to support the black child, because they empathize with Carl Lee and imagine it happening to white children. However, this distracted them from the real issue when they came to vote on the innocence of the plaintiff. Their empathy blinded them to the true issue in the case (Carl Lee’s plea of insanity during his murder of the men) and they made a purely emotional decision. But because of the justification for his action, Carl Lee deserved this empathy from the jurors and the other audience members. Even though what he did was illegal and considered wrong in the law, it was morally the right thing to do to defend his daughter, so his judgement of “innocent” served justice for him (TK).

Furthermore, Carl Lee’s act of violence in killing the men, Pete and Billy Ray, is a demonstration of justice for the horrific incident involving his daughter. The beginning of the film shows her being abused, raped, beaten, almost hung, and then discarded in the river. This was after we see the men driving through the black part of town, extremely intoxicated, throwing bottles on houses and mocking the community. It is assumed that they are people with poor morals and no conscience, as they try to wreak havoc with a lack of concern for consequences. The audience has a premature idea of who these people are, so it is a joy rather than a tragedy when they are murdered. This coincides with the concept of justice- they deserved their fate because of their actions earlier in the movie. While the audience’s feelings do not influence events in the film, it is important to mention them because it confirms how the characters are portrayed and how their relationships are perceived. Within the film, many characters display empathy after Tonya’s rape, Carl Lee included. His empathy takes the form of aggression because of his passion and love for his daughter, and this results in his attack on the men in the courthouse. This was extended empathy and violence, because he forewarned Jake about his plan to take the law into his own hands in the fear that the judicial system would not uphold the law themselves. He empathizes for his daughter and the tragedy she had to endure, so he refuses to allow that crime to go unpunished. In this situation, the empathy exhibited leads to justice for Tonya in the murder of the white men.

Throughout the film, there are many more minor instances of empathy, such as the scene in the jail cell before the closing statements, the scene after Jake’s house has been burned down, and Ellen’s numerous attempts to help Jake with the case before he actually allows it. These small occurrences lead up to the success in the end with Carl Lee’s acquittal. Individually, their influence is small, but combined throughout the movie, they are very influential in sparking empathy in the viewers. The audience empathizes for the protagonists and silently cheers them on. Inside the plot line, the empathy that characters express encourages their participation in the case and anything they can do to help. The specific, major instances- the act of murder and the acquittal- truly demonstrate how empathy promotes justice for the victim, Tonya, and her family. Carl Lee consequently receives justice because of the ethical implications of his crime. In addition, Jake brings out the empathy in the jurors in his final speech in order to sway their vote to setting Carl Lee free. The uses of empathy displayed throughout the film are what ultimately leads to justice for all.

Works Cited:

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson. Warner Bros., 1996. Film.

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-54. Print.

Nussbaum, Martha. “Rational Emotions.” Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and               Public Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. 53-78. Print/Web.

Blog 3: Empathy in TK

One of the most apparent, and yet one of the most insignificant in our discussions thus far, themes in the film A Time to Kill is the racism in the surrounding community. The most famous scenes involve the racism evident in the courtroom, however, the racism outside plays a key role in invoking empathy in the viewers.

The people of the town are divided very cleanly and obviously: the whites, most of whom bonded together with the remaining Ku Klux Klan members; and the blacks, who united to fight for Carl Lee’s freedom and innocence. While the blacks staged a peaceful protest outside the courtroom, the Klan made many attempts at threatening Jake Brigance’s life. They burn a cross outside of his house with his family inside, they attempt to set off a bomb near his house, they threaten a woman he works with and her husband, they actually burn his house down, and they kidnap and leave Ellen Roark for dead. Before the verdict, they were hostile with the Carl Lee supporters and caused a huge riot, resulting in the entire town being shaken up. All of the events collectively and individually brought out empathy in the viewers for both Jake and Carl Lee. Jake himself, rather, grew stronger and more determined the more attacks he faced.

The empathy here is not always very noticeable, since this very important theme of the movie sometimes is left unmentioned. The KKK is modeled to reflect the true pressures of society- to keep the standards and ideas of race as they always have been: unequal. They attack anything and everything they can in order to get to Jake, in the hopes that the threats on things he cares about would persuade him to drop the case. They are constantly working in the shadows or in public light to encourage the racism in the town and sway people to oppose Carl Lee. They parallel all the other pressures on the townspeople. When they set the burning cross outside Jake’s house, his wife pleads for him to quit the case, as she continues to while she is present throughout the movie. After his house is burned down completely, Jake’s friend and partner Harry encourages him to walk away. Jake is constantly facing opposition because of his role as the attorney in the case, but he continues to stand strong and stick by his belief that Carl Lee deserves justice. His personality strongly resembles that of Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird. Even when he stands against the entire town, including the jury, he still holds true to his ethical standards and defends Tom Robinson to the best of his ability until the very end. Although the case had a different result than in A Time to Kill, the common theme is holding strong beliefs and doing the right thing, even if society opposes you.

The use of this extreme racism in the movie draws the audience closer to Jake and Carl Lee to invoke empathy in the viewers. We tend to relate more with the underdogs, or the good guys who seem to have no chance of winning. It’s in our nature to empathize with those who fail, those who are opposed, those who succeed in the end. We beg and hope and pray for them to make it out alive, for a miracle that conveniently solves all their problems, for a minor character to make a powerful speech that changes everything. So when all of the odds are stacked against Jake and Carl Lee, when they are beat upon and threatened and attacked so much, the audience empathizes with them and silently wishes for a twist that would set them both free and start a change in their society’s views of race.

Works Cited:

A Time To Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher, performances by Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, and Kevin Spacey, Warner Bros., 1996.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. By Horton Foote. Perf. Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Phillip Alford. Universal-International, 1962.

Blog 2: Closing Argument

Gentlemen of the jury- you all know why you’re here. You know why I’m here, you know why the defendant is here, you know why all of these spectators are here. The purpose of today’s trial is for you to decide which one of the parties in question- Tom Robinson or Mayella Ewell- is telling you the honest truth, and which one is lying. I ask that right now, you put your prejudices aside and look at the facts. I understand the pressure being put on you today in this room full of people awaiting a decision. I felt the same way when I was asked to take this case. But please, I beg of you, ignore the colors and listen to the stories, and there you will find the truth.

You all know my history of remaining unbiased in the face of justice. I can assure you that I would not be standing here defending this man, pleading to you to realize the truth, if I did not believe that he is innocent. Obviously the testimonies conflict; everyone in this room can understand that. The challenge is deciding which one is true. Consider the accounts told today. The doctor very clearly, and certainly, stated that Miss Ewell had bruises on the right side of her face. Both she herself and her father confirmed that. And yet the only way for all of those abrasions to occur would be if someone predominantly left handed was abusing her, and as you all saw, Tom Robinson is incapable of doing anything with his left arm, certainly not beating up Mayella as she claimed he did. There is simply no way to justify this. It is impossible for a man with no muscle movement in his left arm to violently beat up a woman down the right side of her body. Listen to your intuition, gentlemen. You know I speak the truth. The question of domestic abuse is not one that concerns us today, but understand that there are clear signs to who actually beat up Mayella. Furthermore, none of the involved parties have evidence that an incident such as this ever occurred. In the court of law, a defendant is not supposed to be convicted without evidence beyond doubt, and yet here, there is no evidence of any crime at all except for the testimonies. If this case involved two white men, ask yourselves- who would you believe? The prosecutor, whose testimony was shaky, unstable, incomplete, and questionable at best, considering their refusal to answer questions relating to the case when prompted; or the defendant, whose testimony was admittedly shaky, due to the sensitivity of the topic, but clear in intentions as well as complete, including every piece of the story among many details, with the ability to answer any and all questions asked in question of said story. Simply put, one of these people was confident and convincing in their testimony, and the other seemed as if she couldn’t even convince herself that the story she was reciting was true.

Everyone in here has a good idea of what happened that night. Due to the unrelenting guilt Miss Mayella Ewell felt after blatantly breaking one of our society’s strongest unwritten rules, she felt lost and thought she had no choice but to distance herself from her “attacker” as much as possible by putting him behind bars. I urge you, gentlemen, to feel pity for this young girl, who has been abused by someone near to her and felt as if she could do nothing but blame someone unrelated and innocent. She came to this court with what she thought was a believable story in the hopes that we could eliminate her guilt by getting this man out of her sights. Sympathize with her. But do not allow her to win. By convincing you all that she is a victim, she wins and will be set free when she should be the one being punished.

You all know who is innocent here. Do not convict him to save yourselves from societal pressures, for then you will also feel guilty, but rather for wrongdoing a man who never deserved any of this.

Works Cited:

To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. By Horton Foote. Perf. Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Phillip Alford. Universal-International, 1962.

Blog 1: Hoffman

In Part 14, Empathy, Justice, and the Law, of Hoffman’s writing, he addresses the issue of whether or not empathy should play a role in lawmaking and law enforcement. He argues that while empathy is an important emotion to have and allow to influence justice and law, it “is limited by its fragility, dependence on the salience and intensity of distress cues, and susceptibility to influence by one’s relationship to the victim” (250). It has to be combined with reason and logic in order to keep the law unbiased, effective, and fair. Empathy and reason have to be used in conjunction in order to effectively make a smart decision to carry out the law. In his examples of court cases, such as Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education, the use of empathy was a good starting point for creating justice (legalizing abortions and eliminating segregation, respectively), but it was only a starting point created by the empathetic feeling of injustice that sparked the motivation to change the situation (248-249). If this feeling of empathy drives sequential decisions, the law could become biased because of emotional favoring. However, Hoffman suggests that a lack of empathy disallows the jurors from connecting with the victim of the situation, so some empathy is essential, but it should not be permitted to rule every decision.

This ties into one of the key words in this reading, “witnessing”. Hoffman describes it as an exposure to someone else’s stressful situation that makes the person feel empathetic distress, and thus cause them to create a long-term solution because of how they “feel for” the situation. The term “witness” is used in a lot of senses, but Hoffman takes it to a different definition, using it to describe not only a bystander, but someone who takes action in a situation. This is essential to his argument because people who fit this description are the ones who establish justice and fairness because of bad situations that they feel empathy towards.

Works Cited:

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-54. Print.