Empathy Across Borders

Wars have been a prominent feature throughout history. From the Crusades to the World Wars to the conflict in the Middle East, war has seemingly happened nonstop through our past, present, and future. Different cultures have constantly fought and different borders have constantly been disputed. Why is this? The scholarly sources I have picked delve into the effects and relationship of empathy with war, race, culture, religion, and ethnicity. I specifically would like to look at past events of war but also at the modern day example of the middle east. The conflict in the middle east is very much based in religion. I would like to examine how a lack of empathy for people of a different race, culture, religion, and ethnicity lack empathy for each other. The fact that so many conflicts are over these, that so many people are willing to kill each other over these, there must be a lack of empathy. This topic is very relevant to this class. In class we discussed what empathy was and the effects of empathy on different parts of society. Specifically, we often looked at the effects of empathy on race. Empathizing across borders would sometimes require empathizing with different races. Our class showed that this is often difficult to do. A great example of this was Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman (this is not in my works cited because I most likely will not use it in my research paper). This obviously was not across a physical border, though I will investigate if the same applies across physical borders in the real world.

Can people empathize across borders? Whether these borders are borders of race, culture, religion, or ethnicity is empathy possible? These are introductory questions I would like to explore. My critical question is “Is this lack of empathy what leads to war?” I hope to find more sources and examples to back up my thesis that this lack of empathy across borders is what leads to conflict and war.

Potential Scholarly Sources:

Casebeer, William D. “Identity, Culture and Stories: Empathy and the War on Terrorism.” Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology 9.2 (2008): 653. Web.

Chiao, Joan Y., and Vani A. Mathur. “Intergroup Empathy: How does Race Affect Empathic Neural Responses?” Current Biology 20.11 (2010): R478-80. Web.

Chung, Rita Chi‐Ying, and Fred Bemak. “The Relationship of Culture and Empathy in Cross‐Cultural Counseling.” Journal of Counseling & Development 80.2 (2002): 154-9. Web.

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.

Neumann, DL, GJ Boyle, and RCK Chan. “Empathy Towards Individuals of the Same and Different Ethnicity when Depicted in Negative and Positive Contexts.” Personality and Individual Differences 55.1 (2013): 8-13. Web.

Stover, William James. “Teaching and Learning Empathy: An Interactive, Online Diplomatic Simulation of Middle East Conflict.” Journal of Political Science Education 1.2 (2005): 207-19. Web.

Oil and Water or Morality and Empathy?

Oil and Water

It is difficult to have empathy for someone that you morally disagree with. Morals define what we find acceptable. They determine what you are capable of doing. They determine how you judge the actions of other people. Morals are what determine what you have empathy for and what you judge and openly disagree with. According to Reynolds and Ceranic, moral judgement shapes moral behavior which shapes the way people judge others actions (1610). In my series of blog posts the morality of actions is contrasted against the empathy felt for them.

Don’t remove morals like this wall was removed

“Should We Have Empathy for the Devil”? Can you have empathy for someone that did something you morally disagree with? Adam Morton explains why people tend to not have empathy for people who have committed atrocious acts. He also seems to hint that people should have this empathy. I argued, using a piece on perspective taking written by Chambers, that one should not have empathy for atrocious acts because they could not imagine themselves properly in that perspective. You should not have to remove your morals to destroy your lack of empathy for an atrocious act.

Kenneth Cole, a king of fashion committed a social “Fashion Faux Pas”. His tweets are a good example of the lack of empathy in social media. His tweets went viral for this supposed lack of empathy for certain events. Though Cole meant these tweets as jokes they were not received this way. People were outraged at what he was saying, that he was making fun of tragic events. This is an example of morals not leading to empathy. The people who read Cole’s tweets did not care that they could anger or humiliate him by publicly shaming him for his tweet. They knew that they morally disagreed with what he was saying and wanted this to be known by all. They wanted him to know that his tweet was offensive. They felt no empathy for him even though it was just a poorly received joke.

Jean Louise and Atticus fought about his viewpoint

In my blog post “Was Atticus Finch a Fake?”, I argue that Atticus was the same person in To Kill Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman. Jean Louise has many moral issues with her father throughout the second novel. She does not agree with his opinions and cannot see how this man is the same man from her childhood. Her morals make her completely reject his point of view. However, later she begins to empathize with why he feels the way he does though she will never agree with it. This was something that was very difficult for her to do and it was not naturally felt. The empathy Jean Louise felt for Atticus was forced and not at all in line with her morals. She at first very vehemently opposed her father’s viewpoint (an example of moral judments shaping behavior and judgements). Her morals limited the ease of her empathy, though she was eventually able to force her empathy. Moral inhibitions to empathy can be overcome but it takes great effort.

Morals have a strong tie to the empathy people feel. In many people, the moral barrier cannot be overcome so that empathy can be felt. Morals always coincide with a person’s initial response of empathy. However, these morals can be overcome and if the person is willing enough to take the true perspective of the person in question, empathy can be felt. For this to happen there often must be a deep cause for the person to work hard enough to overcome their morals. The morality of certain actions or ideas will lead to a rightful lack of empathy for those actions or ideas, unless those morals are suppressed.

Works Cited:

Belani, Abby. “Deconstructing Empathy in the Digital Age.” Impakter. N.p., 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://impakter.com/deconstructing-empathy-in-the-digital-age/>.

Chambers, JR, and MH Davis. “The Role of the Self in Perspective-Taking and Empathy: Ease of Self-Simulation as a Heuristic for Inferring Empathic Feelings.” Social Cognition 30.2 (2012): 153-80. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. New York: Harper Collins, 2015. Print.

Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2014. 318-330. Print.

O’Toole, James. “Kenneth Cole’s Tweet on Syria Sparks Outrage.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 5 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://money.cnn.com/2013/09/05/news/companies/kenneth-cole-tweet/index.html>.

Reynolds, Scott J., and Tara L. Ceranic. “The Effects of Moral Judgment and Moral Identity on Moral Behavior: An Empirical Examination of the Moral Individual.” Journal of Applied Psychology 92.6 (2007): 1610-24. Web. 2 Nov 2016.

Image References:

Image 1: http://adamdavidmorton.com/2014/01/the-limits-of-sociological-marxism/

Image 2: http://www.deepertruthblog.com/blogsite/tag/priest-vestments/

Image 3: http://www.counselorlink.com/couples-counseling-whos-it-for/

Was Atticus Finch a Fake?

Is this man the real Atticus Finch?

Atticus Finch has been known as a literary hero for many years due to his unwavering morals and refusal to conform to racism in his case of defending Tom Robinson. However, this second book published by Harper Lee challenges all of the preconceived ideas that people have of Atticus. In the second book he is depicted as racist. It is very easy to see the substantive change in Atticus’ character, but in many sections of the book the continuity of his character can also be seen. I believe the Atticus in Go Set a Watchman is the same character that the Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird was.

There are many points in Go Set a Watchman that show that Atticus is the same character as he is in To Kill a Mockingbird. There was one very outstanding point in this book that pointed to continuity of character. After seeing Atticus at the meeting, Jean Louise could not believe that he was that man because of the man she had known in her childhood. She remembered the criminal case her father had taken when she was younger. “The only reason he took this one was because he knew his client to be innocent of the charge, and he could not for the life of him let the black boy go to prison because of a half-hearted, court-appointed defense” (GSW 109). This is the one point of continuity that I can clearly see in Atticus. He believed in justice, and he did not take this case because of race but because the boy was innocent.  Jean Louise also remembered Atticus saying “Gentlemen, if there’s one slogan in this world I believe, it is this: equal rights for all, special privileges for none” (GSW 108). This point also supports continuity since this is something that the Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird may have said.

There are also many ideas that can be mentioned that indicate that Atticus is a substantively different character. The main idea for this is the extent that Atticus went for Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird. He sat in front of the jail that Tom was staying in all night to make sure that he was not attacked. The Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman wanted to defend Calpurnia’s grandson in court simply to make sure that the NAACP did not get him off (GSW 149). While these may seem like two different people, it is mentioned many times that Atticus was a man of justice (see above quote, GSW 109). Though he was going about it in a morally questionable way in Go Set a Watchman, the man in both books was seeking what he believed was justice.

Atticus believed that black American’s should not have the right to vote

By the end of the novel Go Set a Watchman Jean Louise had began to understand Atticus’ point of view regarding race. Though I do not agree with the Atticus in this novel, I understand where his point of view comes from. During the time period this book was set, much of the south still held racist ideas. Atticus was not the worst of them. One of his main points was the idea of black people having the right to vote. “Can you blame the South for resenting being told what to do about its own people by people who have no idea of its daily problems” (GSW 247). This refers to the idea that people from both races had very different things they would vote for because they had different goals at the moment. Jean Louise did not agree with this because she was “color blind” and she saw only people (GSW 270). The way that Maycomb county and Atticus Finch were depicted in Go Set a Watchman is not surprising given the time period that the novel is set. I think that Jean Louise’s response is very characteristic of someone who lived in the north and was raised to believe that everyone was equal. I completely agree with Jean Louise but by the end of the novel I understood how Atticus had his point of view. I think Jean Louise matured a lot throughout the novel by being able to understand her fathers perspective and accepting it even though she very adamantly disagreed with it. Jean Louise had to cope with the transformation of the father she had known as a child and idolized to the man she knew now.

Works Cited:

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. New York: Harper Collins, 2015. Print.

Image References:

Image 1

https://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2015/02/eight-inspiring-quotes-from-to-kill-a-mockingbirds-atticus-finch.html

Image 2

http://tedhake.com/LARGE-1965-STICKER-EQUAL-RIGHTS-FOR-ALL-AMERICANS-NOW-ITEM1201.aspx

Fashion Faux Pas

Kenneth Cole Footwear

Social media is a powerful tool where the words of one person can reach the screens of millions. Depending on the statement posted this can lead to a great feeling of empathy within the audience or great lash back on the poster due to a poorly received message. The latter was what effected Justine Sacco in “God That Was Awesome”. It is also what effected Kenneth Cole and many others who tried to make a joke that was received very poorly.

In 2013, fashion designer Kenneth Cole tweeted a message that was very poorly received. He tweeted “‘Boots on the ground’ or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear” in response to the potential intervention of the United States in the war in Syria. This was a poorly made joke and many people responded with calling Kenneth Cole insensitive. Cole has also made many other tweets over the years that people have dubbed insensitive. Some of these include “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online… -KC” (in 2011) and “Regardless of the right to bear arms, we in no way condone the right to bare feet.” (in response to debates on right to bear arms). Cole has said that his tweets advertise his product along with making people more aware of current world issues. Many of his tweets are viewed as insensitive by the public though.

Can these social media sites actually be decreasing your ability to empathize?

It can be argued that empathy in people has decreased due to the implementation of technology. A study from the University of Michigan showed that over thirty years empathy has decreased in college students by forty percent, and the sharpest drop was after 2000 when the use of technology significantly picked up (Belani). Belani says that components of empathy can be traced back to different parts of digital culture. The most useful part of her argument is the effect of social media on affective understanding. She argues that the basis of affective understanding lies in non verbal cues. In social media posts there are no non verbal cues. This makes it much easier for someone to misinterpret an online post. While joking a person may smile and laugh making it obvious that they are not being serious. Online, none of these cues exist and a sarcastic joke may be taken as a serious and insulting comment. Another important point Belani makes is the effect of social media on emotion-contagion. She states that this is how people begin to feel how other people around them feel. Anger is highly communicable over social media posts and this leads to “outrage culture”. This is exemplified when a celebrity says something that is taken the wrong way and their post is shared many times. These two types of empathy that are disappearing can account for much of the overreaction to posts on social media.

In the case of Kenneth Cole the lack of affective understanding and emotion-contagion are what lead his post to become so viral due to outrage. No one could see his facial expression to tell that he was joking. Although it can be inferred from the context that this post was a joke it is still different reading it on a screen instead of seeing his emotions as he said it. The most important part to this post going viral and the level of outrage it inspired is due to emotional-contagion. When one person saw this and shared it it showed many other people their opinion. When people see the anger one person feels, they often feel it to and reshare the post. Thus, it is the lack of person-on-person interaction that causes the phenomenon of the lack of empathy for certain social media posts.

Works Cited:

Belani, Abby. “Deconstructing Empathy in the Digital Age.” Impakter. N.p., 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://impakter.com/deconstructing-empathy-in-the-digital-age/>.

O’Toole, James. “Kenneth Cole’s Tweet on Syria Sparks Outrage.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 5 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <http://money.cnn.com/2013/09/05/news/companies/kenneth-cole-tweet/index.html>.

Image References:

Image 1

http://www.lordandtaylor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/lord-and-taylor/brand/kennethcolereaction/shoes/mens-shoes

Image 2

https://www.rivaliq.com/blog/is-social-media-marketing-your-most-powerful-tool /

Should We Have “Empathy for the Devil”?

Devil emoji commonly used today

Adam Morton starts his essay “Empathy for the Devil” by notifying his readers that they may find the topic controversial. He states that an internalized moral code limits the imagination which in turn limits a person’s ability to empathize with people who have committed “atrocious acts” (Morton, 318). He then goes on to discuss why people with an internalized moral code have difficulty empathizing with people who have performed such acts. One of his most compelling arguments is the type of empathy invoked. He makes clear in his essay that he does not agree with the use of “pseudo empathy”, which is more based on what you would do than why the person did what they did. To understand this more completely, it is anything that does not fit into Morton’s definition of real empathy: “that one represent the state of the other person, but in a way that captures its affective tone and perspective” (319). Morton applies this to the human ability to empathize over barriers. He uses many scenarios to depict multiple types of barriers that with a strong moral code one might not cross. These barriers include disgust, timidity, and resolution. Morton concludes his essay with the statement “we exaggerate the ease with which we can get accurate, non-psuedo, empathy in ordinary cases… and we minimize the ease with which we can make continuities with atrocious acts” (330). This concludes Morton’s arguement that people need to let go of their internalized moral code and feel real empathy, empathy that is not so falsely intense in ordinary scenarios and is actually felt in cases with “atrocious acts”.

Adam Morton, Canadian Philosopher and author of “Empathy for the Devil”

I do not agree with Morton that internalized moral codes should be lessened so that empathy can be felt for those who have committed atrocious acts. I feel that this moral code is in place in order to fairly judge people who have committed these acts. Everyone has a reason for performing an atrocity, however that does not always justify the atrocity. John R. Chambers writes about the role of perspective taking in empathy, specifically self perspective taking. Chambers writes about the “ease of self-simulation” and how if a person can imagine themselves in a situation that they will be more easily able to empathize with it (154). Thus, empathy will come more easily when empathizing with those that have not committed atrocious acts.

 

Chambers describes his ease of self-simulation model (ESS model) as a relatively easy to employ technique. It uses “the data available to them” and is also based on experiences from their past (Chambers, 157). This is similar to the form of empathy that Morton does not agree with and dubs pseudo empathy. Morton uses the example of person X having empathy for person A based on his own experiences, and according to Morton this empathy is not enough because it does not account for the full extent of person A’s emotions and reasons (326). This form of empathy lines up with the ESS model. This form of empathy is much easier to attain and is what people use in various ways in the ESS model, anchoring and adjusting model, and similarity contingency model (Chambers, 154). It shows a person what they would do in a similar situation, keeping their moral code intact. A person would have to put forth a great deal of effort and remove their moral code in order to empathize with atrocious acts. Why should this moral code be removed then? If a person has done something so terribly wrong that you have to remove your morals in order to understand why they did it, then why should

Is ridding yourself of a moral code worth it to empathize with evil?

you empathize? If a person cannot use Chambers model to empathize, then that empathy is being forced because the ESS model has been proven (in Chambers first study) to invoke far greater feelings of empathy than an objective model (158-162). This has lead me to the conclusion that moral barriers should remain intact and if you cannot empathize with someone with these barriers up, then that person should not be empathized with.

My counterargument to Morton would likely cause a person to no longer try to follow Morton’s model. Morton’s essay is completely correct if you want to feel empathy for someone who has performed an atrocious act. However, if you feel as I do, that empathy should not be felt for these people, then you will not follow this model. The effect of my counterargument would be maintaining your moral values and not changing the natural effect of your empathy. Morton attempts to manipulate the way you see things, I do not.

Works Cited:

Chambers, JR, and MH Davis. “The Role of the Self in Perspective-Taking and Empathy: Ease of Self-Simulation as a Heuristic for Inferring Empathic Feelings.” Social Cognition 30.2 (2012): 153-80. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2014. 318-330. Print.

Image References:

Image 1

http://www.iemoji.com/view/emoji/818/smileys-people/smiling-face-with-horns

Image 2

http://philosophy.ubc.ca/persons/adam-morton/

Image 3

http://www.debate.org/opinions/morality-is-subjective-therefore-no-moral-code-is-better-than-another

Formal Assignment 1: Empathy and Justice in “A Time to Kill”

Empathy can greatly sway the decision of a jury. In A Time to Kill it was the deciding factor in the case against Carl Lee Hailey. The entire jury had decided to vote guilty until they heard Jake Brigance’s closing statement depicting the entirety of the horror that happened to Tonya Hailey. This statement invoked empathy in them that they had not previously felt because they could not relate with a black man. Once they knew what had motivated Carl Lee and how out of his mind with rage he had been, they changed their minds and delivered a verdict of not guilty. When they saw the whole situation they knew that it would not be justice to convict Carl Lee of murder. In this case the invocation of empathy led to justice.

Empathy is a term that is not always defined clearly. Hoffman defines empathy as “an emotional state triggered by another’s emotional state or situation, in which one feels what the other feels or may normally be expected to feel in his or her situation” (231). One part of empathy that Hoffman describes is perspective taking – when people put themselves in another persons situation and feel what they felt (233). In A Time to Kill this caused a large problem in invoking empathy in the jury. Since Carl Lee was a black man, the all white jury had difficulty relating to him and could not put themselves in his situation (until Jake Brigance’s closing statement of course). This also brings forth Hoffman’s briefly mentioned point of “race bias” in the jury (251). During A Time to Kill a great emphasis was placed on the selection of the jury. Jake Brigance had said that with the right jury they would win the case and with the wrong one they would lose. He was banking on getting young fathers in the jury in the hopes that they would empathize with Carl Lee’s situation (TK). However, the jury selection process did not go in the way Jake had hoped. The jury was predominately made up of women and older men which would make it hard for them to take Carl Lee’s perspective. The jury was also all white leading to a great likelihood of race bias. There were many factors working against the jury feeling empathy for Carl Lee in this case.

Empathy is a widely debated subject in court cases because it can cause a jury to see emotion more than facts. It is generally believed that emotion can greatly influence a judicial decision. In court cases victim impact statements are often given to demonstrate the “full reality of human suffering that the defendant has produced” (Hoffman 253). In the case of Carl Lee Hailey a kind of victim impact statement was used, though not the kind Hoffman had had in mind. The impact statement here was made by the defendant’s attorney and was used to demonstrate the “full realty of human suffering” that the prosecution had produced, causing Carl Lee’s moment of insanity when he killed the two men (Hoffman 253). This statement had a very profound effect on the jury. Earlier in A Time to Kill, during the illegal early votes, the entire jury had decided to convict Carl Lee. After hearing Jake Brigance’s vivid depiction of Tonya’s rape the jury felt empathy for Carl Lee. When Jake ended his statement with “Now imagine she’s white” the jury was able to invoke Hoffman’s perspective taking and put themselves in Carl Lee’s situation (TK) (233). After this statement, the jury changed their decision to not guilty. The empathy invoked on this jury was the deciding factor in this case.

There is a concept discussed by Martha Nussbaum called the judicious spectator. It is a theoretically perfect juror with no bias but also not feeling too much for one party (Nussbaum 75). The jurors in this case could not be judicious spectators. They were racially biased and could not relate with the defendant. They later felt too much empathy for the defendant, becoming more emotionally involved than a judicious spectator should be. The jury was crying during Jake’s closing statement, and then afterwards changed their decisions to not guilty, showing the effect this statement had on their empathy (TK). No judicious spectator existed in the jury presiding in Carl Lee’s case. However, this empathy that the jury felt is what lead them to acquit Carl Lee. They should have acquitted him based on their belief of the insanity. They reached the right conclusion but for the wrong reasons, and the only reason they reached this conclusion was that they were not judicious spectators.

The empathy that the jurors based their decision on was not felt by them in the beginning of this case. This empathy was encouraged by Jake through his very emotional closing statement. However, this empathy did rely on the limitations of the white jury. Jake had to end the statement with “Now imagine she’s white” (TK). This allowed the jurors to imagine what it would have been like if this situation had happened to their daughter or other female family member. Though this empathy was limited due to the white jury, it was still genuine empathy. It does not matter whether empathy is limited or not when it comes to an acquittal, except that it is often harder to invoke enough empathy in people with a limited scope.

It is obvious that empathy was what determined the outcome of this case, but did it promote justice? The question now is whether, when looking at the facts, Carl Lee was guilty of murder. Carl Lee pleaded not guilty on the grounds of insanity (TK). Both of the men who testified to whether Carl Lee was insane were discredited in the courtroom. The man who said Carl Lee was sane had never in court called a man insane. He was reaping benefits by later taking these “not insane” people into his mental hospital. The man who said that Carl Lee was insane was discredited because he had been convicted of the crime of statutory rape (though it was later revealed that he this woman became his wife and they were still married) (TK). Due to the conflicting arguments of the psychiatrists, it is up to the viewer to review the evidence for insanity. The argument of insanity is based on whether the defendant could tell right from wrong during the time of the incident. This is known as the M’Naghten Rule. Carl Lee was blinded by rage causing his distinction of right and wrong to be distorted. In the M’Naghten rule a stipulation is: “If he did know [what he was doing], that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.” (MR). When badgered by the prosecution about whether the rapists deserved to die, he exclaimed “Yes, they deserved to die and I hope they burn in Hell!” (TK). The fact that he thought they deserved to die shows that he did not morally know right from wrong. Carl Lee knew exactly what he was doing (as this was premeditated), but he did not know that it was wrong, making him insane in the case of the M’Naghten Rule.

In the ruling of not guilty in the case of Carl Lee, justice was served and empathy helped facilitate that justice. Regardless of Carl Lee’s guilt, his acquittal would have served justice. The two men who raped his daughter “if convicted may have been free in only ten years” (TK). This is not an equal punishment for the crime, and many people agreed with what Carl Lee had done. The officer who Carl Lee accidentally shot said that if someone had done that to his daughter he would have “[blown] him away just like Carl Lee did” (TK). When asked if Carl Lee was guilty he said “Turn him loose!” (TK). The mindset of many people was that Carl Lee did not deserve to be punished for killing the two men who raped his daughter, that would have been released from jail in only ten years. Justice was served and it was coextensive with the law due to Carl Lee being found not guilty on the grounds of insanity.

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

“The M’Naghten Rule.” FindLaw. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2016. <http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-procedure/the-m-naghten-rule.html>.

Blog Assignment 3: Empathy, Real or Apparent

A Time to Kill is focused on the actions of Carl Lee Hailey in response to the rape of his daughter. The movie begins with two men raping Carl Lee’s ten year old daughter. Carl Lee then killed the two men and injured a police officer, putting him on trial for murder. The movie then follows the trial of Carl Lee and the life of his lawyer, Jake Brigance. This movie was filmed in a way to invoke empathy in the audience. The portrayal of the characters leads to an empathic response. This movie also had a character, Jake Brigance, try to invoke empathy in other characters, the jury.

This movie began with a young black girl picking up groceries for her family. It then showed two white, racist men, destroying the store and driving around in a truck with a confederate flag. As the girl, Tonya, walked home the movie showed the two men beat and rape her. This first scene showed what a terrible thing that Tonya had been through. It was meant to create an initial feeling of empathy in the audience. If that scene had not been depicted and the movie had just started with Carl Lee killing the two men due to her rape, the reality of what had happened to Tonya would not have been as jarring as it was actually seeing it happen. This scene was meant to create a strong feeling of empathy in the audience for Tonya and her family.

This movie depicts Carl Lee not as a murderer, but as a father. He killed those men because of what they did to his daughter. The audience saw what Carl Lee saw and this allowed them to identify with him. It showed how much rage Carl Lee felt that lead him to kill those two men. A Time to Kill was specifically filmed this way so that an emotional response would be evoked. This was a real invocation of empathy because the audience has seen all of what has happened. Nothing was skipped, no parts were glossed over. Most people (likely all people) would feel empathy for a rape victim.

A Time to Kill also used Jake Brigance to invoke empathy in the jury. Throughout the movie the jury had taken illegal “votes” to see where they were at in deciding Carl Lee’s case. At the last “vote” before the real vote, every single person voted to convict Carl Lee. However, after they heard Jake’s closing argument, they switched to vote to acquit. Jake’s argument invoked a feeling of empathy that they had not previously had. He had them close their eyes and listen to exactly what had happened to her. He had the jury in tears. He was able to invoke an emotional response from the jury that they had not previously had because they were now seeing why Carl Lee did what he did. This feeling was real empathy because the jury finally heard what really happened to Tonya. This movie managed to invoke empathy in both the audience and the jury in a very real, very intense form.

Works Cited:

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

Blog Assignment 2: Defending Tom Robinson

Now, before I begin, I urge you to set aside your prejudices for Tom Robinson and to see him as simply your neighbor. See past the color of his skin and look solely at the evidence. This man stands before you on trial for the rape of a woman, with nothing but circumstantial evidence against him. The little evidence that was produced does not even point to Tom Robinson. This man stands on trial for a crime that he did not even commit.

I ask you to look back on Mayella Ewell’s testimony. I can see how this testimony is compelling: when a woman proclaims that a man has taken advantage of her it is natural for people to feel for her. But Tom Robinson is not that man. Look back at the bruises found on Mayella’s face and neck, damages caused by someone who hits predominately with their left hand. Now look at Tom Robinson, a man with a disabled left hand that he cannot even use. It is obvious that someone caused great physical harm to Mayella Ewell, but Tom is not that man. Tom is however, a man with great character, a man that took the time out of his day to go help a woman with her chores without even a penny’s pay.

Now, look back to Tom Robinson’s testimony. Tom stated that he was asked by Mayella Ewell to help her complete some tasks on several different occasions. Tom helped her each time. On that day, the day Mayella alleges she was taken advantage of, Tom was just being helpful when he entered the Ewell house. He only entered the house because he was asked to. He had no thoughts in his mind that anything was suspicious. When Mayella kissed him he left as quickly as possible. And yes, you heard me right. Mayella kissed Tom, Tom did not kiss her. Tom, being the respectable man he is, left and did not take advantage of that situation. However, it seems that Mayella has taken advantage of hers. After Tom left, someone hurt Mayella. Rather than take the blame for kissing Tom, Mayella instead manipulated the situation. She knew that most jury’s would not see past the color of Tom’s skin and would immediately convict him, regardless of the evidence. But you are not a jury that will do that. You are a jury that will simply see Tom as a person. You are a jury that will unravel the manipulation of Mayella Ewell.

This trial is coming to a close. The decision of Tom’s fate rests in the hands of you, the jury. Tom is a man with a wife and children, like many of you. Tom works for a living like many of you. Tom is a man who felt “sorry” for a woman and helped her do her chores. How many of you would have let a woman to chop wood by herself? How many of you would have done what Tom did and helped out? The only thing this trial has displayed is that Tom Robinson is a good man. There is no evidence that he took advantage of Mayella Ewell at all. Now I urge you to look at the evidence supplied today and make the right decision regarding this trial and Tom’s fate.

Works Cited:

To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. By Horton Foote. Perf. Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Phillip Alford. Universal-International, 1962. Web. 14 Sept. 2016

Blog Assignment 1: “Empathy, Justice, and the Law” Hoffman

Martin L. Hoffman’s essay “Empathy, Justice, and the Law” addresses the concerns of empathy playing “a role in the law”. It is Hoffman’s belief that empathy is essential to the law, especially when involving “pro-social legal principles”. However, he also believes that empathy can become biased in legal cases and that that bias must be given consideration. Hoffman supports his beliefs by using court cases and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin as examples.

In many court cases, empathy is a deciding factor for the judge and jury. Many people do their best to influence the jury using empathy. Hoffman exemplifies many cases in which the use of empathy in court cases results in favorable outcomes. Yale Kamisar’s articles about police interrogations influenced the decision of Miranda v. Arizona by drawing attention to the lack of rights given to people when arrested. School desegregation was argued in the courts due to a lack of legal grounds but was eventually overturned in Brown v. Board of Education due to a feeling of empathetic injustice in the judges. Hoffman writes that this likely would have happened eventually but was expedited due to empathy. Hoffman also makes the point that empathy can cause bias in the courtroom. He brings up a case of a British nanny who shook an eight month old child to death. The nanny was given a life sentence due to empathy for the child’s parents but then her sentence was reduced and she was released because the judge felt empathy for her. This empathetic bias influences Hoffman’s belief that though empathy is important in court cases, empathetic bias must also be considered.

Hoffman uses the term witnessing many times throughout his essay. Witnessing is generally thought to mean seeing something. However, Hoffman’s psychological use of “witnessing” defines the word as empathy for a group of people experiencing some distressing factor that leaves a lasting effect on a person not directly effected by this factor. Hoffman draws attention to the empathic use of witnessing in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The woman in the novel, though a housewife who was politically uninvolved, took great offence to the Fugitive Slave Law and wanted to change it. She saw how unfairly slaves were treated and experienced empathic witnessing. This caused her to want to do everything she could to help slaved. Witnessing is also a key concept in court cases where the judge or jury feels empathy for a group of people undergoing an injustice. The importance of Hoffman’s use of witnessing is due to it being a subcategory of empathy. Witnessing is such a strong form of empathy that it often leads people to act on unjust situations effecting different groups of people. This can sometimes lead to laws being advocated for and eventually passed to fix these situations.

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.