End of Life Ethics: The Right to Die

The end of a loved one’s life is a very emotion filled time for everyone close to them. Services like hospice care and life support cause great upset in society due to the massive variance between cultures in society. These beliefs clash so harshly that it proves to be a significant obstacle when defining laws about end of life care. I think this is a fascinating topic, not only because of its controversial nature, but the fact that it very directly affects all of us. Eventually, all of us will have to obey the laws we set earlier in our lives regarding our death.

Euthanasia is one of these controversial topics. The word itself is derived from the Greek words for “good” and “death”, inferring that it is what the victim wants. Interestingly enough, this word has the exact opposite reaction in society. On one hand, many people believe that people deserve the right to end their life. If the quality of your life is only suffering, then the victim should have the right to end it. Euthanasia is almost always associated with negative connotations because of its “murder” like actions. This is because it is referred to as more active killing, versus simply letting the victim die. Then it seems more like a crime, which is huge argument for making assisted suicide illegal.

Assisted suicide is closely related to euthanasia yet very different. If the patient performs the final act that ultimately kills them, it is considered assisted suicide. Controversy surrounds this method of death due to the fact that someone aids a “wrong act”. The line between assisted suicide is also a very blurry one. It can be very close to murder if the patient is too weak and is therefore taken advantage of. The major benefit of assisted suicide is that it maintains dignity for the victim. The ability for the victim to make his/her own decisions makes the grief much easier to handle after death.

End of life is a very troubling time for both the victim and everyone around them. This is why these decisions based around end of life ethics are need to satisfy everyone’s desires. Because of the many restricted laws in our current end of life system, most people suffer against their will. This is not only unethical, but just plain wrong. I intend to examine these methods of death, pursuing what is most ethical.

 

Potential Works Cited:

Boisvert, Marcel. “Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” The Permanente Journal 16.2 (2012): 75–76. Print.

Soh, Tze Ling Gwendoline Beatrice et al. “Distancing Sedation in End-of-Life Care from Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” Singapore Medical Journal 57.5 (2016): 220–227. PMC. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Bascom P. End-of-Life Ethics. JAMA. 2006;296(3):336-341. doi:10.1001/jama.296.3.339

The Hidden Accomplishments of Empathy

Empathy makes us human. To relate our own emotions with someone else’s in order to aid someone is an action that no other creature can perform, except us.  Throughout history, empathy has played a significant role in defining who we are as a community,  our values, and who we will ultimately become. But why do we as humans decide to empathize with one another? Selflessness is a large motive to empathize with another. The empathizer doesn’t receive any direct benefit, so deliberately going out of your way to help someone else requires kindness. In addition to empathizing, the person empathizing will also build a connection with the other person. It is in human nature to connect with others, as I believe we fear loneliness subconsciously. When we empathize with one another, both parties are no longer alone, therefore providing a reason to empathize.

But what really is empathy? It is complex idea; its true reasons prove difficult to understand as many definitions exist. Chanming Duan describes in a study on empathy that “taking another’s perspective and feeling the other’s emotions, pleasant or unpleasant, seem to involve different levels of effort and pleasure” (33). He separates empathy into two different parts: empathic emotions and intellectual empathy. He states that the nature of the situation greatly impacts how an observer will respond to the emotions present. If positive emotions are observed, “when the presenting emotions are pleasant, feeling the emotion may bring the observer more pleasure than taking the person’s perspective” (Duan 33). This pleasant emotion, not unlike laughing, makes another more likely to empathize, or laugh along with the other person. For negative emotions, the opposite reigns true. Duan writes, “feeling another person’s unpleasant emotions can be harder than feeling another’s pleasant emotions” (33). Yet oddly, enough, we almost feel more compelled to empathize with unpleasant emotions, which leads to Duan’s theory why people empathize. There are “psychological gains, such as feeling good about oneself, by showing empathy to those who need it,” Duan states. “The motivation to empathize is more effective in increasing intellectual empathy than empathic emotion, and more so when the target person feels unpleasant emotions than pleasant ones” (33). Intellectual empathy is described as the knowledge that one should empathize, but not the actual emotions of empathy itself. Therefore, if people know that they should empathize, they are more likely too if they see others. This creates a group-like mentality, where everyone each slowly absorbs the empathic emotions of each other.

The standard definition of empathy, widely accepted in society.

Just as Duan believes, the widely accepted definition of empathy is to use one’s own experiences to support or relate to another going through a similar experience. In my first blog post, I analyzed Adam Morton, a professor at the University of British Columbia, and his view of empathy in the text “Empathy for the Devil.” I believe that Morton’s definition of empathy is incorrect, as his interpretation of the definition of empathy is too similar to that of sympathy. In examples Morton provides, most of the examples I found related closer to sympathy rather than empathy. In his essay, he attempts to explain that empathy can take many different forms, yet the core of his argument, his definition of empathy, is incorrect. But his reason for recognizing these emotions makes sense. In every example that Morton provides, the person “empathizing” does so in order to understand what the other person was experiencing. We attempt to connect with each other to understand each other.

Social media and the rise of internet usage has allowed us to connect with each other in many different ways. Sharing pictures, videos, and thoughts allows us to stay in touch with almost anyone, at any time. However, there are many downsides to the increasingly wide usage of social media in recent years. Some sites allow users to remain anonymous, making it impossible for the users to be held accountable for their participation. Anonymity has added a whole new depth of interaction in modern day society. The ability to criticize, cuss out, of applaud someone with no accountability is a frightening power. With internet becoming immensely popular and widely used during throughout the 2000-current, my second blog shows the difference between two times. The event I focused on occurred in 2003, when social media sites were just being developed. The Chicago Cub’s shot at entering a world series was jeopardized because Steve Bartman, a fan in the bleachers, reached out for a ball and interfered. Another example I focused on was the Twitter jokes made by Justine Sacco. Sacco attempted to make some sarcastic jokes that were morally wrong on her Twitter page. Within a few hours, she was trending on Twitter, fired from her job, and her reputation was ruined. Bartman’s experience greatly differed with that of Justine Sacco’s, the only change being the evolution of social media. Both were equally hated, yet the attribute of social media absolutely destroyed Sacco. Bartman, though his act was less morally wrong, was forgiven after a length of time. Both situations were honest mistakes, flawed judgement, but anonymity and accessibility in social media changed the amount of empathy one situation received, yet still the drive is still connection. People chose to express their opinions on Sacco’s “jokes” quite publicly, banding together against a common target. In a way, the situation brought together people on the social media sites, sharing their values with each other and the world.

Society’s values change as popular opinion develops. Therefore, society’s views will change, correlating directly with the popular views. This is because of somewhat fear of standing alone opposing the majority. Values of society have changed drastically over time, especially since the setting of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Harper Lee’s first novel differs greatly from the sequel, “Go Set a Watchman.” In the first novel, Atticus is a forgiving, empathizing individual who believes in equal rights. Demonstrating this by becoming the most hated man in Maycomb County, he chooses to defend a black man in a trial against a white woman. Yet in the sequel, there is no such feeling of equal rights. Atticus, now significantly older, has become racist. Saying things like “Do you want Negros by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” (Lee 102) Atticus is barely recognizable anymore. Attending events that inspire white supremacy, the only resemblance to the first Atticus is his relationship with his daughter. Throughout the first novel, his legal representation of Tom Robinson was a heroic decision in the eyes of Jean Louise. Not only was her father a hero, but he essentially taught her the importance of empathy and what it means. Atticus explains that to empathize is to “climb into his skin and walk around in it” (Lee 30) However, as she realizes that her father has lacked the ability to empathize with an entire race, she loses this connection with him.

This is why I believe we empathize as humans. The ability to connect with each other’s emotions and feel what others feel is astounding, and miles ahead of any other species on this planet. These feelings of empathy move us, form us into groups. It shapes our ideas, our thinking. We empathize to connect with each other.

 

Works Cited:

Being Empathic: The Role of Motivation to Empathize and the Nature of Target Emotions

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

 

Image References:

https://www.geniusawakening.com/genius-brain/is-brain-hardwired-to-empathize/

https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/empathic-design-is-empathy-the-ux-holy-grail

Blog 6: A Change for the Worse

The difference between To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman is startling to say the least. The proclaimed hero in the first novel has completely changed to something almost unrecognizable. Sure, his fatherly relationship with Jean Louise is intact, but it threatens to fall several times throughout Go Set a Watchman. I almost feel as if this novel is a post apocalyptic version of the beloved original. Everything seems to have changed, lives have been lost. It’s a giant walk down memory lane for Jean Louise, and nothing is like she remembered.

The introduction of Atticus in this novel is very interesting. He is first written in as a frail old man anxiously awaiting his daughter’s arrival. “He had been a big man before age and arthritis reduced him to medium size. He was seventy-two last month, but Jean Louise always thought of him as hovering somewhere in his middle fifties—she could not remember him being any younger, and he seemed to grow no older” (Lee 13).  From this, we sense no change in Atticus’s portrayal. Lee writes as if everything has remained the same, only the years have flickered by. Yet soon after their heartwarming embrace, Atticus’s changes are become noticeable.

In the To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch goes against societal views of racism. Representing a young black man, Atticus was not with the majority. This is how the novel frames him as a hero: he does what he believes is right, which puts his life and reputation in danger. However, when Jean Louise finds the pamphlet for the Maycomb citizens’ council, she is exposed to the racism that Maycomb still holds. When she asks Alexandra her thoughts on it, she states that “they’re hard to come by these days… there are a lot of truths in that book” (Lee 71). Disgusted, Jean Louise realizes that much has changed since she was the events of To Kill A Mockingbird.

The fact that this novel was potentially a first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird is incredibly confusing. Why change Atticus’s character so drastically between the two novels? I believe that Atticus really hasn’t changed much at all. During childhood, most kids view their parents as heroes. It’s impossible to see them as anything else, as parents are simply setting examples for their children, so children only assume it is the correct way to act. Given that most of the To Kill a Mockingbird was written in Scout (Jean Louise)’s point of view, I believe that this skewed her perspective, ultimately changing the whole perception Atticus in the novel. What if Atticus was just as racist in the To Kill a Mockingbird as in Go Set a Watchman, but was viewed by Jean Louise as a hero just because he was her father? Either way, Atticus’s decision to represent Tom Robinson was a bold act. An act, I believe, that was to keep the justice system intact. Atticus could have believed that every man, regardless of race, deserves a fair trial, thus justifying his decision to represent Robinson. He describes to Jean Louise that the only way to understand someone is to “climb into his skin and walk around in it” (Lee 30). One of life lessons, Jean Louise has held her fathers values from the first novel throughout the second. The fact that Atticus’s original values conflict with his “new” values separates Jean Louise. In fact, it destroys her relationship with her father, as they have both grown apart from each other.

Overall, this sequel is rather confusing, completely changing everything the reader learned about Atticus in the first novel. It prompts many questions about the motives of Atticus, and potentially the integrity of the people of Maycomb.

 

Works Cited:

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

Chasing a Ghost: Steve Bartman and the Cubs

bartman-master1050The date was October 14, 2003. The Chicago Cubs we finally having a decent season, keeping a good record all the way until game 6 of the National League Championship Series. Many Chicagoan were beyond excited for the remaining games of the series, the whole city had a euphoric atmosphere. People would gather at the local sports bars and hug strangers when their cubbies scored. So far, game 6 had been going fantastic for the Cubs, they were up 3-0 in the eighth, only five outs away from breaking a 58-year world series absence streak. That is, until Steve Bartman tipped a foul ball away from left fielder’s Moises Alou’s glove.

The very moment Bartman’s hand touched the ball, his life would be changed forever. The New York Times reported that “by the end of the night, he was the most infamous fan, perhaps, in the history of American sports” (Strauss). After the game, he was escorted out by security, for his own safety. In the streets, people pointed and threw objects at him, chanting “asshole”.

But that was only the aggressive fans. Others interviewed later stated that “Batman was a small part of that fateful eighth inning… He didn’t cost us anything” (Strauss). The city was split down the middle, you either felt bad for Bartman, or wanted him banned from Wrigley Field. Those who empathized with Bartman felt that this was merely an overreaction to something that didn’t change much, he was just a scapegoat for all the unfortunate luck that the Cubs had endured for too long. He was welcomed with open arms to many, as most just wanted to end the

Although similar, the difference between Steve Bartman’s and Justine Sacco’s experience is the time period. In 2003, Twitter, Facebook, or even Instagram was widely used if it even existed. This dictated a drastic change in Bartman’s experience, as it was much easier for him to hide from the hate and threats. Justine Sacco, however, couldn’t hide from anyone. The readily available characteristics of social media in recent years left her nowhere to turn, nowhere to hide. Bartman, on the other hand, disappeared like a ghost.

Wired Magazine reports on the effect of social media and public shaming or even threatening. Laura Hudson writes, “social media has given a voice to the disenfranchised at its worst, it’s a weapon of mass reputation destruction”. Even seemingly small accounts with few followers or friends can have a large impact. It’s the network aspect of social media that allows word to travel like the plague, easily destroying someone’s reputation overnight. This ability cripples society’s ability to empathize, as it simply kills off any reason to empathize with the victim.

Many were able to empathize with Steve Bartman. How? The answer is quite simple: social media wasn’t popular enough back in 2003. Had this happened within recent years, he would have been torn apart by Cubs extremists. This is the effect that social media has upon empathy. No one wants to join the victims side, as they will also get attacked. Especially, the views of everybody else will shine no positive light on the victim, so why empathize with someone who seems like the worst person? Social media can change someone’s reputation so much that it makes them impossible to empathize with.

 

Works Cited:

Strauss, Ben. “Steve Bartman Remains Invisible, 10 Years Later.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.

Hudson, Laura. “Why You Should Think Twice Before Shaming Anyone on Social Media.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 24 July 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.

Blog 4: Morton’s One Major Flaw

I believe that Morton’s view of empathy is slightly off, if not incorrect. The way he describes the
way people try to react and relate to the people that have committed an atrocity sounds more like the
definition of sympathy rather than empathy. For example, in the abused wife scenario Morton
describes, he states that “we can represent to ourselves an emotion that is directed along the axes of
her situation and that gives us some grasp, not of why she made a choice that rid her of a great menace,
but of how she was able to make it” (320). In the case of empathy that Morton presents, he believes
that you can empathize with the wife by attempting to feel the same emotions that she felt. Now this
has no prerequisite that you, the viewer, have experienced these events or similar yourself, yet he still
calls it empathy. In order to be able to empathize with another person, you yourself must have
experienced a similar situation or event. This allows you to apply the feelings and thoughts that you
remember from your event to aid and relate to another.
However, the main focus of empathy is to help another with a certain situation. In Baston, Fultz,
and Schoenrade’s scholarly article, they write that “seeing someone in distress may cause one distress,
and a person may act to relieve the other’s distress as an instrumental means to reach the ultimate goal
or relieving his or her own distress” (22). The view of empathy taken upon by this text is dramatically
different from that of Morton. As he presents numerous different definitions, each one essentially deals
with two people, one that has done an “atrocity”, and the other who is trying to empathize with the
first. One example Morton uses in the text is of an abusive marriage. Now, the wife is “prepared to kill…
She is not a violent person; she takes killing to be forbidden; and once she loved this man. But after a
few seconds of indecision that feel like hours, she shoots” (Morton 320). Morton then proceeds to say
that “we can represent to ourselves an emotion that is directed along the axes of her situation and that
gives us some grasp, not of why she made a choice that rid her of a great menace, but of how she was
able to make it” (Morton 320). This, to me is not empathy, but rather sympathy. In this scenario, there is
no real feeling derived from an experience. Rather, a perceived emotion that is able to loosely connect
the onlooker to the “victim”.
According to the views Baston, Fultz, and Schoenrade, this is not empathy at all. In their text
they claim that empathy is driven by altruistic motivation to help. If the observer is distressed due to the
onlooking of an event, the observer will do one of two things. Either escape, or empathize. Their studies
show that when escape is the easier of the two to achieve, the observer will often do lean towards
escape in the interest of themselves. Morton describes empathy as envisioning another’s motives,
rather than their feelings or emotions. If the main definition of empathy in Morton’s essay is incorrect,
then the we cannot “empathize with the devil” at all, rather sympathize with the devil.

Works Cited

Morton, Adam, and Peter Goldie. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30. Print.

Baston, C.D., Fultz J., & Schoenrade, P. A. (1987) ‘Distress and Empathy: Two Qualitatively Distinct Vicarious Emotions with Different Motivational Consequences’,Journal of Personality 55: 19-39.

Formal Assignment 1

The film opens with a truck raging down an open dirt road. Two sweaty, drunk, racist, and violent white men are inside, pushing the truck to its weak limits of speed and shock absorption. The reason why I mention their race, is the fact that they are driving in a low income African American neighborhood. As they fly down this road, they make numerous stops at local houses and shops. At each stop they become increasingly drunk and then violent towards all of the neighborhood’s people. This tension culminates during the rape scene, which is raw and brutally portrayed. This is where the film first uses empathy. Designed to have viewers be as biased as a racist southern jury, the film successfully made me believe something I now do not. During the film “A Time to Kill”, no justice exists for Carl Lee or Mr. Cobb and Mr. Willard. If the case is viewed in its purest form without race being a factor, both sides have committed terrible crimes. Both Hoffman and Nussbaum would argue that the only way for justice truly to be served is for both sides to be punished, as bias plays too great a role in this case.

The issue of race has always been an issue in court, especially within recent years. Events like the shooting of Michael Brown, the death of Eric Garner, and even events as far back as the beating of Rodney King have sparked great separation within society. It seems now that a day does not go by without seeing some form of race conflict in the headlines. However, the film’s setting is not present day. The film takes place when the KKK was still active in the south and when income directly correlates with race. In A Time to kill, the KKK’s is brought back to Clanton, Mississippi by Cobb’s brother. He does so “to protect our Christian homes and families, to resurrect our country from the fires of racial degradation, and to make white people the sole masters of our country’s destiny” (TK). Maybe even more shocking was society’s response to the KKK reinstating, or lack of response. This said, the jury was completely partial and biased to begin with, it was simply the societal norms. Not only was the jury entirely white, but some jurors were even set upon convicting Carl Lee before he set foot in the courtroom. How can justice possibly exist in the courtroom if the jury is unchanged by evidence?

Nussbaum would argue that the jury must be occupied by “judicious spectators” in order to have a fair, equal trial.  These ideal jurors will not “have such emotions and thoughts as relate to his own personal safety and happiness; in that sense he is without bias and surveys the scene before him with a certain sort of detachment” (Nussbaum 73). Judicious spectators in the jury box would disregard the added complication of race in the case, and see the case for what it really is. When it is finally seen as a trial between two people of equal social standing, there will be justice. Hoffman too sees justice in court is sometimes skewed due to bias. However, Hoffman believes that it is impossible to avoid, so it must simply be adjusted for. Mr. Brigance had a similar idea when proposing a change in court location.  Saying that “failure to properly consider change in venue has been an irreversible decision appealed to the state supreme court” (TK), he knew that the bias of the jury would eliminate his chance of winning the case. The judge denies this request, but had Mr. Brigance successfully changed the court location, the racial bias would still be the same, just in an opposite direction. This would not change the level of unfairness just switch the bias over to the other side. The ideal court scenario would consist of judicious spectators who would put their own personal biases aside and see the case in its pure form, and no longer perceiving it as a trial solely about race.

The final closing speech Jake Brigance makes is incredibly emotional and well delivered. This, I believe. However, the final jury’s decision based on this speech I do not believe. As a final appeal to the jury, he decides to attack them on the only front he has left exposed and unused: empathy. Carl Lee tells Jake that “you are just like all the rest of them. When you look at me, you don’t see a man, you see a black man” (TK). The racism and difference in social class between the defendant and the plaintiff has left the jury unconvinced of his arguments, so Mr. Brigance attacks on the final front. He begins to have the jury feel what exactly Carl Lee felt when killing Cobb and Willard. Brigance proceeds to have the jury set aside all the previous facts and logic that have been presented before them, claiming that he is going to tell the truth. “Now, it is incumbent upon us lawyers not to just talk about the truth, but to actually seek it, to find it, to live it” (TK). This is the truth, but it is presented in an incredibly biased way. As a last appeal to the jury, he decides to tug at the jury’s heartstrings. He then begins to list off the numerous terrible crimes that Tanya suffered and the jury becomes more and more and more emotional. The amount of empathic distress is so intense, that the whole jury, biased as can be, changes their stance on the case. But is this really a fair argument? In this scene, the effect of empathic distress pushes the jurors far from the becoming a judicious spectator. In fact, this is opposite of what Hoffman argues. Yes, this is the truth, but it is extended to such a level that personal, parental emotions take priority of justice. As much as I want try to believe that justice is served from this decision, I cannot. In the eyes of a fair, non-biased court jury this would have been observed as a two awful crimes. The first being two first degree murders, the other a rape and assault. If the murders were a result of the rape and assault, then the murderer must be punished. This empathy is just as negative  a negative factor as the racist southern jury is. Hoffman also states that “when they (most people) witness someone in distress, feel empathically distressed and motivated to help. Thus empathy has been found repeatedly to correlate positively with helping others in distress, even strangers, and negatively with aggression and manipulative behavior” (Hoffman 231). In this case, the empathy feels significantly more manipulative then actually helpful. Although the film might portray it in a positive light, the way Jake Brigance uses empathy completely contradicts Hoffman’s view of empathy and how it should be adjusted for in the courtroom.

I believe that the final ending and verdict of the trial in the film is unjust. The concluding speech made by Mr. Brigance was put in a light to make it seem like the right thing to do, like the just thing to do. In fact, not only the end, but the entire film was focused on justifying the killing of Pete Willard and Billy Ray Cobb, which created a very biased viewpoint for the viewers. The film does in fact not push us to think as a judicious spectator. Instead, we are filled with the anger at the racism, rape and abuse that his daughter suffered. This leads us to connect as many dots as we can to justify the brutal murder of Willard and Cobb. Empathy does not promote justice in the film.

 

Works Cited:

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacy. Regency Enterprises, 1996. DVD.

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

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

 

 

 

Formal Assignment 1 Draft

The film opens with a truck raging down an open dirt road. Two sweaty, drunk, racist, and violent white men are inside, pushing the truck to its weak limits of speed and shock absorption. The reason why I mention their race, is the fact that they are driving in a low income African American neighborhood. As they fly down this road, they make numerous stops at local houses and shops. At each stop they become increasingly drunk and then violent towards all of the neighborhood’s people. This tension culminates during the rape scene, which is raw and brutally portrayed. This is where the film first uses empathy. Designed to have viewers hate the rapists, the film successfully made me believe something I know do not. During the film “A Time to Kill”, no justice exists for Carl Lee or Mr. Cobb and Mr. Willard. If the case is viewed in its purest form without race being a factor, both sides have committed terrible crimes. The only way for justice truly to be served is for both sides to be punished.

              The issue of race has always been an issue in court, especially within recent years. Events like the shooting of Michael Brown, the death of Erick Garner, and even the beating of Rodney King have sparked great separation within society. It seems now that a day does not go by without seeing some form of race conflict in the papers. However, the film does not take place now. The film takes place when the KKK was still active in the south and when income directly correlated with race. This said, race was more intense during the time period the film was set in. The jury was completely impartial to begin with. Not only entirely white, but some even were set upon convicting Carl Lee before he set foot in the courtroom. How can justice possibly exist in the courtroom if the jury is unchanged by evidence?

Nussbaum would argue that the jury needed to be occupied by “judicious spectators”.  These ideal jurors will not “have such emotions and thoughts as relate to his own personal safety and happiness; in that sense he is without bias and surveys the scene before him with a certain sort of detachment” (Nussbaum 73). Judicious spectators in the jury box would disregard the added complication of race in the case, and see the case for what it really is. When it is finally seen as a trial between two people of equal social standing, there will be justice. Hoffman too sees justice in court is sometimes skewed due to bias. However, Hoffman believes that it is impossible to avoid, so it must simply be adjusted for. Mr. Brigance had a similar idea when proposing a change in court location. He knew that the bias of the jury would eliminate his chance of winning the case. But had MR. Brigance successfully changed the court location, the racial bias would still be the same, just in an opposite direction. This would not change the level of unfairness as the court as there is still bias. The ideal court scenario would consist of judicious spectators who would put their own personal biases aside and see the case in its pure form, and no longer perceiving it as a trial solely about race.

The final closing speech Jake Brigance makes is incredibly emotional and well delivered. This, I believe. However, the final jury’s decision based on this speech I do not believe. As a final appeal to the jury, he decides to attack them on the only front he has left exposed and unused: empathy. The racism and difference in social class between the defendant and the plaintiff has left the jury unconvinced of his arguments, so Mr. Brigance attacks on the final front.Now, it is incumbent upon us lawyers not to just talk about the truth, but to actually seek it, to find it, to live it” (TK). As Jake begins to list off the numerous terrible crimes that Tanya suffered, the jury becomes more and more and more emotional. The amount of empathic distress is so intense that the whole jury changes their stance on the case. As much as I want to believe that justice is served from this decision, I cannot. In the eyes of a fair, non-biased court jury this would have been observed as a two awful crimes. The first being two first degree murders, the other a rape and assault. If the murders were a result of the rape and assault, then the murderer must be punished.

I believe that the final ending and verdict of the trial in the film is unjust. The concluding speech made by Mr. Brigance was put in a light to make it seem like the right thing to do, like the just thing to do. In fact, not only the end, but the entire film was focused on justifying the killing of Pete Willard and Billy Ray Cobb, which created a very biased viewpoint for the viewers. The film does in fact not push us to think as a judicious spectator. Instead, we are filled with the anger at the racism, rape and abuse that his daughter suffered. This leads us to connect as many dots as we can to justify the brutal murder of Willard and Cobb. Empathy does not promote justice in the film.

Works Cited:

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacy. Regency Enterprises, 1996. DVD.

Blog Assignment #3

The film opens with a truck raging down an open dirt road. Two sweaty, drunk, racist, and violent white men are inside, pushing the truck to its weak limits of speed and shock absorption. The reason why I mention their race, is the fact that they are driving in a low income African American neighborhood. As they fly down this road, they make numerous stops at local houses and shops. At each stop they become increasingly drunk and then violent towards all of the neighborhood’s people. It is made clear that these drunken men are on the “bad” side, and the neighborhood’s people have done nothing wrong to cause such consequences.

It is in this scene where I believe the film is trying to invoke an apparent sense of empathy. Not only that, but it is trying to invoke a sense of anger and frustration among the audience. I can infer this because the rest of the film is dedicated to showing serving “justice” for Carl Lee. I say justice in quotes because it is a highly debatable topic whether the ending is in fact justice. In order for the viewer to justify this brutal murder, the film was designed for the audience to sympathize with Carl Lee. What might feel like empathy, is not. Empathy in this case is not true empathy, as it simply puts you in Carl Lee’s corner, rather than actually experiencing the event yourself. Therefore, the emotion that the audience feels is not empathy, as they cannot relate based upon experience.

I believe that this emotion of “sympathy “is, at its core, truly anger. The rawness of the opening scene is astounding. There are a lot of close headshots of the Carl Lee’s neighbors when the truck rages down the streets, and in their faces lies anger. The film also choses to exclude music from the rape scene, allowing the scene to feel incredibly real and tense. I felt myself hating these men with every increasing second of the scene. Therefore, I was following the design of the scene, the reason for its existence. Throughout the rest of the film, the I could only imagine the rape when they were in the shop, making it harder to side with their end of the case and convict Carl Lee.

I think that after the initial crime, there is mostly, if not exclusively, all logos in the courtroom. Mr. Brigance doesn’t really recognize that empathy is the key to his argument until his final statement. In fact, I believe there really is no empathy at all in the film until the end of the film when Mr. Brigance presents his closing speech. He opens this speech asking the jurors to close their eyes and “listen to me, listen to yourselves.” (TK) During this moving speech, he asks the jury to imagine them in Carl Lee’s position, and even brings some jurors to tears. It is at this moment that truly secures the jury to his side. Anger begins the film, and empathy concludes it. Although empathy does play a large role in the film “A Time to Kill”, it has no presence in the opening scene depicting the crime.

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacy. Regency Enterprises, 1996. DVD.

Blog Assignment 2: Closing Statement

              At this moment, gentlemen of the jury, I ask you to understand the evidence as presented to you. This courthouse is filled to the brim of judging eyes, yes, but do not let this alarm you. Do not see this case as two white people’s words against a black man. Do not see this case as a calling for social reform. Do not dwell on the color of my defendant’s skin, the social class he was born into. The evidence, in its purest form, shows that a woman was assaulted. Violently, for that matter. It is only a question of who, the evidence presented today has made it quite obvious.

              Bob Ewell, testified that the attacker predominantly led with the left hand. His observation of the choke marks, bruises, and other signs of violence blatantly show this. Rather uncommon, yes, which makes it so important. It is generally inferred that there are less people that are left hand dominant than right hand. Wonderful. Now, when prompted to write a simple request on my notebook here, Mr. Ewell wrote with his left. Quite neatly, too. But that’s not all. Mr. Ewell is not known to be sober often. Mayella Ewell unfortunately knows this too well as she is often the receiving end of this drunken rage. I ask you to think about this. Examine and connect the evidence that is here alone.

              My defendant, Mr. Tom Robison, is in fact the victim of this scenario. No not Mayella Ewell as you might have imagined. Everyday, Mr. Robinson walks past the Ewell’s home. And more often than not, there is a task asked of him. To be a good neighbor, he decides to help Ms. Mayella break down a chifferobe, cut the firewood, mend some . Mr. Robinson only was trying to help as a sensible young man would. Yet when he tried to aid Ms. Ewell, he was yanked from the very chair he was standing on. Then kissed. Not two seconds after Tom Robinson was sprinting out the door.

How can he be at fault for something he never stayed to commit? But this is not the only compelling evidence. My defendant cannot use any motor function in his left hand. The very hand that claimed to beat and strangle Mayella Ewell. All motor control was taken from him when his arm was swallowed up by a machine. If he cannot catch a lightweight object? How is he to strangle and beat a young white woman?

              Gentlemen of the jury, I ask you to consider this evidence. Apply it to the situation. Observe it with colorblindness and an open mind. For god’s sake this is America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. My client is brave. To help a white woman as a black man is a dangerous task. But set my client free. Serve your country by letting the guilty be punished. Let the real culprit of this awful act of violence feel the force of the justice system.

Blog Assignment 1 – …And Justice for Law – A Summary of Hoffman’s “Empathy, Justice, and Law”

              Hoffman writes in “Empathy, Justice, and the Law” his ideal vision of the current justice system and its empathy’s ability to interfere with important decisions. In order for an unflawed and fair system, Hoffman claims that our justice system should be “cleansed of emotion, so that reason and logic can prevail.” Whether it be a juror, judge, police officer, or civilian, the inevitable exposure to various events can skew their opinion with the power of empathy. According to Hoffman, this empathy is inevitable. Not only does it start at “around the age of 2, but it “becomes so intense and penetrates so deeply into one’s motive system that it changes one’s behavior beyond the immediate situation.” In the text, Hoffman provides the example of Stowe’s letter of the emaciating conditions of slavery. This letter goes on to become the second bestselling book (only after the bible) in the 19th century. The empathic distress cut deeply into the hearts of its readers, causing a worldwide response, which processed into a movement towards abolition. A similar positive effect can be observed in the courtroom. In a case of Plessy V. Ferguson, empathy helped create a more just education system. Empathy can also negatively affect a court case, as Hoffman describes. Yes, it helps give the victim a voice in a case, however it can also bombard observers with emotion, something Hoffman calls “empathic over-arousal.” This causes observers to turn away or avoid listening to someone due to the sheer amount of emotion. In conclusion, Hoffman argues that it is impossible to react to decisions without empathy, and therefore it must be addressed and accounted for during any legal setting.

              The term “empathic distress” is scattered throughout Hoffman’s argument, and is used in each section. He uses the term to describe the response that initiates automatically when trying to empathize with someone. Essentially, this term describes almost the exact opposite of empathy. Rather than focusing on empathizing with the victim, the term describes the sometimes negative damage to the person empathizing. This is crucial to the essay as it often taking in perspectives on both sides, one of the victim and the other of the observer empathizing.

Works Cited

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives (2011): 230-54. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.