Expanding Empathy to Non-human Animals

Throughout the past few months, I have been exploring empathy and ethics through discussions, scholarly readings, fictional novels, social media, and other digital media, including images and film. I have given myself ample amounts of time to gain a descent understanding of not only what the terms “empathy” and “ethics” mean, but also how they are used in society.

I tend to hold a non-anthropocentric view of society, allowing society to encompass not only humans, but our non-human animal neighbors as well. I am interested in researching the empirical studies behind empathy (human to human, human to non-human animal, even non-human animal to non-human animal) and using that, along with animal rights ethics (philosophical arguments and theories) to answer the critical question “can empathy be expanded to non-human animals, or is it an inherently human trait?” and also explore subsequent questions such as “if so, what are the pros and cons of expanding empathy to non-human animals?”, “What role does empathy play in defining and shaping our morality, and how does this role change when expanding morality to include non-human animals?”, and “How can empathy for non-human animals be compared and contrasted with other feelings, such as sympathy, or compassion?”.

I plan on setting up a foundational argument explaining empathy and ethics and restricting the scope to purely humans, as to prepare readers for subsequent arguments for expanding both to non-human animals. I have already found many useful scholarly articles both in support of my position, that empathy can and should be expanded to non-human animals, and contrasting my position, offering valuable counter-positions to explore and use to further support my position. I already see an issue with attempting to argue my position on a purely empirical basis, considering the research available is limited and has problems of its own, so I am going to examine current ethical theories (animal rights theories and other theories of morality) to create my own informed philosophical argument. I want to take a more persuasive argument approach, highlighting the benefits of expanding empathy and ethics to non-human animals, to advocate for animal rights, a well-informed belief that I hold strongly.

Potential Scholarly Sources

Aaltola, E. “Skepticism, Empathy, and Animal Suffering.” JOURNAL OF BIOETHICAL INQUIRY 10.4 (2013): 457-67. Web.

Angantyr, M., J. Eklund, and EM Hansen. “A Comparison of Empathy for Humans and Empathy for Animals.” ANTHROZOOS 24.4 (2011): 369-77. Web.

Kasperbauer, T. J. “Rejecting Empathy for Animal Ethics.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18.4 (2015): 817-33. Web.

Kielland, C., et al. “Dairy Farmer Attitudes and Empathy Toward Animals are Associated with Animal Welfare Indicators.” Journal of dairy science 93.7 (2010): 2998-3006. Web.

Prguda, E., and DL Neurnann. “Inter-Human and Animal-Directed Empathy: A Test for Evolutionary Biases in Empathetic Responding.” Behavioural processes 108 (2014): 80-6. Web.

Rothgerber, H., and F. Mican. “Childhood Pet Ownership, Attachment to Pets, and Subsequent Meat Avoidance. the Mediating Role of Empathy Toward Animals.” Appetite 79 (2014): 11-7. Web.

Works Cited

“Empathy You’re Doing it Wrong” Image: http://img.scoop.it/IM8L4-Knr_NFX4YRbcH4XDl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVvK0kTmF0xjctABnaLJIm9

 

 

The Empathy Expedition, Journeying Towards a Deeper Connection

     Figuring out what empathy is and what it does is not as simple as looking to the lexical definition and instantly becoming an expert; it takes exploring empathy through different lenses and using personal experiences to truly get a good grasp as to what this empathy thing is all about. I too am on my own journey exploring empathy. I am looking at how it is currently being used, through the social media platforms that exist in this digital age, how it has been used in the past, through the lens of historical characters in fictional novels and authors of philosophical writings, and all along the way, how I have personally used and seen empathy used, through my every day experiences.

Empathy is like a puzzle- forming connections with others can be tricky.

Empathy is like a puzzle- forming connections with others can be tricky.

Empathy is a puzzle, an inherent compilation of emotion, logic, and experiential learning working together to get the best sense of another persons’ true feelings. One thing I have learned is that no person lacks uniqueness and that fact is not an “empathy stopper”, but rather a huge contributor in the desire to explore empathy. We yearn for connection- something to bond over and share, a place where two (or more) human experiences overlap. We find this through empathy. We take our own experiences, along with the perceived experiences of others and work our way towards a better understanding of one another, leading to a better connection. It is an unavoidable phenomena, for empathy is inherent in us as human beings, but why even try to avoid it in the first place? I shall not take an Ockham’s razor approach to empathy; instead, I will continue the journey towards deeper human connection and work to develop my empathic abilities and shape the way empathy is used in society.

Within this blog, you will find a post referencing Adam Morton, who writes on the differences between empathy and pseudo-empathy and the struggle with trying to empathize with those who commit atrocities and are much unlike ourselves in his work “Empathy for the Devil”. Within this post, I argue that Morton’s guidelines for empathy are far too strict and drawing a hard line between empathy and pseudo-empathy is erroneous. I believe empathy to be a real, attainable and developable skill possessed by human beings, and I argue that there is no such thing as pseudo-empathy, what Morton describes as merely feeling what you think you would feel instead of actually understanding what the other feels, and rather that we all vary in our empathic abilities , but what we feel is not wrong or fake, but a varying degree of connection to the other person depending on these abilities.

Living in a digital world, one may continue the search for deeper connections through the use of technology and wonder whether this is the right thing to do. Is empathy limited to face-to-face interactions, or does it know no bounds? Within this blog, a post about the impact of social media on our empathic abilities will also be found. I discuss the massive social media response to the Paris terror attacks in 2015 and argue that the “digital age” we live in is actually helping us further develop our empathic abilities. I reference a contrasting opinion from cultural analyst Sherry Turkle, who believes that technology is taking away from our empathy and human connections and argue that she is misinterpreting the effects of social media  because it actually exposes us to a much bigger social network that keeps us in the loop and allows us to practice empathy with more people than ever before.

If you are searching for a concrete example of empathy to follow, a post responding to Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman will be found in this blog sequence and I will discuss how rather than accepting that there are concrete examples of empathy, looking at popular “empathy exemplars” through a critical lens will provide more insight into developing your own emphatic abilities. Having read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird prior to Go Set a Watchman, I could not ignore such drastic changes in characters such as Jean Louise Finch and Atticus Finch. I discuss how these character changes impact society in a negative way by first lessening the beneficial impacts brought by To Kill a Mockingbird, which highlighted issues of race and social justice and provided a shining example of how to stand up against it, and then by providing no exceptional lessons in morality from characters in Go Set a Watchman.

Atticus Finch, the  promoter of empathy and beloved protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird is shown to be highly hypocritical in Go Set a Watchman; this change in character brings confusion to those exploring empathy, for the once exemplar of demonstrating empathy can no longer be looked to as such. This portrays the dynamic nature of empathy and is just another example of why empathy deserves a much deeper investigation than looking just to its lexical definition. One empathy exemplar, even one as popular as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, is not enough to grasp a complete understanding of empathy, especially independent of the empathy exemplar’s other actions that may deter us from thinking they deserve to be an empathy exemplar at all. Empathy is dynamic and its roles change depending on the context, but the very purpose of empathy- bringing us eye to eye and allowing us to connect- remains unchanging and should not be limited due to prejudices or any other outside factor.

Empathy has played many roles. In its “philosophical heyday” in the transition from the 19th to 20th century, “empathy had been hailed as the primary means for gaining knowledge of other minds and as the method uniquely suited for the human sciences” (Stueber). Now, empathy is not only explored through philosophical inquiry, but also by psychologists by the same methods used for exploring the empirical sciences (Stueber). We explore empathy in so many different ways; and throughout this blog I explore few of all those that exist. I hope you will find my explorations of use to you and that they will help you continue your journey towards deeper connections .

Works Cited

Atticus Finch Teaches His Daughter Scout the Best Lesson in To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. Perf. Gregory Peck and Mary Badham. Law Offices of John M. Phillips, 2014. Youtube. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

Connected, but Alone? Prod. TED2012. Perf. Sherry Turkle. TED. TED Conferences, LLC, Feb. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

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

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960. Print.

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

Sober, Elliott. “Why Is Simpler Better?” Aeon. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Stueber, Karsten, “Empathy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Images/ Video/ Audio Sources:

Empathy Definition Screenshot: http://www.bing.com/search?q=define+empathy&src=IE-TopResult&FORM=IE11TR&conversationid=81E030EBEF7240BBB3120A9F02F8A136

Human Puzzle Silhouette Image: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=empathy&view=detailv2&&id=0D24FDBA70A6579CB7B4483FB643B98CFE95C180&selectedIndex=132&ccid=aUZz7zzK&simid=608012150208072157&thid=OIP.M694673ef3cca7a8719f9ae2182888d9ao0&ajaxhist=0

Lessening the Societal Impact of a Powerful Novel

Source: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=go+set+a+watchman+atticus&view=detailv2&&id=F424164E852A21260A999D8CF54A962479635DA2&selectedIndex=13&ccid=8qpuU41L&simid=608028758859252312&thid=OIP.Mf2aa6e538d4bbe6c9d089600c54d030do0&ajaxhist=0

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is an influential novel all on its own, but examining the weight of its impact alongside her formerly published novel To Kill a Mockingbird sheds a whole new light on what this publication did to society. There has been a great deal of chatter over Go Set a Watchman since its publication in 2015; some have called it nothing more than a draft of To Kill a Mockingbird and others have said that it should not have been published at all. Regardless, I think we can all agree that there were some major changes in the depictions of characters from To Kill a Mockingbird to Go Set a Watchman, especially in Jean Louise Finch (Scout) and Atticus Finch.

In Go Set a Watchman, Jean Louise is at the ripe age of 26, contrary to her being a child in To Kill a Mockingbird. Being an adult, full of independent views and opinions, makes a huge difference in the reception of the content in the novel. Having a child narrator in To Kill a Mockingbird gives the reader a sense of innocence and even protection from some biases. For example, Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird asks her older brother Jem “Well how do you know we ain’t Negroes?” (Lee 78). On the contrary, Scout is all grown up in Go Set a Watchman and not only is the innocence lost, but she has developed a whole independent life in New York City, separate from Maycomb County, Alabama where both novels are set. She has grown up to be more progressive than both the average citizen of Maycomb County and her own father. Showcasing this is her sarcastic response to the “Black Plague” informational pamphlet she found amongst her father’s other literature: “I especially liked the part where the Negroes, bless their hearts, couldn’t help being inferior to the white race because their skulls are thicker and their brain-pans shallower—whatever that means—so we must all be very kind to them and not let them do anything to hurt themselves and keep them in their places.” (Lee 8.26). She obviously has her own opinions on race and this was the first instance where the realization of a huge differing in opinions between Scout and her father Atticus happened, by both Scout and the readers who “knew” Atticus Finch from reading To Kill a Mockingbird prior to Go Set a Watchman.

To Kill a Mockingbird played an important role in society. It portrayed a specific, but not uncommon occurrence of racial prejudice and gave readers an inspirational protagonist, Atticus Finch, who stood up against this and paved the way for others to do the same. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel highlighted the issues with racism and social injustice and proved worthy of entering, and staying a part of many United States public schools’ curriculums. You can view a recent ABC news report on the topic here (Shapiro). However, now Atticus our hero complies with the racial prejudices that exists 20 years down the road in Go Set a Watchman instead of standing up against them and Scout, who obviously takes issue with this is left confused and also takes no significant steps towards eliminating this racial prejudice. The novel has believed criticism for this, with one reviewer saying “Atticus fraternizes with segregationists and maintains that blacks and whites in Maycomb, Alabama are not ready for desegregation” (Galehouse). Galehouse, in her review of Go Set a Watchmen includes racist quotes from Atticus such as “Jean Louise, have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia?…”You realize that our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that?” (Galehouse). Atticus, near the end of the novel is even caught saying “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” (Lee 17.102). The same man, promoting empathy and equality in To Kill a Mockingbird, becomes nothing more than a hypocrite as we get to know him better. Go Set a Watchman provides no exceptional lessons in morality and it even takes away from those learned in To Kill a Mockingbird by turning our beloved protagonist into an intolerant racist.

Works Cited

Franklin, Mary Alice. “Go Set a Watchman: A Draft, Not a Novel.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 16 July 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Galehouse, Maggie. “Racist Rants from Atticus in ‘Go Set a Watchman'” Houston Chronicle. Hearst Newspapers, LLC, 15 July 2015. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Giraldi, William. “Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Should Not Have Been Published.” New Republic. New Republic, 16 July 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

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

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960. Print.

Shapiro, Emily. “Harper Lee: The Impact of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird'” ABC News. ABC News Network, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Atticus Quote Image: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=go+set+a+watchman+atticus&view=detailv2&&id=F424164E852A21260A999D8CF54A962479635DA2&selectedIndex=13&ccid=8qpuU41L&simid=608028758859252312&thid=OIP.Mf2aa6e538d4bbe6c9d089600c54d030do0&ajaxhist=0

Social Media and Our Growing Empathic Abilities

Having grown up in the digital age, I cannot imagine a world without social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat- these are all digital social networks I use on a daily basis; they are a medium, through which I can connect with those who are not physically present at the time.

There is a lot of buzz about the effects of social media use on society. We, as humans, are social creatures and our views on social media use vary widely. For example, cultural analyst Sherry Turkle believes that we have taken social media use way too far, saying in her TED talk “Connected, but Alone?” (see below) that it is leading to “pretend empathy”, and that “we expect more from technology and less from each other” (Turkle). On the other hand, Elizabeth Tenety writes for the Washington Post that “social media may contribute to the social good” and that social media allows for “new ways to show our empathy” (Tenety).

Both valid arguments, however, I have to agree more with Tenety because what she wrote aligns much more with what I have actually experienced through social media use. Take the 2015 Paris terror attacks for example. In the event of such a terrible crisis, people from all over the world came together to show their support for Paris. A glimpse of this is shown in a video put together by BBC News. Like never before, we are in the loop about what is going on in our world. Although I was not in Paris during the time of the attacks, I was able to involve myself and show support through social media use. On Facebook, I was able to change my profile picture temporarily to show support for Paris, on twitter I could share hashtags, such as #Prayers4Paris, and on Instagram I could share photographs and caption them with similar hashtags to raise awareness and show my support. Without social media, I would have been out of the loop.

Tenety describes this awareness of all things-good and bad- going on in our world as our extended social network and notes that with bigger social networks, comes more social responsibility. She also notes that this added social responsibility could be helping us become better friends and it is empowering us to make a difference in the world (Tenet). Although some may argue that showing support through social media does not make a real difference, I argue that the effects may be indirect, but overall having people in the loop more than ever before can only lead to more overall good. Not everyone is expected to stop their lives completely in the face of a crisis half-way across the world. Social media allows us to do something, rather than nothing at all, and exposing us to what is actually happening allows us to build our empathic abilities.

Another way social media helps build empathy is through crowd funding. Even if I am unable to spend my time volunteering, I can donate money and share links to donation pages so others can donate as well. We see more and more examples of people going through personal hardships and it is easier than ever before to empathize and do something about it. In a year long study of trust and empathy in project success, even when the goal was not met through crowd funding the “overwhelming generosity of the people who did fund projects was usually reported as surprising and moving for the people who ran the campaigns” (“A Taxonomy of…”). It may even be easier to reach out for help on social media for some people. The app Instagram even came out with a new feature that lets you anonymously and without confrontation report a post when you feel like someone is crying out for help, and Instagram will offer support to that person.

Social media is a tool for humans made by humans, therefore we can fine-tune it to help build our empathy on a larger scale. Already, we can show support and raise awareness through social media, as we have seen during the Paris terror attacks last year, and everyday advancements are being made to help us help each other more and more. We are forming connections we would have never had the chance to in the past, with people we may have never crossed paths with if it were not for social media. We are exposed to a wider range of unique individuals, and this exposure helps us empathize better with different and more people.

Works Cited

“A Taxonomy of UK Crowdfunding and Examination of the Potential of Trust and Empathy in Project Success.” EMoTICON Network. WordPress, 06 June 2016. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Connected, but Alone? Prod. TED2012. Perf. Sherry Turkle. TED. TED Conferences, LLC, Feb. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Tenety, Elizabeth. “The Digital World Is Warmer than You Think. Here’s How Social Media Builds Empathy.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.

Turkle, Sherry. “Transcript of “Connected, but Alone?”” TED. TED Conferences, LLC, Apr. 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.

Thompson, Marcus. “Paris Attacks: Social Media Response.” BBC News. BBC News, 15 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.

 

 

Unattainable Empathy Under Morton’s Strict Guidelines

In Morton’s essay “Empathy for the Devil”, the overarching theme is how empathy plays a role in committing atrocities. He argues that empathy may be harder to define than we think and that the emotion we feel when attempting to empathize with people who have committed atrocities is skewed due to our lack of the ability to truly understand. He, however, defines empathy as representing the other persons’ emotions in your mind and having an accurate perception, rather than truly feeling what they feel. He argues that people often blow things out of proportion which leads to pseudo-empathy, a term he defines as when you think you are understanding what someone else feels, but really you are just feeling what you think you would feel, based on skewed perceptions of the situation. Replacing rage with annoyance because they are in the same class of anger is one of the ways pseudo-empathy comes into play, according to Morton. He argues that empathetic understanding gives us the how, rather than why a person could do what they did and that it is only easy to empathize in ordinary situations, so when someone commits an atrocity we neither want to be able to empathize with them nor do we think of ourselves as capable of empathizing with them. He references Adam Smith, and how he defines sympathy and empathy to show how when we think that the other person responds to a situation in the same way we would, we feel empathy, and if not we have a hard time with this. He also references the Milgram experiment and ideas from Hume for further support of his argument.

One thing that I am uneasy about in Morton’s argument is that our skewed perceptions are what inhibit us from empathizing with those who commit atrocities. If empathy is unattainable without accurate perceptions, I argue that empathy is an unattainable goal entirely. For example, a study of empathy in people with congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) has shown that “a normal personal experience of pain is not necessarily required for perceiving and feeling empathy for others’ pain” (Danziger et al.). If people who literally cannot experience pain are able to empathize with others’ pain, what is stopping us from being able to empathize with those that have committed atrocities? It may be that Morton has too strict a definition of empathy or a misunderstanding of the use of empathy in the real world. Being the individuals that we are, our perspectives differ greatly and I do not believe that this restricts us from being able to empathize with others. However, I do agree with Morton on the point that it is easier to empathize with actions we have performed in the past ourselves, or those we could see ourselves performing rather than those we have never performed, nor wish to. In the aforementioned study, researchers also found that due to the lack of “functional somatic resonance mechanisms shaped by previous pain experiences, others’ pain might be greatly underestimated”, meaning that there is a possibility that skewed perceptions can make it more difficult to empathize (Danziger et al.). However, the study also showed that if “…the observer is endowed with sufficient empathic abilities to fully acknowledge the suffering experience of others in spite of his own insensitivity” this could allow for empathy (Danziger et al.). Therefore, having skewed perceptions is not the end-all for our empathetic abilities.

In light of this information, one may reconsider Morton’s argument in “Empathy for the Devil” and find that we do not need such strict guidelines for empathy. His argument for a difference between empathy and pseudo-empathy does not hold, due to the fact that we all have individualistic perceptions. With such strict guidelines, all empathy we feel would actually be considered pseudo-empathy and real empathy would only be a theoretical, unattainable concept. There may be different degrees to which one can feel empathy, based on personal experiences and abilities, but I do not believe in drawing a hard line between real empathy and pseudo-empathy based on inaccurate perceptions.

Works Cited

Danziger, Nicolas, Kenneth M. Prkachin, and Jean-Claude Willer. “Is Pain the Price of Empathy? the Perception of Others’ Pain in Patients with Congenital Insensitivity to Pain.” Brain : a journal of neurology 129.Pt 9 (2006): 2494-507. Web.

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

Formal Assignment One: Justice Prevailed

What does it mean to receive justice? Is justice always the same for everyone? How big of a role should our emotion play when making decisions as a juror? In the case of Carl Lee Hailey in the popular 1996 film A Time to Kill, I cannot help but ask myself these questions. In the film, Carl Lee, a black man, shoots and kills the two white men who raped his ten-

year-old daughter Tonya inside the courthouse as they were headed to their preliminary hearing. Carl Lee is found not guilty by the jury when his own case hits the courthouse, even though many witnessed the event and he and his lawyer, Jake Brigance, decided to use the insanity plea, which according to the film only works a small percentage of the time (TK). I believe this unexpected decision by the jurors was due to the invocation of empathy by Jake Brigance in his closing argument (see below) and I think he did exactly what had to be done to promote justice in this case and more importantly, in the world outside of this case. I will first argue for why I believe justice was served in A Time to Kill and I will follow with why I believe empathy ultimately leads to the most just decision in not only the case of Carl Lee Hailey, but also those beyond this case.

Justice, could be taken as synonymous with fairness, is what we strive to base our United States legal system on. However, our legal system is not perfect and there are many crucial aspects to making a just decision. In a matter of fact sense, Carl Lee Hailey did shoot and kill two men in A Time to Kill. There was no denial of this fact just as there was no denial of the fact that the two men he killed brutally raped his daughter Tonya. The time period portrayed in the film was home to an unjust legal system that was prejudice towards black people and Carl Lee Hailey knew that. Uncertain that the men who raped his daughter would face any punishment at all, he sought justice for his daughter himself and succeeded. He felt that the only way to get justice was this way and although death is the harshest punishment of all, Carl Lee Hailey wanted to be sure these men would never be able to commit such atrocities again. If Carl Lee Hailey were to have come across these men in action and shot them to protect Tonya in the moment, there would be no question as to whether or not what he did was justified. When he came to trial for this action, he knew that the legal system remained unchanged and he and his lawyer did all that they could to preserve justice while working within the current system.

He plead insanity, but what he did was logical and just not only for his own family, but the entire community. Right outside the courthouse, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was busy targeting all those promoting freedom for Carl Lee, including his lawyer, Jake, and the peaceful protestors. It was almost as if a guilty charge for Carl Lee Hailey meant the KKK would win, segregation would be considered right in society, and that white men were allowed to rape as long as their victims were black. The scope of the impact this case carried was widespread and justice was maintained through finding Carl Lee not guilty. The impact on the community could be seen almost instantly, with the KKK’s presence vanishing and the arrest of a white police officer involved with the KKK by a black sheriff as soon as court let out. Later, Jake even brought his own daughter to play with Tonya, Carl Lee’s daughter, at a cookout celebrating Carl Lee’s freedom. Justice now meant fairness for all people, not just white people, and society was immediately on the move towards more integration.

Jake Brigance used the power of empathy to persuade the jurors in the case of Carl Lee. With the odds stacked up against him, he knew an appeal to pathos (emotion) would be the strongest way to persuade them to free him. The entire legal process revolves around empathy, from picking jurors that can easily empathize with the defendant to using the most compelling arguments to persuade jurors to see things the defendant’s way. According to Martin L. Hoffman in his work Empathy, Justice, and the Law, empathy is inherent in us as human beings and therefore its involvement in law is unavoidable (238). Defining empathy can get confusing, but when I speak of the involvement of empathy in A Time to Kill, I speak of Hoffman’s definition of affective empathy: “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). Hoffman sees the potential of empathy in law, but points out that there are problems with using empathy, such as inherent biases, and he believes a possible solution would be better training in recognizing these biases and working to minimize their effects (254). However, I believe that empathy will always include biases and situations must be shown in the right light to reveal justice, as Jake succeeded in with his closing argument. The jurors could not put themselves in Carl Lee’s shoes prior to Jake’s vivid description of Tonya’s attac

k and closing words “now imagine she’s white” (TK). The jurors were there throughout the case and the evidence was not compelling enough to believe Carl Lee Hailey was insane. They instead needed light shown on the idea that the law is not perfect and justice would prevail only by freeing Carl Lee, which is exactly where empathy came into play. The jurors had to look beyond the strictness of law and beyond this case alone to see that. This single decision, guided by the invocation of empathy, preserved justice in the Hailey family and in the entire community.

Beyond this case, the world was changed and it was apparent that following the law is not the only way to preserve justice. This decision showed that we are all human and must be able to see things from each other’s perspectives, regardless of our race. Justice is a goal that has to be created through social interaction and to get society on Carl Lee Hailey’s side, Jake used the most powerful tool- empathy. This was not wrong or unjust at all; it was actually the most just thing he could have done. The unjust legal system of the time got one step closer to becoming just for everyone rather than remaining unchanged, strict, and prejudiced. Our legal system will never be perfect, but at least there will always be a way to promote progress towards justice, and that, as we have seen, is through the invocation of empathy.

 

Works Cited

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Warner Bros., 1996. Web (Blackboard). 25 Sept. 2016.

Best Closing Statement Ever. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey. Youtube. Msl83db, 3 Oct. 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKN1K2He8yg>.

Hoffman, Martin L. “14 Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. N.p.: n.p., 2011. 230+. Oxford Scholarship, Jan. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

 

Justice Prevailed!

What does it mean to receive justice? Is justice always the same for everyone? How big of a role should our emotion play when making decisions as a juror? In the case of Carl Lee Hailey in the popular 1996 film A Time to Kill, I cannot help but ask myself these questions. In the film, Carl Lee, a black man, shoots and kills the two white men who raped his ten-year-old daughter Tonya inside the courthouse as they were headed to their preliminary hearing. Carl Lee is found not guilty by the jury when his own case hits the courthouse, even though many witnessed the event and he and his lawyer, Jake Brigance, decided to use the insanity plea, which according to the film only works a small percentage of the time (TK). I believe this unexpected decision by the jurors was due to the invocation of empathy by Jake Brigance in his closing argument (see below) and I think he did exactly what had to be done to promote justice in this case and more importantly, in the world outside of this case. I will first argue for why I believe justice was served in A Time to Kill and I will follow with why I believe empathy leads to the most just decision in the case of Carl Lee Hailey.

INSERT VIDEO HERE (need help figuring out how to do this…)

Justice, could be taken as synonymous with fairness, is what we strive to base our United States legal system on. However, our legal system is not perfect and there are many crucial aspects to making a just decision. In a matter of fact sense, Carl Lee Hailey did shoot and kill two men in A Time to Kill. There was no denial of this fact just as there was no denial of the fact that the two men he killed brutally raped his daughter Tonya. The time period portrayed in the film was home to an unjust legal system that was prejudice towards black people and Carl Lee Hailey knew that. Uncertain that the men who raped his daughter would face any punishment at all, he sought justice for his daughter himself and succeeded. He felt that the only way to get justice was this way and although death is the harshest punishment of all, Carl Lee Hailey wanted to be sure these men would never be able to commit such atrocities again. He plead insanity, but what he did was logical and just not only for his own family, but the entire community. If Carl Lee Hailey were to have come across these men in action and shot them to protect Tonya in the moment, there would be no question as to whether or not what he did was justified. When he came to trial for this action, he knew that the legal system remained unchanged and he and his lawyer did all that they could to preserve justice while working within the current system.

 

Jake Brigance used the power of empathy to persuade the jurors in the case of Carl Lee. With the odds stacked up against him, he knew an appeal to pathos, or emotion, would be the strongest way to persuade them to free Carl Lee. The entire legal process revolves around empathy, from picking jurors that can easily empathize with the defendant to using the most compelling arguments to persuade jurors to see things the defendant’s way. According to Martin L. Hoffman in his work Empathy, Justice, and the Law, empathy is inherent in us as human beings and therefore its involvement in law is unavoidable (238). Defining empathy can get confusing, but when I speak of the involvement of empathy in A Time to Kill, I speak of Hoffman’s definition of affective empathy: “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). Hoffman points out that there are problems with using empathy in law, such as inherent biases, and he believes a possible solution would be better training in recognizing these biases and working to minimize their effects, but I believe that empathy will always include biases and situations must be shown in the right light to reveal justice, as Jake Brigance succeeded in with his closing argument (254). The jurors could not put themselves in Carl Lee Hailey’s shoes prior to Jake’s vivid description of Tonya’s attack and closing words “now imagine she’s white” (TK). The jurors were there throughout the case and the evidence was not compelling enough to believe Carl Lee Hailey was insane and did not know what he was doing was wrong under the law. They instead needed light shown on the idea that the law is not perfect and justice would prevail only by freeing Carl Lee, which is exactly where empathy came into play. The jurors had to look beyond the strictness of law and beyond this case alone to see that justice would prevail only by allowing Carl Lee Hailey’s actions to go unpunished. This single decision, guided by the invocation of empathy, preserved justice in the Hailey family and in the entire community.

Beyond this case, the world was changed and it was apparent that following the law is not the only way to preserve justice. With race riots and protesting going on right outside the courthouse, this decision showed that we are all human and must be able to see things from each other’s perspectives, regardless of our race. Justice is a goal that has to be created through social interaction and to get society on Carl Lee Hailey’s side, Jake Brigance used the most powerful tool- empathy. This was not wrong or unjust at all; it was actually the most just thing that could have been done at the time. The unjust legal system of the time would go on to change and become just for everyone instead of remaining prejudiced. Our legal system will never be perfect, but at least there will always be a way to promote progress towards justice, and that, as we have seen, is through the invocation of empathy.

Works Cited

Hoffman, Martin L. “14 Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. N.p.: n.p., 2011. 230+. Oxford Scholarship, Jan. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Warner Bros., 1996. Web (Blackboard). 25 Sept. 2016.

Invoking Empathy in the Viewer

In the 1996 film A Time to Kill, there are many instances in which the viewer may find themselves having strong emotional reactions. One time in particular is during the rape of a ten year old black girl, Tonya, by two white men. During this scene, fairly early on in the film, the viewer is taken into Tonya’s perspective and it is as if we are all Tonya during that horrid time. We see the two mens’ faces as if they were looking down on us and we see Tonya’s tied up limbs as if they were our own. This scene invokes a strong sense of empathy in the viewer and in turn may cause the viewer to become personally invested in making sure Tonya receives the justice she deserves.

It was important to put viewers in Tonya’s shoes during the attack to develop a strong antagonist in the film. After viewing Tonya’s attack from her perspective, it would be extremely difficult to wish these two men well and hope that they get away with what they did to poor Tonya; instead, most viewers would wish for justice and hope the men will be punished for their actions. The only drastic difference between viewers would be the punishment each individual finds appropriate for the men. This could range from a slap on the wrist to a death sentence, but some form of punishment is required for a satisfied viewer.

The invocation of empathy in this scene is real and it comes with other emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sadness. When it comes time for the two men face the consequences of their actions in a court of law, Tonya’s father Carl Lee Hailey takes justice into his own hands and shoots the two men down right there in the courthouse. For some viewers, this was the appropriate punishment and this scene satisfied their craving for justice. For others, this was too extreme of a punishment and Carl Lee became somewhat of an antagonist in the film. As far as the intentions of the film go, I believe Carl Lee is actually meant to be portrayed as the protagonist and hero of the film, which thickens the plot and makes the viewer question their ideas of what is right and what is wrong. The invocation of empathy during Tonya’s attack is purposeful and makes the viewer ask themselves the question “what would I want to happen to those men if they did that to me?”.

Personally, I was deeply satisfied as a viewer when Carl Lee Hailey was found not guilty for his actions. Something the film did not make clear was Tonya’s reaction to this decision. I can only assume that she was happy to have her father, her protector, home and not dead or in jail, but maybe she felt responsible, even guilty, for the two men whose lives were taken. This question is in my head because the film invoked real empathy in me during Tonya’s attack and caused me to stay in her shoes throughout the film and thereafter. Seeing her attack from the perspective of the two men who raped her would have invoked strong emotions as well, but it would have been harder to empathize with Tonya. It was critical for this scene to be from the victim’s perspective.

Works Cited

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Warner Bros., 1996. Web(Blackboard). 18 Sept. 2016.

Blog Two: Saving Tom Robinson and Changing the World (Atticus Finch’s closing argument revamped)

     Gentlemen of the jury, I stand in front of you today as your peer. I, like you, am a member of this community concerned about Mayella Ewell’s safety and demand justice be served. However, the justice I am demanding stretches further than the one incident we are discussing in this courtroom; I demand justice for all, including our neighbors who we tend not to acknowledge as our neighbors. Tom Robinson is our neighbor- he is a member of this community and has been accused of hurting Mayella when he was helping her, as any good neighbor would do. The color of Tom’s skin does not exclude him as a beneficial member of our community and it surely does not make him responsible for wiping up the mess that has been made.

*Looks towards Mayella*

     I cannot say that I would do or say anything different if I were in Mayella’s shoes. With a community so certain that a mere skin pigmentation makes one evil and unaccepted, how could she let the town believe she tempted poor Tom? The difference still is that I could not have let guilt take me this far. Fueled and feared over threats from her father, Bob Ewell, Mayella is attempting to sacrifice another human being’s life to save her own. She should not feel like she has to do this, therefore, we should not allow it.

     We have all been here for this trial. You gentlemen heard both sides of this story with the same human ears that I posses myself and you know that there is not a piece of evidence worthy of charging this man. All Tom offered was a helping hand- his only good one, at that- and we cannot let him go down for this. If you cannot look past your personal emotions and prejudices to make a reasonable decision in this case, you should not have allowed yourself to be a part of this. If you are unwilling to stand up for what is right, in fear of social consequences, you should not be a member of this jury. And if you came here knowing you would convict Tom, no matter how the trial went, justice will never be served…progress will never be made.

     The Ewells’ testimonies never lined up. You do not have to remember the truth; truth comes naturally and the expression of aggression and hysteria, as Mayella has shown during questioning, comes from her guilt over the lies she has told. The fact that Tom can still feel pity for her is astonishing to us all, and he is a brave man for that. We may not believe it is right for Tom to feel sorry for Mayella, but all he ever did was help her out of the kindness within himself. Stubbornness and ignorance cannot right any wrongs. Knowledge, reason, and justice are what will make this right. I know I am not alone; we share these values and though our approaches may be different, we ultimately desire the same outcome. Not everything can be swept under the rug and we cannot shy away from the reality of the situation. A man’s entire life is at stake here. Now, imagine if that were you- born into the wrong situation. We are all Tom Robinson. It should have never come to this, but now is the time to right the wrongs. Thank you, gentlemen of the jury.

Works Cited

To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. By Horton Foote. Perf. Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Phillip Alford. Universal-International, 1962. Web (Netflix). 13 Sept. 2016.

Blog One: “Empathy, Justice, and the Law” By Martin L. Hoffman

     Hoffman, in his work “Empathy, Justice, and the Law”, describes his theory on empathy and what he believes its role is in our American legal system. He starts by clearly defining two types of empathy (cognitive and affective) and describing the development of empathy in humans. He focuses on the ways empathic distress can be aroused and be transformed into different feelings, depending on the situation at hand. One of those feelings in particular is called “empathic feeling of injustice”, described as the feeling resulting from a victim being treated unfairly. Hoffman believes this empathic feeling of injustice to be extremely relevant when it comes to the law due to its action-motivating properties as showcased throughout history. He gives many examples of those who have used this empathic feeling of injustice to change laws and motivate court room decisions such as Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote the historical anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Yale Kamisar, who wrote articles opposing harsh police interrogation procedures which helped decide a supreme court decision leading to the accused having the right to remain silent and have a lawyer present during interrogation. He gives other, specific court-case examples, such as Roe v. Wade, where empathy has played a role in the decisions, as well as in society subsequent to those decisions. Ultimately, he notes that empathetic motivation has been shown to exist in court-case decisions and law making and although empathy may be a silent motive whereas other times it is on the forefront of the decision making, Hoffman does not deny the fragility and bias that coincide with all empathy in law. Because of this, he concludes with an argument in favor of tying empathy to moral principles in order to reduce biases and gives merit to the idea of expanding our effort to overcoming the biases of empathy in law. Hoffman’s psychological background plays an important role in his theory, as well as the specific language he used throughout “Empathy, Justice, and the Law”.

      For example, one term in particular that stands out and could be misinterpreted from a non-psychological perspective is “witnessing”. Rather than just seeing something happen, Hoffman uses the term to describe the phenomenon of someone feeling such strong empathy that they are motivated to make a change. For example, Hoffman uses the term to strengthen his argument that empathy inevitably plays a role in law by saying “…empathy with victim groups and witnessing can be crucial links between empathy and law…” (237). Context is very important for Hoffman’s use of the term “witnessing”, especially because an important characteristic of the term is that it goes beyond the present situation and creates long-term motivation to act on a victim’s behalf, due to such a strong feeling of empathy. Contrary to witnessing an event briefly and testifying, the witnessing Hoffman refers to may be life-long and can be much more personally taxing. Providing a context-specific definition was necessary to avoid confusion and to ensure its inclusion strengthened, rather than weakened his argument.

Works Cited

Hoffman, Martin L. “14 Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. N.p.: n.p., 2011. 230+. Oxford Scholarship, Jan. 2012. Web. 7 Sept. 2016.