Compare and prevent bullies from school to workplace

Bullying happens everywhere and is closely related to the lack of empathy. Without understanding how others feel, bullying, no matter in school and workplace may threat people’s health mentally and physically. For cases of school bullying, many have been heated debate in China with more and more bullying happening and spread on social media, which invokes parents’ concern about the reason behind bullying. What caused the lack of empathy? What are the bullies seeking to achieve behind their actions? For cases of workplace bullying, the most common example happens due to racial and gender discrimintation. While I have heard of others’ who are yellow skinned or females being unfairly treated due to racial and gender discrimination, and bullied at in workplace, I hope to find the reasons for the loss of empathy for adulthood. Based on those two circumstances listed above, I hope to compare the reasons for empathy loss in school settings and workplace. In this way, my question will be what are the reasons for the lack of empathy concerning bullies from school to workplace and how we can prevent it.

Potential scholarly sources:

Allemand, Mathias, Andrea E. Steiger, and Helmut A. Fend. “Empathy Development in Adolescence Predicts Social Competencies in Adulthood.” Journal of Personality, vol. 83, no. 2, 2015., pp. 229-241doi:10.1111/jopy.12098.

Greimel, E., et al. “Development of Neural Correlates of Empathy from Childhood to Early Adulthood: An fMRI Study in Boys and Adult Men.” JOURNAL OF NEURAL TRANSMISSION, vol. 117, no. 6, 2010., pp. 781-791doi:10.1007/s00702-010-0404-9.

Bailey, PE, JD Henry, and W. Von Hippel. “Empathy and Social Functioning in Late Adulthood.” AGING & MENTAL HEALTH, vol. 12, no. 4, 2008., pp. 499-503doi:10.1080/13607860802224243.

Sahin, M. “An Investigation into the Efficiency of Empathy Training Program on Preventing Bullying in Primary Schools.” CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES REVIEW, vol. 34, no. 7, 2012., pp. 1325-1330doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.03.013.

Gagnon, Chantal M. Bullying in Schools: The Role of Empathy, Temperament, and Emotion Regulation, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2012.

Garcia-Ayala, A., et al. “The Role of Psychological Detachment and Empathy in the Relationship between Target and Perpetrator in Workplace Bullying Situations.” REVISTA DE PSICOLOGIA SOCIAL, vol. 29, no. 2, 2014., pp. 213-234doi:10.1080/02134748.2014.918824.

Limitations of empathy in both real and virtual life

Empathy, a humane ability to recognize thoughts and feelings within another conscious being, is beneficial to all parties in most social contexts. However, ideal empathy only occurs when the empathizer is able to fully inherit all the feelings and experiences of others while in real life, this is hard to be achieved. Various factors such as unfamiliarity with others, deficiency of information and difference of referents will unconsciously lead to people’s failure of identification with another’s emotional state. Such kind of empathy’s drawbacks, though sometimes wisely guides people to make moral choices, deserves people’s attention to perform empathy appropriately. In my introduction to blog series, I am going to shed light on empathy’s limitations from real life to virtual world, and explain how they come into effect.

 

 

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Empathy’s dependence on referents

Generally speaking, empathy’s limitation lies mostly in its dependence on empathizer’s referents. Since empathizer can never directly know what the object is thinking about, he only infers the object’s inner state. And to achieve this, Dan H. Buie contends that “The empathizer finds a referent within his own mind, a referent that could, if expressed, reasonably be manifested by cues similar to those he observed in object”. According to the post “Changes and continuities in Atticus’s characters”, this limitation is most notably illustrated through Jean Louise’s transition from failing to empathize with Atticus, to being softened at the end of the novel(GSAW). Then what on earth causes this transition? And what is the reason behind the complete change of her attitude? According to the post, when Jean was young, Atticus defends Tom Robinson by declaring, “In courts, all we are legally equal.”(TKMB) Although Tom Robinson was finally died of racial discrimination, Atticus’s spirit of searching for justice and equality, in the eye of little Jean Louis, was admirable and irreplaceable. At the same time, the heroic figure of Atticus is built in Jean’s heart, which also constituted the referent she held then. However, her lack of empathy towards Atticus happens when she found that she could no more find similar referent to empathize with him. The idolized figure to fight against racists is now replaced by the one who attends Citizen’s Council and opposes the efforts of NAACP, while the referent, as what she believed Atticus should be, still remains. Then why she softened at the end of the novel? According to the post, during her time in Maycomb, she gradually realized that the admirable roles in her heart, Uncle Jack and Atticus, are revealed to be not the perfect ones as she expected them to be. Atticus does share some thoughts of a racist. Jack is not as mild as she thought who hit her almost to pass out. Along with her realization, her referent of Atticus unconsciously changes from a sparkling figure built from childhood to a flawed human seen from an adult’s perspective. If we take all these discussed above to think about Jean’s transition, it is not hard to understand the reason why Jean changes from being angry to feeling softened.

 

 

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In-group Bias

Apart from empathizer’s inference based on referents, people also fails to empathize because of the in-group preference of empathy. In literary works, such kind of preference is easily to be ignored when scholars try to find approaches to empathizing with devils. Adam Morton, who contends that overcoming the barriers of morality will help people empathize with devils, further to better empathize with ordinary issues, is one of them. According to the post “What attitude should we hold towards empathy for atrocities?”, he describes this morality-limited empathy as “we want to take empathy as easy, to ease everyday interaction, and we want to take it as difficult, to keep a distance between us and those we despise.” And “a deeper understanding, and a more solid empathy, for some very ordinary actions” will be achieved if we are able to empathize with atrocities. However, to empathize with evil-doers is not as simple as his reasoning seems to be. Just as Fuchsman, Ken indicated, “Empathy is most likely to emerge with those with whom we are familiar, those that are an ‘us’”. This means that people tend to empathize with those who are in the “same” group. To satisfy this requirement, the pre-condition to empathize with devils requires the empathizer to be in the same group as the object, which in this case, is to be a group member of “devil communities”. To conclude, people’s morality, though leads to people’s failure of empathy, prevents them from becoming evil-doers and helps them empathize with “similar” moral people. Even if the limitation performs a good role to benefit social justice here, it still deserves our concern when in multicultural social contexts, people might be affected by empathy’s in-group limitation through decision-making, leading to partial and biased choices.

 

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Cyber bullying online

In online community, however, based on its anonymous nature, such kind of in-group limitation may exaggerate people’s empathy on social media, leading to extreme reactions.  According to the post “Demeaning words online–Exaggerated empathy’s limitation protected by anonymous mask”, it addresses the question why people empathize more for Sun Yang while leading to lack of empathy for Mack Horton. With regard to the post, Mack Horton’s remark of Sun Yang as “drug cheater” in interview, which is uploaded later online, has brought huge outpourings of rage towards him on social media. People condemned Mack Horton as violating Olympic spirits and lacking of respect towards competitors. The truth is, according to the post, Sun was using a medication for his heart problem, but unfortunately, it contained a substance which had just been banned as a new type of stimulant while related departments have not updated that rule. Objectively speaking, nothing should be regarded as wrong on the side of Mack since Sun did take banned medicine. Meanwhile, on the side of Sun, he should not be labelled as “Drug Cheat” regarding that the nature of his violation should be regarded as an accident instead of an intended action. According to the post, the in-group preference was exaggerated under the protection of anonymous “mask” so that social media users can express their ideas, even in extremely demeaning words, without having to be responsible. With the development of social media moving forward, such kind of empathy preference is affecting more and more social media users. And more importantly, such kind of exaggerated, irresponsible or even illegal empathy pouring may sometimes result in severer consequence than that in real life.

 

In a word, the involvement of empathy did help people to live and work morally, but we should still be aware of the limitations brought by. The very nature of empathy, specifically, its dependence on referents and in-group preference in both real and virtual life deserves people concern while we are seeking for a better way to apply and perform empathy to consolidate interpersonal relationships and pursue social justice.

Work Cited:

Fuchsman, Ken. “Empathy and Humanity.” The Journal of psychohistory, vol. 42, no. 3, 2015., pp. 176.

 

Buie, D. H. “Empathy: Its Nature and Limitations.” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, vol. 29, no. 2, 1981., pp. 281.

 

Changes and continuities in Atticus’s characters

From To Kill A Mocking Bird to Go Set A Watchman, there are both continuities and changes within Atticus’s character. As it is portrayed in To Kill A Mocking Bird, Atticus’s persistence on defending Tom Robinson makes him a heroic figure. His pursue for justice, for color-blindness and for racial equality consolidates his character of fairness in Jean’s heart. However, the change of Atticus’s character from a supporter for racial equality to a backer of racial discrimination leaves great shock to both Jean Louise and readers. In Go Set A Watchman, Jean’s transition from anger to softness deserves readers’s thinking about the reason behind. And from my perspective, I believe the change of Jean’s referents shall account for why she failed to empathize with Atticus at start and softened in the end, becoming her own watchman. In my article, I am going to shed light on changes and continuities in Atticus’s characters and explain Jean’s transition.

 

Obviously, Atticus’s stance on the rights of the black changes significantly from To Kill A Mocking Bird to Go Set A Watchman, but his responsible role of father continues. In To Kill A Mocking Bird, Atticus defends Tom Robinson by declaring, “In courts, all we are legally equal.” Although Tom Robinson was finally died of racial discrimination, Atticus’s spirit of searching for justice and equality, in the eye of little Jean Louis, was admirable and irreplaceable. After thirty years, however, Atticus was no more the one rooted in Jean memory, the sparkling figure to fight against racists. I see compromises, instead of perseverance as it used to be, in his standpoint on racial equality. His action of attending Citizen’s Council and opposing the efforts of NAACP, though Hank explains the motive as advocating changes from within, reveals concessions to me. Atticus changes from one who explicitly supports racial equality to one who learns to give in faced with big social trend. Yet, Atticus remains a responsible father, who taught his daughter to learn about the flawed nature of humans, and to live on the basis of her own conscience. As Jean grows, her cognition of the world starts to become independent, but not of his father’s deep influence in her heart. Atticus broke the image of a perfect father by showing that he is also flawed. Though the author did not make it clear eventually whether Atticus intentionally allows Jean Louise to misunderstand his own views about race in order to encourage her to think for herself, Atticus’s role of father deserves our respect, which is also the continuity I spot.

Empathy’s dependence on referents in mind

Meanwhile, Jean’s transition is also something worth readers’ reflections. Since empathizer can never directly know what the object is thinking about, he only infers the object’s inner state. Along the process of inference, the empathizer will find a referent that is reasonably similar to those he observed in the object. Specifically, when she returned from New York, her referent of her father was still the rooted figure who pursues racial equality and color-blindness remains in her heart. Such kind of referent differs greatly from what she observes Atticus to be, the one who backs color-difference and opposes the efforts of NAACP, which leads to her failure of empathy, further constitutes her anger. However, as time passes on, she gradually find that the admirable roles in her heart, Uncle Jack and Atticus, are revealed to be not the perfect ones as she expected them to be, or in other words, not the same as the referent in her heart. Atticus does share some thoughts of a racist. Jack is not as mild as she thought who hit her almost to pass out. It was not until the end of the novel when Jean accepts all these and her referent gets changed. With a new referent, she begins to empathize with Atticus again, but this time she learns to be the watchman of herself.  This means she is mature enough to live from her own consciousness, separated from the ethics of the world around. This also ends the rooted influence of her father Atticus, the long held perfect role since childhood.

 

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Warner, Print 1982.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015.

Demeaning words online–Exaggerated empathy’s limitation protected by anonymous mask

As  the development of digital age moves forward, social media is becoming a new tool of information deliverer. Compared to traditional style of information dissemination such as letters or talks face-to face, social media is more convenient and instant considering its public transparency and accessibility. Also, people are able to give quick response towards hot issues that have raised wide-spread concern. However, affected by in-group preference of empathy and “mask protection” provided by virtual world, people may make hostile and extreme reactions on social media.

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People’s comments on Mack Horton

As a notable example of this, people’s response to Mack Horton’s rude remarks on
Sun Yang in Rio Olympic deserves our attention. According to
Global Times, “Hours before the game, Horton called Sun a “drug cheat,” and in an interview after the game, he defended his accusation that Sun was a drug user”. Almost instantly, people’s outrage, especially those from Sun Yang’s fans are poured in Horton’s Instagram, leading to over 500,000 comments to condemn his loss of Olympic spirits. People are requesting Horton’s apology towards Sun Yang while some insults Horton’s as a “dead man”. ABC News also writes an article titled as “Gold medal winner Mack Horton trolled online after calling out ‘drug cheat’ Sun Yang” to describe such kind of responses from social media. As pointed out, “Chinese fans have taken the grudge match into their own hands, attacking Horton on his various social media accounts using the hashtag #apologizetosunyang”. However, the truth behind Sun Yang’s positive test is, according to Global Times, “He was using a medication for his heart problem, but unfortunately, it contained a substance which had just been banned as a new type of stimulant” while related departments have not updated that rule. So, on one hand, Mack was not lying based on the existing fact two years ago. On the other hand, Sun should not be labelled as drug cheat since he did not take banned medicine for this game.

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Cyber bullying on social media

While reasoning works fine for both sides, why do some people react so extremely on social media with demeaning wor
ds? To illustrate, from my perspective, there are two reasons. To begin with, the in-group preference of empathy, I think, contributes mostly to people’s anger towards Mack. Most of Sun’s fans are from China. When it’s not clear either side is right, people tend to choose the “familiar group” for empathy. As Fuchsman, Ken indicated, “Empathy is most likely to emerge with those with whom we are familiar, those that are an ‘us’”.  At the same time, the anonymous identity on social media somehow removes some of people’s misgivings for posting extreme comments. This means, they realized that in most cases, they don’t have to pay for what they have said on social media. My opinion is shared by Ellie Lisitsa whose instance is that “They don’t have to feel the other person’s tension or convey their own. They don’t have to suppress it or deal with it in any way”. This mask provides people with a hide of themselves so that they can remove the barrier which they tend to have in face-to-face real life. And then as Ellie Lisitsa emphasized, “A sense of right and wrong, responsibility for one’s actions, can easily vanish.” What’s more, as explained by L. Mark Carrier, “The lack of nonverbal cues in the online world contributes to overall lower levels of virtual empathy compared to the real world”, which leads to excessive empathy for Sun and deficient empathy for Horton.

Work cited:

Ronson, Jon. “God That Was Awesome.” So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Riverhead Books, 2015 67-90

Fuchsman, Ken. “Empathy and Humanity.” The Journal of psychohistory, vol. 42, no. 3, 2015., pp. 176.

L. Mark Carrier, “Virtual empathy: Positive and negative impacts of going online upon empathy in young adults”

Ellie Lisitsa, “The Digital Age: Empathy In Utopia” November 22, 2013, https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-digital-age-empathy-in-utopia/

ABC News Site, “Rio 2016: Gold medal winner Mack Horton trolled online after calling out ‘drug cheat’ Sun Yang”, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-07/rio-2016-mack-horton-trolled-calls-out-sun-yang-drug-cheat/7698746

Global Times, “Horton displays no goodwill in remarks over his rival”, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/999015.shtml

The video of Horton’s remark on Sun Yang: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LlHj-SHiDA

The picture of Mack Horton’s post and people’s reactions: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-07/mack-horton’s-instagram-is-trolled-by-angry-chinese-users/7698766

 

 

What attitude should we hold towards empathy for atrocities?

Adam Morton’s article “Empathy for the Devil” explains the reason why people find it hard to empathize with atrocious acts by elaborating on the differences between understanding why a person did something and how he did it. His instance is that, apart from figuring out why an act is done by identifying accurate empathetic emotions, there is still a barrier to be overcome before a person actually performed it. In this way, to fully understand how an act is performed, it is necessary to be clear on the barrier. In the case Morton discusses, the barrier to atrocious acts should be traced back to people’s decency and morality, which limits the imagination of human possibility and further prevents empathy with real understanding(Morton318).  Although Morton’s convincing logical analysis and reasoning is hard to dispute, I still disagree with his misleading attitude towards empathizing with atrocious acts.

 

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In-group Bias

What brings my disagreement is that Morton’s belief that embracing empathy for atrocities would cultivate solid empathy for ordinary actions. Morton starts to illustrate this by emphasizing that, “We want to take empathy as easy, to ease everyday interaction, and we want to take it as difficult, to keep a distance between us and those we despise”(Morton 330). In his account, the word “want” underlines that people make moral choices with immediate, emotional judgement, which is based on morality, consequently leading to their unwillingness to empathize with atrocities. He indicates, “If we did not do this then we would have a deeper understanding, and a more solid empathy, for some very ordinary actions.” From my perspective, I do acknowledge that people’s failure to empathize with devil is limited by their moralities. However, it is not reasonable to judge the interference of morality as wrong. Instead, it is their morality that helps them empathize with “similar” moral people, rather than evil-doers. Just as Ken Fuchsman indicated, “Empathy is most likely to emerge with those with whom we are familiar, those that are an ‘us’”. According to Ken, the pre-condition to empathize with atrocities is that the empathizer has already been a group member of “devil communities”. Yet, the engagement of empathy, no matter in the courtroom or in daily life, is served to encourage humanity and justice. So, I shall hold my stance on the opposite side of Morton since encouraging empathy for atrocities would not only be of no help to empathy for ordinary issues, but also damages moralites formed on the way towards social justice.

 

To conclude, Morton’s article gives us a light on figuring out the relations between understanding why and how an act is done. I believe that the majority of his explanations are undeniable. However, his stance on whether we should empathize with atrocities without the limitation of moralities deserves our considerate reflections. Although I agree with and completely support his seeking for more appropriately applied empathy in various circumstances, it is always necessary to be aware of the primary goal of empathy involvement, specifically serving justice and building morally humane society.

 

 

Work Cited:

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. 2011. 230-54. Print.

 

Fuchsman, Ken. “Empathy and Humanity.” The Journal of psychohistory, vol. 42, no. 3, 2015., pp. 176.

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

Does empathy promote justice in A Time to Kill

Lucas

Professor Dustin Hannum

WRT 105E

25th September, 2016

Does empathy promote justice in A Time to Kill

On the way to moral society that thrives on the basis of social justice, we are seeking to find the proper relation between empathy, justice and the laws, and figuring out how and to what extent we should apply empathy into the process of legal decision making. As illustration of this search, A Time to Kill, the movie that depicts a judgement with empathy involved, gives rise to people’s thinking for the right approach to combine empathy and justice. However, as shown in Martin Hoffman’s article Empathy, Justice and the law, to integrate empathy and fairness is not an easy job. Although it indicates from historical events that, empathy did play an indispensable role in equality development, its potential limitations still deserve people’s attention, especially when it is performed in courtroom. Set under the background of racial inequality, it is really important to seek justice both for an individual, and for an entire group. And the key to achieve this is that, while lawyers strive to apply empathy so as to win justice for an individual, jurors should be aware of the necessity to stand on the side of an entire community. In other words, once jurors fail to perform their roles, the balance of fairness would be inclined, leading to justice absence. This seems to be most notable in the movie A Time to Kill, when Jake Brigance’s closing statement, though did gain justice for Carl Lee as an individual, fails to guard fairness for the entire society.

Since people are arguing about whether justice is promoted, I’m going to give definition of justice and illustrate where the controversial comes from. To begin with, let me classify justice into two kinds, one for an individual, and another for an entire group.  Individual justice is, I believe, the poetic justice. According to Wikipedia, “Poetic justice is a literary device in which ultimately virtue is rewarded and vice punished”. This definition indicates that individual justice prevails when good people are rewarded and bad ones are punished, regardless of how they are done. However, justice for an entire group is different. Group justice focuses on guaranteeing morally proper and logically convincing consequences people deserve, instead of simply a punish-or-reward issue. It is acknowledged that laws are made to guard justice. And the justice served by laws is on the stand of an entire society. In this way, justice related to laws refers to that serving an entire group rather than an individual. That’s where the difference lies. It is viewer’s stance on different justice that makes it debatable to answer the question whether justice is promoted.

With reference to Carl Lee’s case, empathy did play an important part in guarding individual justice for Carl Lee, with its positive effects and negative limitations both performed. Carl Lee’s individual justice was achieved when jurors decided to acquit him from what he has done. Meanwhile, what makes this happen is the involvement of empathy. It is noticeable that empathy’s advantage acts when Jake asks jurors imagine the raping and empathize for the girl. Especially, when he says, “Now imagine she is white,” people are lost in tears, dropping racial discrimination in decision making. However, it is not hard to realize that empathy also perform two kinds of limitations unconsciously, which, as Hoffman has emphasized, is especially damaging in the courtroom. The first is mentioned in Hoffman’s account of empathy’s negative side, “People emphasize more with victims who are physically present than with absent victim or potential victims.” Specifically, while Carl Lee is present, jurors hear what he says, feel what he went through after his daughter experienced the nightmare and share similar feelings in the role of parents. At the same time, those killed boys are forgotten.  This side effect of empathy tend not to be realized when people are driven by emotions and making immediately correct decisions. Furthermore, I believe the result would be totally different if the boys survived and spoke in the courtroom. What if Mr. Buckley arouse people’s imagination of detailed experience of being shot, bearing the hurt and pretending to be dead on the ground only trying to survive in Carl Lee’s gun? What if people are reminded that lives of two boys who should have been punished in jail were almost taken by the father of the victim. Then who is to blame? Obviously, Carl Lee will do. He would be punished, even to death maybe. In addition, the second empathy drawback lies in the moment when Jake asked, “Now imagine she’s white.” The majority of people were lost in tears. Then what triggers them? It is ethnic preference. As Hoffman declared in Empathy, Justice and the Laws, “They emphasize more with kin, friends, and their own ethic group”. The picture based on white-skinned girl imagination invokes juror’s empathy for Tonya’s tragedy and understanding with Carl Lee’s choice. Though Jake is noticeably wise to make juror neglect their rooted racial bias, we still need to be aware that familiarity bias did affect the trend of the development. To conclude, Jake’s closing statement did encourage empathy, but it also relies on the limitations of empathy.

As judicious spectators, it is still easy to find that justice for an entire group is lost. Logically speaking, Carl Lee failed to prove his innocence with existing evidence. The key point that decided the nature of Carl Lee’s motive is to confirm mental situation when he committed the crime but people supporting Carl did not really testify his insaneness. Mr. Buckley’s trap that tricks Carl to speak out his motives, and Doctor’s dishonorable crime record that raises doubt for his reliability to be trusted has led to the unfavorable situation while people’s judgement has inclined in the advantage of the killed criminals. In such a case, solely from the reasonable perspective, it is not appropriate to decide that Carl Lee is innocent.

However, what strikes me is that viewers are not encouraged to be judicious spectators in this film. As Nussbaum declares in his article “Rational Emotions.” “The emotion must be the emotion of a spectator, not a participant”. Actually, what Jake aims to do is to trick jurors in the position of Carl Lee and view the raping step by step as a father, which means they share the emotion of the dad who imagines the tragedy his daughter experienced. This is of course not what a judicious spectator should do. In addition, Nussbaum argues, “Emotions are good guides only if they are based on a true view of the facts of the case and a true view of the importance of various types of suffering and joy for human actors of many types”. Since the Doctor is unable to convince the insaneness of Carl Lee and various kinds of sufferings for the dead are neglected, emotions failed to guide people in a right way. This means that jurors are not judicious, the same for the judgement of innocence.

To conclude, justice is not coextensive with the law in the film though empathy did obtain justice for individual. As I have emphasized, the law serving an entire society is aimed to guard justice. And Justice is coextensive with the law only when it guards fairness of an entire group but it fails to do so in this movie. So I will regard it as not coextensive with the law. However, it is worthwhile to notice that empathy did promote justice, but justice for individual, not an entire community. This will perfectly address people’s controversial on this movie and further answer the question in this article’s title. In a nutshell, while we are on the way to achieve justice, we should not only be aware of the necessity to evaluate empathy’s role in court case, but also be clear about justice categories to promote fairness in legal decisions.

Works Cited

A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Warner Brothers, 1996.

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

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254

Empathy usage in the movie

Undoubtedly, empathy has accompanied the plot that twists and turns since the tragedy of little Tonya being raped takes place. Invocation of empathy happens not only from one character to another, but also from movie to viewers, such as Carl’s words that he and Jake’s children will not play together, or, Jake’s self-recognition that it is impossible to win the case with all jurors white. However, empathy is most notable in Jake’s closing statement that completely turns the tide and firmly consolidates Carl’s favorable position, which leads to the final victory.

As most of characters and viewers had predicted, the process was not a plain sailing. Jake encounters a lot of problems that is totally out of his anticipation. Mr. Buckley’s trap that tricks Carl to speak out his motives, and Doctor’s dishonorable crime record that raises doubt for his reliability to be trusted has led to the unfavorable situation while people’s judgement has inclined in the advantage of the killed criminals. Meanwhile, the stress shouldered by Jake intensifies when his home is burned, when Roark is kidnapped, when his friend advises him to give up. The negative feelings were engendered in Jake, and also in viewer’s mind. As a viewer, I feel empathy for Jake, feel sympathy for Carl, feel unfairness about the injustice treatment they receive and feel anger for the prejudice. That is the invocation of emotions brought by the movie and is part of the great success this movie has achieved.

However, when we take various aspects into account, it’s not hard to find that there are many reasons for the victory, the biggest part of which is based on the closing argument. Firstly, to invoke people’s empathy, ethos is applied. As one of the white people, though wrongly described by Carl as one of the bad guys, Jake’s argument is more convincing since he is one among the community of white people. It is beyond doubt that if Jake is black, not only would they fail the trial, but also would this case make the prejudice of negros worse than ever. But Jake’s white skin has exactly protected himself from bias, and set a solid basis for him to spread justice, and to perform his play of empathy invocation. The invocation of empathy is beautifully applied and acted during the last stage, when Jake asks people to close their eyes and experience the tragedy Tonya went through in the silent courtroom. Jake’s successful skill lands on considerable details and accurate depiction of the raping process, without neglecting the life-killing scream of the girl, the force exerted by the rude criminal, and mindless or even proud expression shown on their faces. It is pretty wise for Jake to picture all of these in such details, which invokes people’s empathy for victim, anger for the perpetrator and afterwards reverse people’s view back to their community color, white, as Jake says, “What if she is white?” People are in tears, covered by the purity of emotions, cleared of prejudice, moved to make a choice out of inherent judgement of right and wrong, setting Carl free.

The pleasing ending should be traced back to empathy, along with other emotions like indignation, sympathy that serve as the products of empathy. The work of Jake has made all present understand Carl’s behavior, or how extreme mental situation this father has experienced. The real invocation paid off when people in the courtroom have shared the understanding for the father and realized the motives. And after all this, Mr. Hailey was finally acquitted, in the name of justice.

Final argument from the perspective of Atticus

Frankly speaking, when I first took the case of Tom Robinson, I felt complex. I know that many of you are questioning my motive and purpose of serving as the lawyer of a black-skin man, of a strong negro who is charged as raping a beautiful white woman but I am chosen to do so. However, regardless of all the doubts about me, same to you, the reason that I am here is to seek for truth. At least, as a lawyer, my tendency of finding truth and punishing the evil pushes me to do so because I will never yield to guilt.

Sitting right beside me is a negro, Tom Robinson, who is charged with raping. I acknowledge that rape, even for a poorly-educated man raised in countryside, is regarded as a crime that deserves no forgiveness, let alone for the good-mannered gentleman present. And I admit that some black people, early from childhood, are pictured as stupid, evil and dirty, the race of whom seems to be kind of related to such kind of crime. Like most of people here, I fostered such prejudice young and rooted it in mind till adult, when I employed a black woman and found that she is kind, hard-working and plain, not as I had expected.

Undoubtedly, Laws are created to guarantee the fairness of the society. And in this courtroom, the dominating power is justice, while every one of you are now serving as the guardian of justice. Justice exists regardless of class or race. So, to achieve justice, we have to ensure that the final decision is made through considerable reasoning and compelling evidence to prove the guilt of the defendant.

From a logic perspective, solely referring to the testimony of two witnesses is of course not sufficient to solidify the guilt of Tom. Moreover, no medical evidence is provided to prove the crime of raping. People seated here are believed to be discriminating, let alone the jurors. And guilty should be convicted with compelling arguments, not with emotion or feeling. Poor Mayella feels guilt because in our common sense it is not allowed for a white girl to kiss a black man. She is trying to mislead the truth and remove her guilt by convicting Tom the crime of raping. For her, I feel pity. She is not well-educated, not familiar with laws, not knowing the essence of justice and the meaning of that toward the whole society. But fortunately, you do and all the jurors also. Since the injury is on the right side, it is not possible for a man with right hand to beat her.

Setting aside indispensable reasoning, human beings are born with emotions. What I want to emphasize is that just as the anger raised for Tom when you first know about this case, we should also consider what if it is not true. What if Tom did not rape Mayella? What if Mayella is lying, only to clear her guilt of kissing a negro? And how could a girl charge a kind helper in the crime of rape? If the case happening on you, your son or your lover? The assumption that negros always lie is ridiculous. Their dishonesty may exist in some cases, but not enough to be judged as “always”. Since there is not sufficient evidence to prove the crime of Tom, for the sake of justice, Tom should be neither guilty nor innocent. If Tom is finally convicted with rape based on such unreasonable arguments and prejudice, it would be a great loss of justice, wisdom, calmness, which should be attached, as in our sense, to the graceful and royal white people, regardlessly, though the sense might not be so true now.

It is not only the call for fairness, but the call for a justice-dominating society. A single misleading decision might be temporary, but profound effect would continue. Be careful with your choices, which might influence generation by generation, based on your wisdom.

Summary and usage of “pro-social” term

In the article 《Empathy, Justice, and the law》, the author Martin L. Hoffman focuses his point around the role of empathy in laws. While some writers consolidate the importance of empathy based on humanity concern, others insist that empathy deserves no position to serve fairness. As a combination of such opposite opinions, Hoffman’s standpoint is that empathy is indispensable in legal decisions despite some bias and limitations, as long as empathy is applied properly and considerately. With theoretical explanation of empathy development and attribution, he puts forward historical events that reach profound influence based on empathy, without which the outcome may go completely different. Meanwhile, negative sides of empathy are dug deeply around empathy’s fragility and bias in courts. He provides that such kind of limitation of empathy has been recognized by judges and taught to law students so that legal decision can be made more fair and justice. As Hoffman’s thesis emphasized, empathy, with pro-social motives, owns its necessity in legal decisions process only if it’s properly applied and if consequences of empathy use are specifically considered before empathy steps into courtroom that serves justice and strives to build a sound-and-fair society.

The very key term I found in this article is “pro-social”. This is a term that seems professional but is expanded in a way that is easy to understand. As shown in Page 239, “This letter is a good example of intense distress motivating long-term pro-social action as well as evidence in the particular case that empathic distress was a prime motivator or Stowe’s writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. As positive influence brought by empathy, pro-social action corresponds with the part that describes “witnessing” as the intense distress that makes people compelled to help others over an extended period of time in Page 237. Basically, long-term pro-social action is kind of one’s will to provide time-endurable help at great cost. The term is important because it testifies the validity of empathy by emphasizing the profound effect of it to a humane society. At the same time, this concept is also adopted in Page 254 as “pro-social legal principles” to emphasize the balance between empathy and reasoning. Different usages above all relate the focus to Hoffman’s thesis that empathy is important if it is appropriately applied and linked to legal principles that boost the process toward fairness.

Work cited

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254