Questions about Obedience

  1. Why do you think we are so compelled to comply and obey authority? In Milgram’s experiment many protested yet still obeyed…what is it that compels them to obey? Why is defiance so hard? What makes obeying easier than defiance even when obeying is distressing?
  2. What’s the value of obedience? Milgram, for example, wrote an essay titled “The Perils of Obedience.” I get the feeling that he views obedience as a “necessary evil” something that is needed to make society run but is not favorable. But I think obedience isn’t always perilous. I think there can be value in obedience. 
  3. In what ways does the development of our sense of self influence our ability to act with integrity when obeying? What makes some more vulnerable to obey even when they feel conflicted in doing so? In Milgram’s experiment, it’s clear that some don’t agree with what they are doing yet they still proceed. Do you think those that choose to continue with the experiment had some similarities in their level of emotional development? Even though they might have differed in educational background, social status, economic standings, etc…I wonder if the single factor that they had in common was their development of there sense of self, their psychological development. 
  4. There is a bit of an obedience dilemma – like Abraham asked to sacrifice his son. Many are drawn to the idea of “I don’t know why I am supposed to do this, but God told me to so I am.” While I don’t agree with this idea, it feels like the very nature of obedience requires some level of trusting in something you cannot yet fully see and understand. Obedience seems to imply that there is some limited knowledge on your behalf and that you are trusting in another’s understanding. How do you proceed with integrity if your understanding is limited and incomplete? I have a hard time making sense of Abraham’s story. It feels like it encourages and honors compliance and obedience to authority over integrity.