A Social-Psychological Approach


Emory University
TT 2:30 - 3:45 Fall, 2001
Callaway S-102 Limit: 25


Professor David R. Blumenthal (7-7545; 634-3833;
Ms. Sally Chambers (


This course, dubbed "Advanced Evil" by the students, deals with the existence of both evil and good. These phenomena can be approached textually, philosophically, and literarily. However, the question remains: how do people actually reach moral judgements. The evidence from the social sciences and contemporary history is accumulating on this question and this course will attempt to confront that evidence.
First, we will examine the nature of social conformity (obedience). Then, we will turn to the phenomenon of moral resistance (disobedience) with emphasis on altruistic studies. Then, we will study a field theory to answer the question, what inclines people to do evil and good. Finally, we will ask, what have we learned from the social sciences and history that can help us better teach and act as good people.


S. Milgram, Obedience
A. Miller, For Your Own Good
P. Oliner, Toward a Caring Society
H. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem
C. Browning, Ordinary Men
D. Blumenthal, The Banality of Good and Evil
T. Angers and H. Thompson, The Forgotten Hero of My Lai
M. Bar Zohar, Beyond Hitler's Grasp
P. Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with our Families.


W. Peters, A Class Divided Then and Now ("Eye of the Storm")
H. Kelman and V. Hamilton, Crimes of Obedience
P. Zimbardo in Z. Rubin, Doing Unto Others (the Stanford experiments)
R. Tomsho, The American Sanctuary Movement
Darley and Batson, "From Jerusalem to Jericho" (copied reading)
S. Oliner, The Altruistic Personality
E. Staub, "Helping Distressed Persons" (copied reading)
D. Kitterman, "Those Who Said 'No'" (copied reading)
J. Carver, Boards That Make a Difference


Students will be expected to participate very actively in the class.
There will be some films outside of class; they are obligatory.
There will be one short exam and a final exam / paper.
This course is co-sponsored by the Emory Center for Ethics.



I. Introduction -- 8/30

II. Obedience and the Propagation of Social Evil: The Banality of Evil

The evidence from social psychology
A. The obedience studies:
Obedience -- required film (45 min.), outside class -- 9/2 ***
discussion of the film and the book -- 9/4
The Stanford Prison Experiment -- slide presentation (50 minutes) and article -- 9/6
The Eye of the Storm -- film (20 minutes) and the book (A Class Divided ) -- 9/11

The evidence from history

B. The holocaust
H. Arendt, Eichmann , ch. 8, Epilogue, Postscript,* [14,15]** -- 9/13
The Wannsee Conference, optional film (87 min.), outside class -- 9/16***
Browning and [Kitterman]** -- 9/20,25

C. Open session -- 10/4

(9/18, 27 -- no class; Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur) -- Book report in lieu of missed classes.
(10/2,9 -- no class: Sukkot)
(10/16 -- no class; Fall break)
D. Vietnam: the My Lai massacre --
Remembering My Lai, required film (58 min.), outside class -- 10/7***
Kelman and Hamilton (reserve), ch. 1-5, 6-8, 11, 13* -- 10/11

E. Rwanda -- Philip Gourevitch -- 10/13

F. The psychopathology of obedience
A. Miller, 3-102, 142-97* --10/23,25
The Wave, optional film (46 min.), outside class -- 10/21***

G. Short exam -- 10/30

III. Resistance and the Propagation of Social Good: The Banality of Goodness

The evidence from social psychology

A. The altruistic studies:
Milgram and Zimbardo revisited: When did some resist? -- 11/1
Reread your notes; Kelman and Hamilton (reserve), ch. 13; [Kitterman]
the Princeton and Staub experiments -- 11/6
Darley and Batson + Staub (reserve)

The evidence from history

B. the holocaust
S. and P. Oliner, The Altruistic Personality, (reserve), ch. 1-2, 5-8, 9-10*
-- 11/8,13
Weapons of the Spirit, required film (90 min.), outside class -- 11/11***
Beyond Hitler's Grasp
C. the sanctuary movement -- 11/15
The New Underground Railroad -- film (39 min.) and the book

D. Vietnam -- Angers and Thompson -- 11/ 20 (guest speaker: Mr. Thompson)

The evidence from the real world

E. Business and Education -- 11/20, 27
Oliner, Toward a Caring Society, ch. 4, 5, 7, 10*

(11/22 -- no class; Thanksgiving)

IV. A Field Theory

Professor Blumenthal's field theory -- 11/29
Blumenthal, ch. 1-8.
Professor Blumenthal's seven steps -- 12/4
Blumenthal, ch. 6-8.
Some Jewish sources -- 12/6
Blumenthal, ch. 9-14

V. Conclusions -- 12/11

Final papers due -- Dec. 17, 5:00 p.m., Department of Religion Office

[***] Outside films are in Candler Library 425 at 8:00 p.m.

[*] See guide questions.

[**] Chapters or pages listed between square brackets are highly recommended.

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