Am I Right?

How to live ethically

Choosing Ignorance

Responsibility requires a degree of discomfort; morality requires a dose of courage. Read More


A typical Dobrin piece.

Always Amazing.


I think there are a little too many assumptions/biases here.

While I've never been to Dachau, I'm rather skeptical that everyone there is ignorant of what went on in the camp. Is it really the case that the "host" is a good representative for the population there? While the "host" chose to remain ignorant, does that mean that everyone else there made the same choice?

Suppose the residents of Dachau generally choose to remain ignorant, I still don't think it's appropriate to call them cowards. There seems to be an awful lot of judgment of other people's characters, but a lack of understanding, compassion, and empathy. An academic and outsider (no less) has a very different perspective than those who live and work there.

The last few lines are rather harsh as they seem to imply that the people there are bad (i.e. immoral) because they don't have courage. To me, the last line also seems to imply that the people there are basking in comfort, when the reality may be that they're actually conflicted. For instance, the "host's" avoidance of the camp could imply the existence of some suppressed emotions.

many assumptions

You are right about several things. I do make a lot of assumptions. I don't know if my host was representative. My host may have been more conflicted.
But there are a few things that are more solid: most Germans at that time were by-standers. They didn't attempt to either stop the killings or help the victims—death. Nevertheless, a moral judgment can be made. Those who acted altruistically were heroes and have been honored as such in Israel. Conversely, those who didn't act can be judged as morally wanting or worse.

I thought the majority didn't

I thought the majority didn't act because if they acted they would end up in the camps themselves?

why people don't act

There are multiple reasons why people let others suffer while going about their daily routines. There is the natural inclination to defer to authority; conforming to the crowd; fear of punishment; too narrowly focused on the task at hand; valuing other things more than ethical responsibility; not knowing; rewards for doing the wrong thing. There are other reasons as well. Human beings are complex.
I was commenting on one of the reasons. In other posts I've written about others.

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Arthur Dobrin, D.S.W., teaches applied ethics at Hofstra University. He is the author, coauthor, and editor of more than twenty books.


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