The Different Factors That Affect Obedience

To Obey Or Not To Obey?

There are two basic definitions of “Obedience”. One is that it is compliance to someone’s wishes or orders or acknowledging their authority, and two it is submission to a law or rule. However many people of greater generations sees obedience as a form of social influence where an individual acts in response to a direct order from another individual, who is usually an authority figure proposing that authority is the only object of adherence.

With any which one is used to define the word “Obedience”, it seems to be that it is something an individual responds to. When the good is not supported in a situation, obedience should be paid to our conscience rather than authority because no matter what your interpretation of good and bad are to your values and conscience, authority rules should mean less.

An individual with higher power is usually the one calling all the shots, ordering things to be done.

Authority is the most frequented individual exposed to giving instructions, and or orders. However much honor there is to an individual of authority, they are not always correct, or right in their judgment. Many superiors of countries, presidents, commanders in chief, all have the authority over their people who must be obeyed or the country will spiral downhill or the mission will fail. Orders from these authority figures are not always positive. These do involve killing other people, inflicting pain on others and causing riots where ever ordered to.

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It is for this reason, that many question who is to take the blame or the fall for these actions, the superiors of authority, or the individuals reporting to these authority figures. It is debated upon which party is innocent or not and if obedience really does matter in cases of good versus evil.

In “The Perils of Obedience”, Milgram makes a valid point that following the commands of authority does not necessarily make one an evil person, even when the commands result in immoral actions. But is it society or human nature that makes us adhere to authority? In reference to Eichmann, the people killing the Jews blamed it on Eichmann’s orders, while Eichmann pointed the finger at the people actually gassing the victims. I believe that it’s human nature to avoid punishment, like the gasser killing the Jews to avoid punishment from superiors, and then blaming the orders to avoid judicial punishment.

It is believed that obedience is a form of disciplinary action one adheres to due to their upbringing. The first case Milgram references to Gretchen, a German woman, who sympathizes with the learner’s distress and refuses to proceed with the experiment. Is this because of the society in which she was raised in? Perhaps being German gives her a different outlook, because of World War II, which seems to be a common trend in this excerpt.

Milgram references the Holocaust with respect to the people who carried it out, and maybe he used Gretchen as an example because of the culture she came from. Perhaps the violence that occurred in Germany has changed her perception on the pain of others. Gretchen’s upbringing has deeply affected her judgment to the experiment and she took control of her own actions and decisions took responsibility and ended the torture of the learner therefore giving in to her conscience.

Again, with a clean, clear conscience one can fairly judge the current situation and take responsibility to their actions however, those who obeyed the experimenter until the experiment was over, kept going even though nothing was offered to lose if they disobeyed the orders. The minds of those who continued were like this because it was believed that they had a sense of obligation and not from peculiarly aggressive tendencies (Milgram). They felt they had to obey the one in command, is why they continued with the experiment.

Many do question this issue at hand. Which party to follow and obey and which to ignore and disregard, and many may argue that authority, no matter how dark, or wrong, or evil the command or instructions are that it must be followed for they are of higher power, and selected for reasons of better judgment no other subjects should question their ability. With this in most minds of believers of authority in power, values and priorities are too, disregarded. As mentioned before, one’s upbringing does have an impact and effect on one’s decisions and choices related to these situations.

To conclude, authority and its demands should be disregarded when one’s conscience overpowers, and overrules their judgment to the situation and subjects shall consider what really is good or virtuous considering the issue at hand. This form of discipline they call obedience, submission to a rule or law, should only answer to the rules and laws of one’s conscience and to one’s important values, priorities, and morals. Authority does keep society and cultures civilized and united, but without a conscience, authority may just lead any of their followers downhill, nowhere because with the help of a clean and clear conscience, the good in a situation is always present and recognized and the pain and suffering and evil in the world just might decrease a notch lower, and the good Samaritans will increase, causing our society today develop peace with others and neighboring cultures.

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The Different Factors That Affect Obedience. (2022, Feb 22). Retrieved from

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