Compensating for Evil

An interesting article is at the Philosophers’ Carnival deals with compensating evil which you can read here.  The idea is this: if you’re working for an institution that makes you evil, are you aloud to get compensation because that institution made you worse off?  The example in the article is suppose you’re a police officer and because of that job, you now become racist.  Are you aloud to be paid in damages because you’ve been harmed?  Interesting topic.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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6 Responses to Compensating for Evil

  1. Killer J says:

    I have a hard time buying the idea of the police department MAKING him racist. Certainly conditioning plays a factor, but ultimately he is responsible for his actions regardless of his claims.
    I work for an institution where I am bombarded with so much traumatic crap from people’s lives that I have become desensitized to a lot of things most people would react to. Due to this desensitization, my judgment may be effected if I’m not careful.

    Now let’s suppose a client alludes to the fact she was abused recently. Any therapist worth his/her salt would launch in to an investigation of the abuse for a variety of reasons. Now suppose I’m so used to hearing this crap all the time that the victim’s confession slips right by me and the abuse goes unreported. Should my license be on the line since my workplace predisposed me to cavalierly dismiss an abuse confession?

    I would say so.

  2. shaunmiller says:

    Killer J, I agree with you on that aspect that you are still responsible for your actions.

    But I think the hypothetical cop can reply: “Sure, I am responsible for my actions. But my whole belief structure has changed. I have never had these racist beliefs before, but now, because of this job, I now do. This has harmed me, and I want compensation.”

    So notice that if he acts like he’s not racist, the cop’s concern isn’t about actions, but more about having beliefs.

  3. Killer J says:

    I see what you mean. I still have a problem with it… maybe.

    Are we to assume that the police department truly caused these beliefs? Is this a ‘given’ for the sake of argument? If so, then I see what you mean although I’m still not sure about compensation.
    If not, I have a hard time buying that the cop was a completely passive participant in his racial brainwashing.

  4. shaunmiller says:

    In the article above, I think it was a “given” for the sake of argument. Although the article does mention about law and whether the law can prove that some institution (like the police department) causes racism.

    I was thinking of a reply but I’m not sure if it’s a good analogy. Let’s say that you’re a member of a political party. All of the sudden, you realize that you’re political party was wrong this whole entire time. Thus, you sue the Chairman of that political party for brainwashing you. Now, this obviously is a bad analogy because in this case, you just change your beliefs for the better. However, in the cop case, he has beliefs that made him worse off and–this is the interesting part, for me–he knows that he has false beliefs but he can’t help but have them. He wants to get rid of them. I guess you could call it semi-brainwashing.

    Well, hmm. . . if it’s semi-brainwashing, then there’s some part of him that knows what he believes is wrong. But perhaps the cop could reply: “Look, I know these beliefs are wrong but I can’t help but have these false beliefs.” So rationally, I can’t find a way out of this, but my intuitions (which is actually bad for philosophy) tells me that he shouldn’t get compensation.

    Note: maybe intuitions are just a clever way of saying “something’s wrong here, but I can’t clarify it in words.”

  5. Killer J says:

    The “something’s wrong” part of the problem is that we CAN change our beliefs. We have control over our beliefs, it just takes a lot of work to begin the process of change. My job relies on this concept daily.

  6. shaunmiller says:

    Ok, but I can imagine the hypothetical cop saying, “Great, people are paying you to change your beliefs for the better. They want to have better beliefs. But what about me? I could go to a clinic to get better beliefs but why should I pay for it? Shouldn’t the institution that made me have bad beliefs pay for it? If something has made me worse off, I should get compensated for it.”

    If perhaps the law could prove that this particular institution was causing racism, maybe a disclaimer would be in order. But then I think you would have to say something like going to the south may cause you to become racist anytime someone lives there or wants to live there.

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