The interplay of fear and its opposite, courage, in relation to obedience

Explore the interplay of fear and its opposite, courage, in relation to obedience

In response to the question “Why is man so prone to obey and why is it so difficult

for him to disobey?” Erich Fromm suggests that obedience lets people identify with

the powerful and invites feelings of safety. Disobedience is psychologically more

difficult and requires an act of courage (see paragraph 13&14). Solomon Asch

notes that the tendency to conformity is generally stronger than the tendency to

independence. And in his final paragraph, Philip Zimbardo writes that a “prison of

fear” keeps people compliant and frees them of the need to take responsibility for

their own actions. In a synthesis that draws on these three sources, explore the

interplay of fear and its opposite, courage, in relation to obedience. To prevent the

paper from becoming too abstract, direct your attention repeatedly to a single case,

the details of which will help to keep your focus. This case may be based upon a

particular event from your own life or the life of someone you know.

Inherently, man endeavors to avoid anything that is perceived as bad and crave

and compete to get and amass what is thought to be good. Here, it is worth to note that

what is good or bad is relative and depends on a specific society. Out of the realization

of his manifest weakness, man has established institutions into which he has

surrendered all his power to judge or determine his course of actions freely in order to

promote harmonious living which is good for his overall development. These institutions

include the family, state and religion among others. Giving up all of his power to judge

and do as he wishes places him in a situation that makes him fear or lack the courage

to disobey authorities-religious, political or otherwise.

Fear vs. Courage

Obedience is promoted in all societies while disobedience is condemned (Fromm

683). Societies have even devised wise sayings in praise of obedience such the famous

Judeo-Christian adage ‘Obedience is better than sacrifice.’


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