self examination

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After reading the assignments in module 2, imagine you are in the same situations as one of the fiction characters and real people. What moral decisions would you have made and why? How would emotions and the situational context have played a role?   The readings are the files below


Support your response by providing either:
o A deep and reflective justification defending your moral stance on a particular
ethical issue. Using the ethical and moral theories learned from the reading
assignments and quotations to defend your position is good way to justify your
o Reflections and critical examinations of relevant personal experience where
moral decisions have been made and that support your position
3. Give informed opinions on a moral or social issue that are supported by clear and
cogent arguments
4. All posts must be well organized and having cogent arguments justifying your position
5. Use proper netiquette (proper language, typing, grammar, spelling and punctuation)
6. Use MLA guidelines for all in-text citations and reference pages
7. All of your posts will be read by the professor only    

The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn

Author(s): Jonathan Bennett

Source: Philosophy , Apr., 1974, Vol. 49, No. 188 (Apr., 1974), pp. 123-134

Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of Royal Institute of Philosophy

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The Conscience of Huckleberry
Jonathan Bennett

In this paper, I shall present not just the conscience of Huckleberry Finn
but two others as well. One of them is the conscience of Heinrich Himmler.
He became a Nazi in I923; he served drably and quietly, but well, and was
rewarded with increasing responsibility and power. At the peak of his
career he held many offices and commands, of which the most powerful
was that of leader of the S.S.-the principal police force of the Nazi regime.
In this capacity, Himmler commanded the whole concentration-camp
system, and was responsible for the execution of the so-called ‘final
solution of the Jewish problem’. It is important for my purposes that this
piece of social engineering should be thought of not abstractly but in
concrete terms of Jewish families being marched to what they think are
bath-houses, to the accompaniment of loud-speaker renditions of extracts
from The Merry Widow and Tales of Hoffman, there to be choked to death
by poisonous gases. Altogether, Himmler succeeded in murdering about
four and a half million of them, as well as several million gentiles, mainly
Poles and Russians.

The other conscience to be discussed is that of the Calvinist theologian
and philosopher Jonathan Edwards. He lived in the first half of the eighteenth
century, and has a good claim to be considered America’s first serious and
considerable philosophical thinker. He was for many years a widely-
renowned preacher and Congregationalist minister in New England; in
I748 a dispute with his congregation led him to resign (he couldn’t accept
their view that unbelievers should be admitted to the Lord’s Supper in
the hope that it would convert them); for some years after that he worked
as a missionary, preaching to Indians through an interpreter; then in 1758
he accepted the presidency of what is now Princeton University, and within
two months died from a smallpox inoculation. Along the way he wrote
some first-rate philosophy: his book attacking the notion of free will is
still sometimes read. Why I should be interested in Edwards’ conscience will
be explained in due course.

I shall use Heinrich Himmler, Jonathan Edwards and Huckleberry Finn
to illustrate different aspects of a single theme, namely the relationship
between sympathy on the one hand and bad morality on the other.

All that I can mean by a ‘bad morality’ is a morality whose principles I
deeply disapprove of. When I call a morality bad, I cannot prove that

Philosophy 49 1974 123

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mine is better; but when I here call any morality bad, I think you will
agree with me that it is bad; and that is all I need.

There could be dispute as to whether the springs of someone’s actions
constitute a morality. I think, though, that we must admit that someone
who acts in ways which conflict grossly with our morality may nevertheless
have a morality of his own-a set of principles of action which he sincerely
assents to, so that for him the problem of acting well or rightly or in
obedience to conscience is the problem of conforming to those principles.
The problem of conscientiousness can arise as acutely for a bad morality as
for any other: rotten principles may be as difficult to keep as decent ones.

As for ‘sympathy’: I use this term to cover every sort of fellow-feeling,
as when one feels pity over someone’s loneliness, or horrified compassion
over his pain, or when one feels a shrinking reluctance to act in a way
which will bring misfortune to someone else. These feelings must not be
confused with moral judgments. My sympathy for someone in distress may
lead me to help him, or even to think that I ought to help him; but in itself
it is not a judgment about what I ought to do but just a feeling for him in
his plight. We shall get some light on the difference between feelings and
moral judgments when we consider Huckleberry Finn.

Obviously, feelings can impel one to action, and so can moral judgments;
and in a particular case sympathy and morality may pull in opposite
directions. This can happen not just with bad moralities, but also with
good ones like yours and mine. For example, a small child, sick and
miserable, clings tightly to his mother and screams in terror when she tries
to pass him over to the doctor to be examined. If the mother gave way to
her sympathy, that is to her feeling for the child’s misery and fright, she
would hold it close and not let the doctor come near; but don’t we agree
that it might be wrong for her to act on such a feeling? Quite generally,
then, anyone’s moral principles may apply to a particular situation in a
way which runs contrary to the particular thrusts of fellow-feeling that he
has in that situation. My immediate concern is with sympathy in relation
to bad morality, but not because such conflicts occur only when the morality
is bad.

Now, suppose that someone who accepts a bad morality is struggling
to make himself act in accordance with it in a particular situation where his
sympathies pull him another way. He sees the struggle as one between
doing the right, conscientious thing, and acting wrongly and weakly, like
the mother who won’t let the doctor come near her sick, frightened baby.
Since we don’t accept this person’s morality, we may see the situation very
differently, thoroughly disapproving of the action he regards as the right
one, and endorsing the action which from his point of view constitutes
weakness and backsliding.

Conflicts between sympathy and bad morality won’t always be like this,
for we won’t disagree with every single dictate of a bad morality. Still,


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The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn

it can happen in the way I have described, with the agent’s right action
being our wrong one, and vice versa. That is just what happens in a certain
episode in chapter i6 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, an episode
which brilliantly illustrates how fiction can be instructive about real life.

Huck Finn has been helping his slave friend Jim to run away from Miss
Watson, who is Jim’s owner. In their raft-journey down the Mississippi
river, they are near to the place at which Jim will become legally free. Now
let Huck take over the story:

Jim said it made him all over trembly and feverish to be so close to
freedom. Well, I can tell you it made me all over trembly and feverish,
too, to hear him, because I begun to get it through my head that he was
most free-and who was to blame for it? Why, me. I couldn’t get that
out of my conscience, no how nor no way…. It hadn’t ever come home
to me, before, what this thing was that I was doing. But now it did; and it
stayed with me, and scorched me more and more. I tried to make out to
myself that I warn’t to blame, because I didn’t run Jim off from his
rightful owner; but it warn’t no use, conscience up and say, every
time: ‘But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could
a paddled ashore and told somebody.’ That was so-I couldn’t get
around that, no way. That was where it pinched. Conscience says to me:
‘What had poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger
go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did
that poor old woman do to you, that you could treat her so mean? . ..’
I got to feeling so mean and so miserable I most wished I was dead.

Jim speaks of his plan to save up to buy his wife, and then his children,
out of slavery; and he adds that if the children cannot be bought he will
arrange to steal them. Huck is horrified:

Thinks I, this is what comes of my not thinking. Here was this nigger
which I had as good as helped to run away, coming right out flat-footed
and saying he would steal his children-children that belonged to a man
I didn’t even know; a man that hadn’t ever done me no harm.

I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him. My
conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last r says to it:
‘Let up on me-it ain’t too late, yet-I’ll paddle ashore at first light,
and tell.’ I felt easy, and happy, and light as a feather, right off. All
my troubles was gone.

This is bad morality all right. In his earliest years Huck wasn’t taught
any principles, and the only ones he has encountered since then are those
of rural Missouri, in which slave-owning is just one kind of ownership and
is not subject to critical pressure. It hasn’t occurred to Huck to question
those principles. So the action, to us abhorrent, of turning Jim in to the
authorities presents itself clearly to Huck as the right thing to do.


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Jonathan Bennett

For us, morality and sympathy would both dictate helping Jim to escape.
If we felt any conflict, it would have both these on one side and something
else on the other-greed for a reward, or fear of punishment. But Huck’s
morality conflicts with his sympathy, that is, with his unargued, natural
feeling for his friend. The conflict starts when Huck sets off in the canoe
towards the shore, pretending that he is going to reconnoitre, but really
planning to turn Jim in:

As I shoved off, [Jim] says: ‘Pooty soon I’ll be a-shout’n for joy, en I’ll
say, it’s all on accounts o’ Huck I’s a free man … Jim won’t ever forgit
you, Huck; you’s de bes’ fren’ Jim’s ever had; en you’s de only fren’ old
Jim’s got now.’

I was paddling off, all in a sweat to tell on him; but when he says this,
it seemed to kind of take the tuck all out of me. I went along slow then,
and I warn’t right down certain whether I was glad I started or whether
I warn’t. When I was fifty yards off, Jim says:

‘Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on’y white genlman dat ever kep’
his promise to ole Jim.’ Well, I just felt sick. But I says, I got to do it-I
can’t get out of it.

In the upshot, sympathy wins over morality. Huck hasn’t the strength of
will to do what he sincerely thinks he ought to do. Two men hunting for
runaway slaves ask him whether the man on his raft is black or white:

I didn’t answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn’t come. I
tried, for a second or two, to brace up and out with it, but I warn’t man
enough-hadn’t the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was weakening; so I just
give up trying, and up and says: ‘He’s white.’

So Huck enables Jim to escape, thus acting weakly and wickedly-he thinks.
In this conflict between sympathy and morality, sympathy wins.

One critic has cited this episode in support of the statement that Huck
suffers ‘excruciating moments of wavering between honesty and respect-
ability’. That is hopelessly wrong, and I agree with the perceptive comment
on it by another critic, who says:

The conflict waged in Huck is much more serious: he scarcely cares for
respectability and never hesitates to relinquish it, but he does care for
honesty and gratitude-and both honesty and gratitude require that
he should give Jim up. It is not, in Huck, honesty at war with respect-
ability but love and compassion for Jim struggling against his conscience.
His decision is for Jim and hell: a right decision made in the mental
chains that Huck never breaks. His concern for Jim is and remains
irrational. Huck finds many reasons for giving Jim up and none for steal-
ing him. To the end Huck sees his compassion for Jim as a weak,
ignorant, and wicked felony.1

1 M. J. Sidnell, ‘Huck Finn and Jim’, The Cambridge Quarterly, vol. 2, pp.


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The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn

That is precisely correct-and it can have that virtue only because Mark
Twain wrote the episode with such unerring precision. The crucial point

concerns reasons, which all occur on one side of the conflict. On the side
of conscience we have principles, arguments, considerations, ways of
looking at things:

‘It hadn’t ever come home to me before what I was doing’
‘I tried to make out that I warn’t to blame’

‘Conscience said “But you knowed .. ..”-I couldn’t get around that’
‘What had poor Miss Watson done to you?’
‘This is what comes of my not thinking’
‘… children that belonged to a man I didn’t even know’.

On the other side, the side of feeling, we get nothing like that. When Jim
rejoices in Huck, as his only friend, Huck doesn’t consider the claims of
friendship or have the situation ‘come home’ to him in a different light.
All that happens is: ‘When he says this, it seemed to kind of take the tuck
all out of me. I went along slow then, and I warn’t right down certain
whether I was glad I started or whether I warn’t.’ Again, Jim’s words about
Huck’s ‘promise’ to him don’t give Huck any reason for changing his plan:
in his morality promises to slaves probably don’t count. Their effect on
him is of a different kind: ‘Well, I just felt sick.’ And when the moment
for final decision comes, Huck doesn’t weigh up pros and cons: he simply
fails to do what he believes to be right-he isn’t strong enough, hasn’t
‘the spunk of a rabbit’. This passage in the novel is notable not just for its
finely wrought irony, with Huck’s weakness of will leading him to do the
right thing, but also for its masterly handling of the difference between
general moral principles and particular unreasoned emotional pulls.

* * *

Consider now another case of bad morality in conflict with human sym-
pathy the case of the odious Himmler. Here, from a speech he made to
some S.S. generals, is an indication of the content of his morality:

What happens to a Russian, to a Czech, does not interest me in the
slightest. What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type,
we will take, if necessary by kidnapping their children and raising them
here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death like
cattle interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves to our Kultur;
otherwise it is of no interest to me. Whether io,ooo Russian females fall
down from exhaustion while digging an antitank ditch interests me only
in so far as the antitank ditch for Germany is finished.2

2 Quoted in William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New
York, i960), pp. 937-938. Next quotation: Ibid., p. 966. All further quotations
relating to Himmler are from Roger Manwell and Heinrich Fraenkel, Heinrich
Himmler (London, i965), pp. I32, 197, i84 (twice), i87.


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Jonathan Bennett

But has this a moral basis at all? And if it has, was there in Himmler’s own
mind any conflict between morality and sympathy? Yes there was. Here is
more from the same speech:

… I also want to talk to you quite frankly on a very grave matter . .. I
mean . . . the extermination of the Jewish race…. Most of you must
know what it means when ioo corpses are lying side by side, or 500, or
1,ooo. To have stuck it out and at the same time-apart from exceptions
caused by human weakness-to have remained decent fellows, that is
what has made us hard. This is a page of glory in our history which has
never been written and is never to be written.

Himmler saw his policies as being hard to implement while still retaining
one’s human sympathies-while still remaining a ‘decent fellow’. He is
saying that only the weak take the easy way out and just squelch their
sympathies, and is praising the stronger and more glorious course of
retaining one’s sympathies while acting in violation of them. In the same
spirit, he ordered that when executions were carried out in concentration
camps, those responsible ‘are to be influenced in such a way as to suffer
no ill effect in their character and mental attitude’. A year later he boasted
that the S.S. had wiped out the Jews

without our leaders and their men suffering any damage in their minds
and souls. The danger was considerable, for there was only a narrow
path between the Scylla of their becoming heartless ruffians unable any
longer to treasure life, and the Charybdis of their becoming soft and
suffering nervous breakdowns.

And there really can’t be any doubt that the basis of Himmler’s policies
was a set of principles which constituted his morality-a sick, bad, wicked
morality. He described himself as caught in ‘the old tragic conflict between
will and obligation’. And when his physician Kersten protested at the
intention to destroy the Jews, saying that the suffering involved was
‘not to be contemplated’, Kersten reports that Himmler replied:

He knew that it would mean much suffering for the Jews…. ‘It is the
curse of greatness that it must step over dead bodies to create new life.
Yet we must . .. cleanse the soil or it will never bear fruit. It will be a
great burden for me to bear.’

This, I submit, is the language of morality.
So in this case, tragically, bad morality won out over sympathy. I am

sure that many of Himmler’s killers did extinguish their sympathies,
becoming ‘heartless ruffians’ rather than ‘decent fellows’; but not Himmler
himself. Although his policies ran against the human grain to a horrible
degree, he did not sandpaper down his emotional surfaces so that there was
no grain there, allowing his actions to slide along smoothly and easily.


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The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn

He did, after all, bear his hideous burden, and even paid a price for it. He
suffered a variety of nervous and physical disabilities, including nausea and
stomach-convulsions, and Kersten was doubtless right in saying that these

were ‘the expression of a psychic division which extended over his whole life’.
This same division must have been present in some of those officials

of the Church who ordered heretics to be tortured so as to change their
theological opinions. Along with the brutes and the cold careerists, there
must have been some who cared, and who suffered from the conflict
between their sympathies and their bad morality.

In the conflict between sympathy and bad morality, then, the victory may
go to sympathy as in the case of Huck Finn, or to morality as in the case of

Another possibility is that the conflict may be avoided by giving up, or
not ever having, those sympathies which might interfere with one’s
principles. That seems to have been the case with Jonathan Edwards. I am
afraid that I shall be doing an injustice to Edwards’ many virtues, and to
his great intellectual energy and inventiveness; for my concern is only with
the worst thing about him-namely his morality, which was worse than

According to Edwards, God condemns some men to an eternity of
unimaginably awful pain, though he arbitrarily spares others-‘arbitrarily’
because none deserve to be spared:

Natural men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have
deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is
dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that
are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in
hell … ; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames
gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them …;
and … there are no means within reach that can be any security
to them…. All that preserves them is the mere arbitrary will, and un-
covenanted unobliged forebearance of an incensed God.3

Notice that he says ‘they have deserved the fiery pit.’ Edwards insists
that men ought to be condemned to eternal pain; and his position isn’t
that this is right because God wants it, but rather that God wants it because
it is right. For him, moral standards exist independently of God, and God
can be assessed in the light of them (and of course found to be perfect).
For example, he says:

They deserve to be cast into hell; so that .. . justice never stands in the
way, it makes no objection against God’s using his power at any moment

3Vergilius Ferm (ed.), Puritan Sage: Collected Writings of Jonathan Edwards
(New York, I953), p. 370. Next three quotations: Ibid., p. 366, p. 294 (‘no more
than infinite’), p. 372.


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to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite
punishment of their sins.

Elsewhere, he gives elaborate arguments to show that God is acting justly
in damning sinners. For example, he argues that a punishment should be
exactly as bad as the crime being punished; God is infinitely excellent;
so any crime against him is infinitely bad; and so eternal damnation is
exactly right as a punishment-it is infinite, but, as Edwards is careful

also to say, it is ‘no more than infinite.’
Of course, Edwards himself didn’t torment the damned; but the question

still arises of whether his sympathies didn’t conflict with his approval of
eternal torment. Didn’t he find it painful to contemplate any fellow-
human’s being tortured for ever? Apparently not:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider
or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully pro-
voked; … he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight;
you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful
venomous serpent is in ours.

When God is presented as being as misanthropic as that, one suspects
misanthropy in the theologian. This suspicion is increased when Edwards
claims that ‘the saints in glory will . . . understand how terrible the suffer-
ings of the damned are; yet . . . will not be sorry for [them].’4 He bases
this partly on a view of human nature whose ugliness he seems not to

The seeing of the calamities of others tends to heighten the sense of our
own enjoyments. When the saints in glory, therefore, shall see the
doleful state of the damned, how will this heighten their sense of the
blessedness of their own state. . . . When they shall see how miserable
others of their fellow-creatures are . .. ; when they shall see the smoke
of their torment, … and hear their dolorous shrieks and cries, and
consider that they in the mean time are in the most blissful state, and
shall surely be in it to all eternity; how they will rejoice!

I hope this is less than the whole truth! His other main point about why the
saints will rejoice to see the torments of the damned is that it is right that
they should do so:

The heavenly inhabitants … will have no love nor pity to the
damned…. [This will not show] a want of a spirit of love in them …;

4This and the next two quotations are from ‘The End of the Wicked Contem-
plated by the Righteous: or, The Torments of the Wicked in Hell, no Occasion
of Grief to the Saints in Heaven’, from The Works of President Edwards (London,

i8I7), vol. IV, pp. 507-508, 511-5I2, and 509 respectively.


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The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn

for the heavenly inhabitants will know that it is not fit that they should
love [the damned] because they will know then, that God has no love to
them, nor pity for them.

The implication that of course one can adjust one’s feelings of pity so that
they conform to the dictates of some authority-doesn’t this suggest that
ordinary human sympathies played only a small part in Edwards’ life?

* * *

Huck Finn, whose sympathies are wide and deep, could never avoid the

conflict in that way; but he is determined to avoid it, and so he opts for
the only other alternative he can see-to give up morality altogether. After
he has tricked the slave-hunters, he returns to the raft and undergoes a

peculiar crisis:

I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well
I had done wrong, and I see it warn’t no use for me to try to learn to do

right; a body that don’t get started right when he’s little, ain’t got no

show-when the pinch comes there ain’t nothing to back him up and

keep him to his work, and so he gets beat. Then I thought a minute, and
says to myself, hold on-s’pose you’d a done right and give Jim up;
would you feel better than what you do now? No, says I, I’d feel bad-
I’d feel just the same way I do now. Well, then, says I, what’s the use
you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t
no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? I was stuck. I
couldn’t answer that. So I reckoned I wouldn’t bother no more about it,
but after this always do whichever come handiest at the time.

Huck clearly cannot conceive of having any morality except the one he has
learned-too late, he thinks-from his society. He is not entirely a prisoner
of that morality, because he does after all reject it; but for him that is a
decision to relinquish morality as such; he cannot envisage revising his
morality, altering its content in face of the various pressures to which it is
subject, including pressures from his sympathies. For example, he does not
begin to approach the thought that slavery should be rejected on moral
grounds, or the thought that what he is doing is not theft because a person
cannot be owned and therefore cannot be stolen.

The basic trouble is that he cannot or will not engage in abstract intellec-
tual operations of any sort. In chapter 33 he finds himself ‘feeling to blame,
somehow’ for something he knows he had no hand in; he assumes that this
feeling is a deliverance of conscience; and this confirms him in his belief
that conscience shouldn’t be listened to:

It don’t make no difference whether you do right or wrong, a person’s
conscience ain’t got no sense, and just goes for him anyway. If I had a
yaller dog that didn’t know no more than a person’s conscience does, I
would pison him. It takes up more room than all the rest of a person’s
insides, and yet ain’t no good, nohow.


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Jonathan Bennett

That brisk, incurious dismissiveness fits well with the comprehensive
rejection of morality back on the raft. But this is a digression.

On the raft, Huck decides not to live by principles, but just to do what-
ever ‘comes handiest at the time’-always acting according to the mood
of the moment. Since the morality he is rejecting is narrow and cruel, and
his sympathies are broad and kind, the results will be good. But moral
principles are good to have, because they help to protect one from acting
badly at moments when one’s sympathies happen to be in abeyance. On
the highest possible estimate of the role one’s sympathies should have, one
can still allow for principles as embodiments of one’s best feelings, one’s
broadest and keenest sympathies. On that view, principles can help one
across intervals when one’s feelings are at less than their best, i.e. through
periods of misanthropy or meanness or self-centredness or depression or

What Huck didn’t see is that one can live by principles and yet have
ultimate control over their content. And one way such control can be
exercised is by checking of one’s principles in the light of one’s sym-
pathies. This is sometimes a pretty straightforward matter. It can happen
that a certain moral principle becomes untenable-meaning literally that
one cannot hold it any longer-because it conflicts intolerably with the pity
or revulsion or whatever that one feels when one sees what the principle
leads to. One’s experience may play a large part here: experiences evoke
feelings, and feelings force one to modify principles. Something like this
happened to the English poet Wilfred Owen, whose experiences in the
First World War transformed him from an enthusiastic soldier into a virtual
pacifist. I can’t document his change of conscience in detail; but I want to
present something which he wrote about the way experience can put
pressure on morality.

The Latin poet Horace wrote that it is sweet and fitting (or right) to
die for one’s country-dulce et decorum est pro patria mori-and Owen
wrote a fine poem about how experience could lead one to relinquish that
particular moral principle.5 He describes a man who is too slow donning his
gas mask during a gas attack-‘As under a green sea I saw him drowning,’
Owen says. The poem ends like this:

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

5 I am grateful to the Executors of the Estate of Harold Owen, and to Chatto
and Windus Ltd., for permission to quote from Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et
Decorum Est’ and ‘Insensibility’.


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The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

There is a difficulty about drawing from all this a moral for ourselves.
I imagine that we agree in our rejection of slavery, eternal damnation,
genocide, and uncritical patriotic self-abnegation; so we shall agree that
Huck Finn, Jonathan Edwards, Heinrich Himmler, and the poet Horace
would all have done well to bring certain of their principles under severe
pressure from ordinary human sympathies. But then we can say this
because we can say that all those are bad moralities, whereas we cannot
look at our own moralities and declare them bad. This is not arrogance:
it is obviously incoherent for someone to declare the system of moral
principles that he accepts to be bad, just as one cannot coherently say of
anything that one believes it but it is false.

Still, although I can’t point to any of my beliefs and say ‘That is false’,
I don’t doubt that some of my beliefs are false; and so I should try to remain
open to correction. Similarly, I accept every single item in my morality-
that is inevitable-but I am sure that my morality could be improved, which
is to say that it could undergo changes which I should be glad of once I had
made them. So I must try to keep my morality open to revision, exposing it
to whatever valid pressures there are-including pressures from my

I don’t give my sympathies a blank cheque in advance. In a conflict
between principle and sympathy, principles ought sometimes to win. For
example, I think it was right to take part in the Second World War on the
allied side; there were many ghastly individual incidents which might have
led someone to doubt the rightness of his participation in that war; and I
think it would have been right for such a person to keep his sympathies
in a subordinate place on those occasions, not allowing them to modify
his principles in such a way as to make a pacifist of him.

Still, one’s sympathies should be kept as sharp and sensitive and aware
as possible, and not only because they can sometimes affect one’s principles
or one’s conduct or both. Owen, at any rate, says that feelings and sym-
pathies are vital even when they can do nothing but bring pain and distress.
In another poem he speaks of the blessings of being numb in one’s feelings:
‘Happy are the men who yet before they are killed/Can let their veins run
cold,’ he says. These are the ones who do not suffer from any compassion
which, as Owen puts it, ‘makes their feet/Sore on the alleys cobbled with


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Jonathan Bennett

their brothers.’ He contrasts these ‘happy’ ones, who ‘lose all imagination’,
with himself and others ‘who with a thought besmirch/Blood over all our

soul.’ Yet the poem’s verdict goes against the ‘happy’ ones. Owen does not
say that they will act worse than the others whose souls are besmirched

with blood because of their keen awareness of human suffering. He merely
says that they are the losers because they have cut themselves off from the

human condition:

By choice they made themselves immune

To pity and whatever moans in man
Before the last sea and the hapless stars;

Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
Whatever shares
The eternal reciprocity of tears.6

University of British Columbia

6 This paper began life as the Potter Memorial Lecture, given at Washington
State University in Pullman, Washington, in I972.


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  • Contents
    • p. 123
    • p. 124
    • p. 125
    • p. 126
    • p. 127
    • p. 128
    • p. 129
    • p. 130
    • p. 131
    • p. 132
    • p. 133
    • p. 134
  • Issue Table of Contents
    • Philosophy, Vol. 49, No. 188 (Apr., 1974) pp. 119-226
      • Front Matter [pp. 119-122]
      • Editorial: Uri Geller [pp. 121]
      • The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn [pp. 123-134]
      • Law, Liberty and Indecency [pp. 135-147]
      • The Concepts of the Sceptic: Transcendental Arguments and Other Minds [pp. 149-168]
      • The Positive McTaggart on Time [pp. 169-178]
      • Saints, Heroes and Utilitarians [pp. 179-189]
      • Discussion
        • Wittgenstein and Heraclitus: Two River-Images [pp. 191-197]
        • Explanatory Completeness [pp. 198-204]
        • A Lack of Discipline [pp. 205-211]
      • New Books
        • Review: untitled [pp. 212-215]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 215-216]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 217-219]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 219-220]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 220-221]
        • Booknotes [pp. 222]
        • Books Received [pp. 223-225]
      • Back Matter [pp. 225-226]

Mayfield Publishing Company, California 1999. Alexander E. Hooke (Virtous Persons, Vicious Deeds)

These materials are made available at this site for the educational purposes of students enrolled at Anne Arundel Community College.
They may be protected by U.S. Copyright law and should not be reproduced or transmitted electronically. One photocopy or printout
may be made of each article for personal, educational use.

his fiction might shape the way we get along with the children weye tutoring-
affect our attitudes toward them, the things we say and do with them.

Yet I wonder whether classroom discussion, per se, can’t also be of help, the
skepticism of my student notwithstanding. She had ~ u s h e d me hard, and I started ‘ referring again and again in my classes on moral introspection ta what she had
observed and learned, and my studenrs more than got the message. Her moral

‘ righteousness, her shrewd eye and ear for hypocrisy hovered over us, made us un-
easy, goaded us.

She challenged us to prove that what we think intellectually can be connected
to o u r daily deeds. For some of us, the connection was established rhrough corn-
munity service. But that is not the only possible way, 1 asked students to write
papers chat told of particular efforts to honor through action the high thoughts we
were discussing. Thus goaded ta a certain self-consciousness, I suppose, students
made various efforts. I felt that the best of them were small victories, brief epiphan-
ies that might otherwise have been overlooked, bu t had great significance for the
students in question.

“I thanked someone serving me food in the college cafeteria, and then we got to
talking, the first time,” one student wrote. For her, this was a decisive break with
her former indifference to others she abstractly regarded as “the people who work
on the serving line.” She felt that she had learned something about another’s life
and had tried to show respect for rhat life.

The student who challenged me with her angry, melancholy story had pushed
me to teach different!^. Now, I make an explicit issue of the more than occasional
disparity between thinking and doing, and I ask my students to consider how we
ali might bridge that disparity. To be sure, the task of connecting intellect to char-
acter is daunting, as Emerson and others well knew, And any of us can lapse into
cynicism, turn the moral challenge of a seminar into yet another moment of op-
portunism: I’ll get an A this time, by writing a paper cannily extolling myself as a
doer of this or that “good deed”!

Still, I know that collcge administrators and faculry members everywhere are
struggling with the same issues that I was faced with, and I can testify that many
studcnts will respond seriously, in at least small ways, if we make clear that we
really believe that the [ink between moral reasoning and action is important to us.
My experience has given me at least a measure of hope that moral reasaning and
reflection can somehow be integrated into students’-and teachers’- lives as they
actually live them.


1. Is there any significant relation between intelligence and moral character? The
case study presented by Coles gives several famous examples. Can you think
of your own examples to support your answer?

2. The student is upset with the lcvel of phoniness and hypocrisy she finds at the
prestigious university. Do you think hypocrisy is always a sign of immorality?
Is a person without hypocrisy therefore moral?

3. Does the case study support the view that morality is instinctive or learned? if
instinctive (or innate), how can you account for the variety of moral beliefs
people hold? If learned, who d o you think are or should be our moral teachers?



A professor of sorial science at Yale, wrjliam Sumner [ i 840-4 9 403 was at theJorPJront

oJ the celtural ~Sativism movemmt, wbich holds that moral good and bad are based

soldy aM an ivtdrvidaal society’s sense of what would promote its own gromth. Ethical
rtlafivism bas always been a thorn in tbe side oJmoral philosopbm who seek rome uni-

versal truth to subport an ethicat valve or principle. Sumner’s distinct contribution is the
empirical widmcr awd clear-cut reasoning he user to articulate the case fur rrfativism,


1. What is a folkway? Find examples of folkways in Sumner’s accounts.
2, Why dues Sumner say that folkways are true in an essay that suppons

moral relativism?

3. Do folkways bring well-being to goad people and harm to bad people
in a particular society?

4. Are folkways logical? Are they rational?

5. In Sumner’s view, why are people moral?

6. How do people learn folkways?

1. Definition and Mode of Origin of the Folkways

If we put together all that we have learned from anthropology and ethnography
about primitive men and pimitive society, we perceive that the first task of life is
to live. Men begin with acts, not with thoughts. Every moment brings necessities

Sekaions from Folkways (Bosron: Ginn 81 Cn., 1907).

2 CHAPTER ONE Why Be a Moral Pcrron?

The readings in Chapter I address these questions from two different perspec-
tives: explaining moral conduct or justifying the reasons for pursuing a moral life.
Although they all agree that morality is a fundamental concern for humans, they
disagree on related issues such as human nature, the purpose of being moral, and
the universality of moral truths or values. More directly, they address whether we
are moral because of cultural conditioning, genetic predisposition, religious up-
bringing, or simply out of the desire to be happy.

Harvard professor of psychiatry Robert Coles introduces a compelling dilemma
raised by one of his undergraduate students. How is it, she asks him, that an “A”
student in an ethics course can, as she ruefully discovers, be morally inept outside
the course? Furthermore, can this student’s behavior bc justified, or is it only ex-
plainable by looking to external events?

William Surnner, a social scientist from Yale in the early 190Qs, contends rhat
morality is largely a matter af cultural traditions and institutions. His Iucid de-
scriptions of various rituals and customs are a classic statement of ethical relativ-
ism-the idea that moral beliefs are dot universal but are valid only within the
culture that espouses them,

Philosopher Richard Garrett illuminates the debate sparked by ethical relativ-
ism in a lively dialogue involving the characters Max, Homer, Dilemma, and Sid-
dhartha. He concludes with a challengeto the ethical relativist.

A different take on the “why be moral” issue comes from the field of sociobiol-
ogy. One of its leading proponents, zoology professor E. 0. Wilson, believes that
most behavior can be explained in terms of genetic makeup rather than ethical
justifications. Being altruistic, in his view, is not a matter of high-mindedness but a
selfish strategy for improving the species.

J. L. Mackie, a British philosopher, studies the case for sociobiology and finds n
problem that can be addressed only by going beyond genetic accounts of moral

For many people thoughout the ages, religion has been the anchor to any sub-
stantive morality. Selections from the Old and New Testaments reflect an attitude
that a moral person is guided by following the authority of God and sacred writ-
ings. A different perspective from Taoist thinker Chuang Tzu evokes a sense of
freedom and humor to articulate the human concern for the good.

According to journalist and recent third-party presidential candidate Harry
Browne, much of what passes for morality actually does more harm than good. He
echoes a popular betief that any worthwhile morality has as its primary focus the
happiness of the individual, Constraints such as guilt, sin, the golden rule, or social
responsibility rhreaten a person” chances to enjoy life.

Nel Noddings, a philosopher of education, proposes a contrasting foundation
for ethics. She suggests chat it is not the individual self but the self-in-relation rhat
initiates our ordinary experiences and our moral reflections.


Case Sttidy: The Disparity between
Intellect and Character


Robrrt Colts (b , i 929) is a proJessor oJ Psychiutry and medical humanities at Harvard

U~iversity and is wefl h o w n f o r his study oJ children. Here Coles relates an episode in

which one of bis u~derjrdduate students posa a dilemma involving many ashects oJ

mordf educdtion. T h e student wants to HOW how it is possible that somwnc canget an

exctllmtgmde in an ethics course yet, outsidc the cioss, engage in moraIfy suspicious

condact. For Coles thEs raises a question all moral thinken need 10 address. That is, wbat
i s the relation bdtuem intdligmce and moral characten


1. What evidence does the student offer to support the view that intelli-
gent people are not always moral?

2. How can moral education lead to sterile discussion or cynicism?
3. Does Coles conclude that an ethics professor ought tr, grade a student

in part based an the student’s moral conduct or character?

Over 150 years ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a lecture at Harvard University,
which he ended with the terse assertion: ‘”Character is higher than intellect.” Even
then, this prominent man of letters was worried (as many other writers and think-
css of succeeding generations would be) about the limits of knowledge and the
narure of n college% mission. The intellect can grow and grow, he knew, in a person
who is smug, ungenerous, even cruel. Institutions originally founded ta teach their
students how to become good and decent, as well as broadly and deeply literate,
may abandon the first mission to concentrate on a driven, narraw book learning-
a course of study in no way intent on making a connection between ideas and
theories on one hand and, on the other, our lives as we actually live them.

Students have their own way of realzing and trying to come to terms with the
split that Emerson addressed. A few years ago, a sophomore student of mine came

to see me in great anguish. She had arrived at Harvard from a Midwestern,
working-class background. She was rrying hard to work her way through college,
and, in doing so, cleaned the rooms of some of her fellow students. Again and
again, she encountered classmates who apparently had forgotten the meaning

I of please, of thank you-no matter how high their Scholastic Assessment Test
scores-students who did not hesitate to be rude, even crude toward her.

4, One day she was not so subtly propositioned by a young man she knew to be a
very bright, successful pre-med student and already an accomplished journalist.
This was not the first time he had made such an overture, but now she had reached
a breaking point. She had quit her job and was preparing to quit college in what
she called “fancy, phony Cambridge.”

The student had been part of a seminar I teach, which links Raymond Carver’s
fiction and poetry with Edward Hopper’s paintings and drawings-the thematic
convergence of literary and arristic sensibility in exploring American loneliness,
both its social and its personal aspects. As she expressed her anxiety and anger tn
me, she soon was sobbing hard. After her sobs quieted, we began to remember the
old days of that class. But she had some weightier matters on her mind and began
to give me st derailed, sardonic account of college life, as viewed by someone vul-
nerable and hardpressed by it. At one point, she observed af the student who had
propositioned her: “That guy gets all A’s. He sells people he’s in Group I [the top
academic category]. I’ve taken two moral-reasoning courses with him, and I’m
sure he’s gotten A’s in both of them-and look at haw he behaves with me, and
I” sure with others.”

She stopped for a moment to let me take that in. I happened to know the young
man and could only acknowledge the irony of his behavior, even as I wasn’t totally
surprised by what she’d experienced. But I was at a loss to know what to say to
her. A philosophy major, with a strong interest in literature, she had taken a course
on the Holocaust and described for me the ironies she also saw in that tragedy-
mass murder of unparalleled historical proportion in a nation hitherto known as

one of the most civilized in the world, with a citizenry as well educated as that of
any country at the time.

Drawing on her education, the student put before me names such as Martin
Heidegger, Carl Jung, Paul De Man, Ezra Pound-brilliant and accomplished men
(a philosopher, a psychoana!yst, a literary critic, a poet) who nonetheless had
linked themselves with the hate that was Nazism and Fascism during the 1930s.
She reminded me of the willingness of the leaders of German and Italian universi-
ties to embrace Nazi and Fascist ideas, of the countless doctors and lawyers and
judges and journatists and schoolteachers, and, yes, even members of the clergy-
who were able to accommodate themseIves to murderous thugs because the thugs
had political power. She pointedly mentioned, taa, the Soviet GuIag, thar expanse
of prisons to which millions of honorable people were sent by Stalin and his brutish
accomplices-prisons commonly staffed by psychiatrists quite eager to label those
victims of a vicious totalitarian state with an assortment of psychiatric names, then
shoot them up with drugs meant to reduce them to zombies.

I tried hard, toward the end of a conversation that lasred almost two hours, to
salvage something for her, for myself, and, not least, for a university that I much

respect, even as I know its failings. I suggested that if she had learned what she had
just shared with me at Harvard-why, that was itself a valuable education ac-
quired. She smiled, gave me credit for a “nice try,'”ut remained unconvinced.
Thcn she put this tough, pointed, unnerving question to me: ‘Tve been taking all
these philosophy courses, and we talk abour what’s true, what’s important, what’s
good. Well, how do you teach people to be good? ” And she added: “What’s the
point of knowing good, if you don’t keep trying to become a good person? ”

I suddenly found myself on the defensive, although all along I had been sym-
pathetic to her, to the indignation she had been directing taward some of her fellow
students, and to her critical examination of the limits of abstract knowledge.
Schools are schools, colleges are colleges, I averred, a complaisant and smug ac-
commodation in my voice. Thereby 1 meant to say that our schools and colleges
these days don’t take major responsibility for the moral values of their students,
but, rather, assume that their students acquire those values at hame. I topped off
my surrender to the status qsto with a shrug of my shoulders, to which she re-
sponded with an unspoken but barely concealed anger. This she expressed rhrough
a knowing look that announced that she’d raken the full moral measure of me.

Suddenly, she was on her feet preparing to leave. I realized that I’d stumbled
badly. I wanted to pursue the discussion, applaud her for taking on a large subject
in a forthright, incisive manner, and tell her she was right in understanding that
moral reasoning is not to be equated with moral conduct. 1 wanted, really, to ex-
plain my shrug-point out that there is only so much that any of us can do to
a&ct others’ behavior, rhat institutional life has its own momentum. But she had
no interest in that: kind of self-justification-as she let me know in an unforgettable
aside as she was departing my office: “I wonder whether Emerson was just being
“smart’ in that lecture he gave here. I wonder if he ever had any ideas about what
to do abour what was worrying him-ar did he think he’d done enough because
he’d spelled the problem out to those Harvard professors?”

She was demonstrating that she understood two levels of irony: One was that
the studr of philosophy-even moral philosophy or moral reasoning-doesn’t
necessarily prompt in either the teacher or the student a determination to act in
accordance with moral principles. And, further, a discussion of that very irony can
prove equally sterile-again carrying no apparent consequences as far as one’s
everyday actions go.

When that student left my affice (she would soon leave Harvard for good), 1 was
exhausted and saddened-and brought up short. Ail too oftcn those of us who
read books or teach don’t think to pose for ourselves the kind of ironic dilemma
she had posed to me. How might we teachers encourage our students (encourage
ourselves) to take that big step from thought to action, from moral analysis to
fulfilled moral commitments? Rather obviously, community service offers us all a
chance to put our money where our mouths are; and, of course, such service can
enrich our understanding of the disciplines we study. A reading of Invisible Man
(literature), Tally’s Comers (sociology and anthropology), or Childhood and So-
ciety (psychology and psychoanalysis) takes on new meaning after some time spent
in a ghetto school or a clinic. By the same taken, such books can prompt us to
think pragmatically about, say, how the wisdom rhat Ralph Ellison worked into

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They may be protected by U.S. Copyright law and should not be reproduced or transmitted electronically. One photocopy or printout
may be made of each article for personal, educational use.

small, but the circIe of lights is smaller. The u~loadillg will have to b,
done gradually. Somewhere the trucks ale growling. They back up against the
steps, black, ghostlike, their searchlights flash across the trees. Wasser! [email protected]! ~ h ,
same all over again, like a latt showing of the same film; a volley o f $hob
rhe train hlls silent. Only this time a litrle girl pushes hcrsdf Mfway through

., : the small window and, losing her balance, falls out on to rhe gravel. Stunned,
she Lies still for a moment, then stand5 up m d bqins w&ng around in a c idq
fwter and Faster, waving her rigid arms in che air, breathing I o d y and spasmod
ically, whining in a faint voice. Her mind has grven way in che inferno inside,t]le
trai~~. The whinmg is hard on the nerves: an S.S. man approaches calmly, his
heavy boot s d e s between her shou2dtrs. She falls. 1-Ioldtng her down mth I&
foot, he draws hr. revolver, fms once, then again. She remains face down, hchng
the gravel wich her feet, until she stiffens. They proceed to unseal the train. ,

I am back an the ramp, standrng by the doors. A warm, sickening smeU ‘,

gushes from inside. The mountain of people filling rhe car almost halfway up
to the ceiling is motionless, horribly tangled, but still steaming,

‘ ~ ~ ~ ~ n ! ” ” comes the command. An S.S. man steps out from the darkness.
Across his chest hangs aportable searchhght. We throws a stream of light inside.

“Why are you standing about like sheep? Seart unloading!” His whip flies
and falls across our backs. I seize a corpse by rhe hand; the fingers close rightly ‘
around mine. I pull back with a shriek and stagger away, My heart pounds, ‘

jumps up to my thraar. I can no longer control the nausea. Hunched under che
main I b e ~ n to vomit. Then, like a drunk, I weave over to the stack of tails.

1 lie against the cool, kind metal and dream about returning to the camp,
about my bunk, on which there is no mattress, about sleep among comrades
who are not going to the gas tonight. Suddellly I see the camp as a haven of
peace. I t is true, others may be dylng, but one is somehow stilI alive, one has ”

enough food, enough strength to work. . . .
The lights on the ramp flicker with a spectral glow> the wave of people- lso

feverish, agitated, stupefied people-flows on and on, endlessly. They &ink that
now they will have ta face a new life in che camp, and they prepare rhemselves
emotionally for the hard struggle ahead They do not know that in just a few mo-
ments they will die, tlm the gold, moneyJ and diamonds which they have so pru. -,

deently hidden in their dothrng and on their bodies are now useless to them. Ex-
perienced professionals will probe into wery recess of their flesh, will p d the
gold from under rhe tongue and the diamonds from the uterus and the colon.
They will rip out gold tecrh. In tighdysealed crates they will ship them to Berlin. ‘*

The S.S. men’s black figures move about, dignified, businesslike. The gen-
tleman with the notebook puts down his find marks, rounds out the figures:
fifteen thousand.

Many, very many, trucks have been driven to the crematoria today.
It is almost over. The dead are being cleared o f f the ramp and piled into

the last truck. The Canada men, weighed down under a load of bread, mar-
malade, and sugar, and smelling of perfume and fresh linen, line up m go. For ‘$
several days the entire camp will live ofr this transport. For several days the en-
tire camp will talk abous “Sosnowiec-13~dzin.” “Sosnmviec-Bqdzin” was a good, ‘

rich transport. .: The stars are already beginning to pale as we walk back to the camp. The
‘;; sky grows manslucent and opens high above our heads -it is getting Liglat. ‘ – I !

Il r ,̂ .’

A w s M ! : “Unloadl” ?


Great columns of smoke rise from the crematoria and merge up above into 155
ge black river which very slowly floats across rhr sky over Brkenau mcl dis-
,m beyond the fo~~ests in the direction of Trzebinia. The “Sosnowiec-
,inn transport is dteady burning.
we pass a heavily armed S.S. detachment. on its way to change yard. The
march briskly, in step, shoulder to sl~oulder, one mass, one will.
“Utzd ,mmgen die gnze Welt . . .” ” rhey.sing at the top of their lungs.
“Rech~ nanl To the right march!” snaps a command from up front. We
re out d their way,

, . WeL “And tomorrow the whole world. . .”

1. konsider the nature of whar it means to be a prisoner in this story and in

. Ressie Head’s “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses” @elow). How do you ac-
‘ . – 1 ) count for the differences? Are there any significant similarities?
– , 2. Discuss the use of violence in Borowski’s story and in Tim O’Brien’s “How

, to Tell aTrue War Story” (p. 548). How does the violence in each story affect
bu? How is it relared to the themes of each story?

3, Explain how a reading of this $wry affects your response to William
Heyen’s poem “The Trains” (p. 850).

, .
Born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Bessie Head was the daughter of a
black father and a white mother. After growing up in a foster home and or-
phanage, she taught grammar school and wrote fiction for a local paper. In
her twenties she moved to a farm commune in Botswana ta avoid the
apartheid,of her homeland. Her first novel, Wbm Rain Clouds ds~adfer, was
hblished in 1969. Her collection of stories, The Collector of Tveas~res and

kher Bo&wdna Vilbge Tale1 (19771, was foIIowed by two other n wels, Semrue:
sage 4th R a i ~ Wind (1981) and A Bewitched Crossroad (1984). Head’s $md-
*riv .wid1 oppression and the daily – – A -. difficulties -. — – – endured . . – by its victims pro-

~ ~ d k h a work a heightened sensitivity .- – . – to – the –.. necessity-for human de-
U h “The Prisoner WfIio-wore Glasses,” uppression and decency turn
L r o A – ~ r s .


~ r e l y a breath of wind disturbed the stillness of the day and the lung rows
cabbages were bright green in the sunIight. Large wlGre clauds drifted

‘W~Y across the deep blue sky. Now and then they obscured die sun and
u”d a chill on the backs ofthe prisoners who had to work all day long in the

Head/ Thr pniowr Who Wme G h ~ s e ~ 1 631

7 abbage field. This trick the douds were playing d r h the run eventu* ,

caused one of the prisoners who won_glases to stop m r k str-
, – — — -7.- — – — 3 -BP>,%d pea s h o r r ~ i ~ l ~ t e d l y ~ ~ ~ them. He was a thin lirde feilow with r h ~ H ~ ~ ~ d – ~ ~ ~ ”

diesfdn~carnit-k-nobhly knees. He dso had a lor of fmciful ideas because hr ,
smiled at che clouds.

kind 0

Dok ‘ere,” he mid. ‘<I don’t take orders fiLun..zkfixna I don’t know what d j
F kaffir you dnk you are. Why dm’t you say Baas? I’m your Baas. Wby

“Perhaps they want me to send a message to the chiidien,” he thoughc
renderiy, noting that the clouds were drifting in the dimtion of his home
some hundred miles away Bur before he could f i – m e the message, he wardCr
in ch=ge of 5 s work span ‘ shouted: “Hey, what ou dnk u’re doing, Brine?

The prisoner swung rwun6;6linking rap1 a F – 3 y, yer at r r s m e t~rn=%,~ :

up the enemy He was P new warder, named]acobus Stephanus mt IE. His ‘ – eyes were the color of the sky but they were frightening. A simple, pnmirive,
brutal soul gazed our of rhem. The prisoner bent down quickiy and a measage
was quietly passed davn rhe line: “We’rh-h For trouble rLs rimG -5.”

– – – . ..&. , (‘Why?” rippled back up the Line.
“Because<. he:^. ear human,” the reply rippled down md yet only the

crvnihing of tlre spades as thsyturned wa rhs w h disturbed the stiIInas. ;:
This prticula work span was known as Span One. It w a sompaaed of

ten men and they were all political prisoners. They w n gmuped together foi i
convenience as it was one of the prison regulations that no black warder ‘i
should be inAargegF a political p r j sone rb rhlprisoner ~on-hirn-t& 1
cews. 1~ never seemed to occur to the a u r h ~ t i & tliat-&is

reasoning wrJ the smngth of Span One a d a clue to the strange tenor &ey aroused in he
w d e r s . AJ politicd prisoners hey were unlike the o~her prisonem in th, ‘ 1′ sense that r i y felt no p i i r nor were they o~t~aqn oiaoriea Ail,lv rnrn ih : , snnrrively cower, which was why it was the kind d piison where men got ,’,

knocked out cold with a blow at the back of the head from an imn bar. up .
until the arrival of Warder Hannejk, no warder had dared bear any member of
S p a One and no warder had lasted more than a week with r h w . The b&

endrely pyhologi~d. S p a One was assertive and it
beyond the scope of white warders to handle assertive black men. Thus, spa One h d got out of

c0ntrol. Thw,wae the be~v-hieves and liars in the cam& ~h y lived dl an KW-rabbagas. ~ ~ ~ d ~ ~ ~ ~ r o b a t ~ ~ . ~ ~ n d — r i ~ e they mowd,
t h ~ ~ h 5, and acted as Q~_%,c!Iw h a d , a _ e ; [ e ~ ~ d , _ e v e ~ r , t e c h ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ n ‘ l ‘
cealrnent. +- –

Trouble began that very day bemeen Span One and Warder Hame+. it .i

because of rhe shorrrighrrdnws of Brille T h t uns the nickname he –
given in prison and is the AfrikaansS,wX For sornmne uho -rs glwses, ‘ ,

@ r e c o u l d never judge the approach of the prison gates and on
previ- “US occasjoru he had munched on cabbages and dropped rhem almost at the

1 1 feet of rhe watder and all previous warders had wedooked this. Not so Warder
, Hmnetjie.

-dort7K Y

+n mill

. –
lou say B m , hey?”
ille blinked his eyes rapidly hut hy mntrasr his mice was strangely c d m a
,twenty years older rlran you,” he i d . I t was the first thing that came

b- – Ld but the comrades seemed to think it a huge joke. A titter swrptup the Lc+ &,
line The next thing Warder Hani~eriie wllipped-out a knobkerrie’ [email protected] fiqf ”-.k
B ~ p d & L o ~ s 2 1 m u t the h& What surprised his comrades w the yL((.c

wlrh which firill-mwed his glasses or else they would have been
shed to pieces on the ground.

evening in the crll Brillc was very apologetic.
“I’m sorry, comrades,” he said, “I’ve put you tnro a hell of a mess.”
.Never mind, brorher,” they said. “Wh,ab~pnppens t o – ~ ~ o @ s , happew f i d



first 1


I cne c
a bii


on’t hungry.'”
)rivately, Brille was very philosophicJ about his head wounds. It was rlie
ime an act of violence had been against hun but he had long

a witness of extreme, almost unbelievabl~ human brutaliry g&ad twelve
rn and his mind trayled back t$t-e_ve_$~&m.uugh the sixteen y e a s of (.P — -_

llam in wKXE had l i d . 1r.W dl happened in a a m d drab little three-
iroorned house m a sma l l drab litde street in the Eastern Cape and the chil-
:n kept coming year after yeu because neither he nor Martha ever managed

-onrracepuves the right way and a reacher’s sdary never allowed moving to
g e t house and he was dwkys tddng exams m improve his sdary only
it d eaten up by hungiy mouths. Everything was pretty horrible, espe-

y the way the children fought. They’d get hold of each orher’s hnds and
them a good bashing against the wall. Martha gave up somewl?ere along
line so they worked our a thing bemeen tl~ern. The bsPhinp, biting, and
>d were ro operate in full swing unrd he came hame. He wa5 to be the bogey-
I and when ir worked he never failed to have rsenscof godhead at the wty in
ch his presence could &mge savages into fairly removable human b-s. 1
Yet somehow i t was qismanagemcnr at the center or his
that drove him into polder. It w a really an ordered beautiful world wirh+
–I_ “__. _ ._. _ ^ _ _
: a few%asic slogans to lparn dong w i t h the rights of mankind AT one
ge,%iFdr~ i l ~ i i n ~ S b e c ~ ~ ~ v e r ~ bad, there were conferences co atrend, all very

‘who dropped that cablage?” he Lundcred.
. I Brille stepped out of line.
I “I did,” he said meekly. . :. I

I a , “flAght,” sad Hannetjir “The whole S p a gow t h m
ofih wBur 1 told you 1 did it: Briril protested.

8 .

The blood-rushed tq Warder Hanne j i e k f ~ ~ e .



nl try to & up for it, comrades,” he said. “1’11 sred somerhing so that 20


Ear away from hame.
“Lrt’s face it,” he thought ruehrlly “I’m ollly learning right now what it

LO be r politician All rhia while Sve been running a w y from Martha1
d the kids.” +
And the pain in his he;ld bmug1lt a hard lump to his throat. Tnrt was

what the &Idrtn did to ocher daily and Martha wam’r managing and if

Warder Hannetjir had tlor interrupted him that morning he would have senr
the fofiouiny! message: “Be good comrades, my childen. Cooperat+ rhen
will run srnc&hly.”

The next day Warder Hannajic caught r ius old man a€ twelve children 25

sreding grapes from the farm shed. They were an ellormom quanety d grapes

@r: A black South African; often used as a disparaging term.
robkcme: A dub .

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Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police
New York Times
Martin Gansberg
March 27, 1964

For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a
woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each
time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault;
one witness called after the woman was dead.

That was two weeks ago today.

Still shocked is Assistant Chief Inspector Frederick M. Lussen, in charge of the borough’s detectives and a
veteran of 25 years of homicide investigations. He can give a matter-of-fact recitation on many murders. But the
Kew Gardens slaying baffles him–not because it is a murder, but because the “good people” failed to call the

“As we have reconstructed the crime,” he said, “the assailant had three chances to kill this woman during a 35-
minute period. He returned twice to complete the job. If we had been called when he first attacked, the woman
might not be dead now.”

This is what the police say happened at 3:20 A.M. in the staid, middle-class, tree-lined Austin Street area:

Twenty-eight-year-old Catherine Genovese, who was called Kitty by almost everyone in the neighborhood,
was returning home from her job as manager of a bar in Hollis. She parked her red Fiat in a lot adjacent to the
Kew Gardens Long Island Railroad Station, facing Mowbray Place. Like many residents of the neighborhood,
she had parked there day after day since her arrival from Connecticut a year ago, although the railroad frowns
on the practice.

She turned off the lights of her car, locked the door, and started to walk the 100 feet to the entrance of her
apartment at 82-70 Austin Street, which is in a Tudor building, with stores in the first floor and apartments on
the second.

The entrance to the apartment is in the rear of the building because the front is rented to retail stores. At night
the quiet
neigborhood is shrouded in the slumbering darkness that marks most residential areas.

Miss Genovese noticed a man at the far end of the lot, near a seven-story apartment house at 82-40 Austin
Street. She halted. Then, nervously, she headed up Austin Street toward Lefferts Boulevard, where there is a
call box to the 102nd Police Precinct in nearby Richmond Hill.

She got as far as a street light in front of a bookstore before the man grabbed her. She screamed. Lights went
on in the 10-story apartment house at 82-67 Austin Street, which faces the bookstore. Windows slid open and
voices punctuated the early-morning stillness.

Miss Genovese screamed: “Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me! Please help me!”

From one of the upper windows in the apartment house, a man called down: “Let that girl alone!”

The assailant looked up at him, shrugged, and walked down Austin Street toward a white sedan parked a short
away. Miss Genovese struggled to her feet.

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Lights went out. The killer returned to Miss Genovese, now trying to make her way around the side of the
building by the
parking lot to get to her apartment. The assailant stabbed her again.

“I’m dying!” she shrieked. “I’m dying!”

Windows were opened again, and lights went on in many apartments. The assailant got into his car and drove
away. Miss Genovese staggered to her feet. A city bus, 0-10, the Lefferts Boulevard line to Kennedy
International Airport, passed. It was 3:35 A.M.

The assailant returned. By then, Miss Genovese had crawled to the back of the building, where the freshly
painted brown
doors to the apartment house held out hope for safety. The killer tried the first door; she wasn’t there. At the
second door, 82-62 Austin Street, he saw her slumped on the floor at the foot of the stairs. He stabbed her a
third time–fatally.

It was 3:50 by the time the police received their first call, from a man who was a neighbor of Miss Genovese.
In two minutes they were at the scene. The neighbor, a 70-year-old woman, and another woman were the only
persons on the street. Nobody else came forward.

The man explained that he had called the police after much deliberation. He had phoned a friend in Nassau
County for advice and then he had crossed the roof of the building to the apartment of the elderly woman to get
her to make the call.

“I didn’t want to get involved,” he sheepishly told police.

Six days later, the police arrested Winston Moseley, a 29-year-old business machine operator, and charged
him with homicide. Moseley had no previous record. He is married, has two children and owns a home at 133-
19 Sutter Avenue, South Ozone Park, Queens. On Wednesday, a court committed him to Kings County Hospital
for psychiatric observation.

When questioned by the police, Moseley also said he had slain Mrs. Annie May Johnson, 24, of 146-12 133d
Avenue, Jamaica, on Feb. 29 and Barbara Kralik, 15, of 174-17 140th Avenue, Springfield Gardens, last July. In
the Kralik case, the police are holding Alvin L. Mitchell, who is said to have confessed to that slaying.

The police stressed how simple it would have been to have gotten in touch with them. “A phone call,” said
one of the detectives, “would have done it.” The police may be reached by dialing “0” for operator or SPring 7-

Today witnesses from the neighborhood, which is made up of one-family homes in the $35,000 to $60,000
range with the exception of the two apartment houses near the railroad station, find it difficult to explain why
they didn’t call the police.

A housewife, knowingly if quite casually, said, “We thought it was a lovers’ quarrel.” A husband and wife
both said, “Frankly, we were afraid.” They seemed aware of the fact that events might have been different. A
distraught woman, wiping her hands in her apron, said, “I didn’t want my husband to get involved.”

One couple, now willing to talk about that night, said they heard the first screams. The husband looked
thoughtfully at the bookstore where the killer first grabbed Miss Genovese.

“We went to the window to see what was happening,” he said, “but the light from our bedroom made it
difficult to see the street.” The wife, still apprehensive, added: “I put out the light and we were able to
see better.”

Asked why they hadn’t called the police, she shrugged and replied: “I don’t know.”

A man peeked out from a slight opening in the doorway to his apartment and rattled off an account of the
killer’s second attack. Why hadn’t he called the police at the time? “I was tired,” he said without emotion. “I went

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back to bed.”

It was 4:25 A.M. when the ambulance arrived to take the body of Miss Genovese. It drove off. “Then,” a
solemn police detective said, “the people came out.”

The above reported events are true and took place on March 14, 1964.

The brutal murder of Kitty Genovese and the
disturbing lack of action by her neighbors
became emblematic in what many perceived as an
evolving culture of violence and apathy in the
United States. In fact, social scientists
still debate the causes of what is now known
as “the Genovese Syndrome.”

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