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the heroic imagination

Interesting interview in Edge with psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who wonders if there is "a counterpart to Hannah Arendt's classical analysis of evil in terms of her phrase 'the banality of evil.'"

Zimbardo conducted the infamous 1971 Stanford prison experiment (the inspiration for the film 'Das Experiment'), which illustrates both sides of human nature:

One way of looking at the consequences of the Stanford Prison Study is as a cautionary tale of the many ways in which good people can be readily and easily seduced into evil. But there’s an equally important - maybe more important - consequence of the study, which is what it tells us about the flip side of human nature. The Stanford Prison Study was ended abruptly: it was supposed to run for two weeks and it ended - was terminated - after only six days because of a very heroic act.

While 50 observers were letting the experiment get out of control, there was one young assistant who objected to the degrading conditions, causing Zimbardo to terminate the experiment.

...the typical notion we have of heroes as super-stars, as super heroes, as Superman, and Batman, and Wonder Woman, gives us a false impression that being a hero means being able to do thing that none of us can actually accomplish. I want to argue just the opposite: that what we have to be doing more and more is cultivating the "heroic imagination"...

parkinson's law

To archive this one once and for all, here's the definition and explanation of the great and ever applicable Parkinson's Law , as described by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in 1958. Parkinson's Law itself reads: Work expands so as to… Read the full post »

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