Review Essay: Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan, part 1
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Review Essay: Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan, part 1

How can people not recognize obviously ill-advised or immoral decisions being made around them? People who are otherwise intelligent and thoughtful can make remarkably poor decisions in certain situations. Heffernan seeks to identify what those situations are, how human psychology generates willful blindness, and how such blindness might be avoided or reduced.
In very accessible language, Heffernan details studies and stories that explore the phenomenon of willful blindness. Among her observations, people in groups will often surrender their own opinions and perspectives to maintain group cohesiveness and to avoid being ostracized from the group, particularly in groups where agreement with the groupís leader(s) is seen as a sign of loyalty.
Willful blindness certainly plays an important role when it comes to issues related to nonhuman persons, because people often resist knowing the truth about how nonhuman persons are raised in factory farms and how they are treated by the fur, research, and other industries. I will eventually comment on the social dynamics involved, but next essay I want to consider the Milgram experiments and their offshoots, which I think can help explain why humans treat nonhuman persons so thoughtlessly and callously. 

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