Societal Development: Understanding and Perception of History

2021-06-01 12:53:54
6 pages
1716 words
Sewanee University of the South
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Fundamentally, history refers to the study of humans past accounts and the chronological records of events in relation to his environment. Notably, the historical information is usually recorded by individuals having the experiences of those events at a particular time. Notably, ethics refers to area of knowledge that deals with moral principles. While it is evident that history and ethics have always played substantial roles in enhancing the understanding of historical development, there have been debates regarding whether or not key events in the historical development of areas of knowledge always be judged by the standards of their time (Brooks, 2001 and Spinoza, 2001). For example, the nature of ethics has changed from what the Greeks of the fourth century BCE held in mind, making it focused more on right than the virtues. This essay will therefore investigate the contention that key events in the historical development of areas of knowledge, such as history and ethics, always be judged by the standards of their time.

Judging the historical events by the standards of their time enables the modern society to have an objective peek regarding the historical past. This stimulates the development of important perspectives that helps in knowing various historical, political and the psychological underpinnings of such events. Since the 1940's, many historians have argued that the atomic bombings in Japan were necessary to end the war (Southard, 2015). The view in the United States, especially, was cultivated on these very lines by the media towing the line of the state policies. But, afterwards, many historians have argued otherwise. Paul Ham debunked the notion that the bombs had any significant impact on the surrender of the Japanese. Hiroshima, Nagasaki: the real story of the atomic bombings and their aftermath by Paul Ham. This book is based on extensive research through powerful eye witness accounts. Ham re-examines the atomic attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, confronting the popularly held belief that the nuclear attacks were justified because they ended WWII in the Pacific without a costly invasion of Japanese home islands. The American perspective is that the attacks were warranted, at the time, and the general statement released by American correspondents states, The United States' decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved over one million American lives which would have been sacrificed by an invasion of Japan." As the Americans saw the Japanese as a military threat, they were inclined to act. They believed that the use of these bombs was rationalised because a war with Japan would have caused a much greater number of fatalities which is an example of utilitarianism. The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima which was a military base, and civilian injuries and fatalities were unintended and kept to a minimum. As a matter of judging this historical event with the standard of time in which it occurred, historian argue that the bombs demonstrated the power and advancement of the United States, helping them to warn other aggressive nations that posed a threat. The attack was justified as a result of the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941 (Southard, 2015). The use of nuclear weapons in Japan left the world more susceptible to nuclear war. American leaders claimed the bombs were "our least abhorrent choice"--and still today most people believe they ended the Pacific War and saved millions of American and Japanese lives. In this gripping narrative, Ham demonstrates convincingly that misunderstandings and nationalist fury on both sides led to the use of the bombs. Trumans decision to drop the atomic bomb, at the time, was seen as justified because he was making the decision that would lead to what he thought would be the better outcome Cited in (Taylor, 2005).

While it is evident that the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima could be justified as a result of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbour and the use of nuclear weapons, different arguments have gained and lost support as our collective judgements changed. Notably, the U.S.'s justification for the bombing is based upon the premise that the attacks precipitated Japans surrender. Although it may be true, Japan had no allies, a destroyed navy, and islands under a naval siege and, therefore, the bomb was justified, but nowadays people have evolved to examine a situation with historical context, and take the consequences into consideration. The U.S.A. was more curious about the atomic bombs destructive effect than in arranging an invasion (Southard, 2015). For this reason, they justified the eradication of hospitals and schools and killed many innocent civilians. Presently, it is not warranted to carry out a course of action that would affect such a large number of innocent civilians. Organisations such as the Clamshell Alliance founded more than thirty years after the Hiroshima bombing, which believed the construction of the Sea-Brook, New Hampshire nuclear reactors, was not right and took nonviolent direct action against it (Tailor, 2005). In addition, the Shad Alliance, an anti-nuclear organisation, successfully brought together 18,000 protesters to march against the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant which later was completed but terminated in 1989 because of the expostulations (Southard, 2015). What is often overlooked is that key events in history, such as the bombing of Hiroshima will always be judged by the standards of their time because people are a product of their time and, then there are the few who change history for the better. By judging historical events by a modern standard we make it relevant. But we will never fully understand the motives of the humans in charge of these events in history and we should never assume we do. The knowledge we have today is due to the efforts of the people who documented the events of the past. Thus, Hiroshima should be judged by the standards of its time.

An unethical experiment can be defined as one that does harm to its subjects. An example of unethical animal testing is the Monkey Drug Trials (Yarri, 2005). The Monkey Drug Trials were experiments conducted in 1969 that involved monkeys and rats injecting themselves with different kinds of drugs. This was done in order to investigate the effects of drugs and the addiction caused by it. The researchers were trying to prove that drugs are very addictive and their side effects are harmful. A large group of monkeys and rats were trained for self-injection (Deneau et al. 2009). Once the animals were capable of self-injecting, the researchers gave them a large supply of a wide range of drugs, including: morphine, alcohol, codeine, cocaine, and amphetamines (Yarri, 2005). Another experiment carried out by Alfred Jost was a showed the manner in which the hormones affect the development of male and female sex characteristics through his experimentation on rabbits. He discovery of the Mullerian inhibitor, now called anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH). In this experiment rabbit embryos were altered to see the effect of hormones on the development of the rabbit into a male or female. The experiment caused more of the rabbits to be born as females. No rabbits were harmed by this, so this can be considered an ethical experiment. This is therefore a justification that historical development regarding ethics can be judged by the standard o0f their time.

Although it may be true that our historical development in ethics eliminated unethical animal testing, contrary to this popular opinion, unethical animal testing still exists today (Buccafusco, 2000) Ideally, the standards by which to judge things or events are the best standards that were available to them at that particular time. Some of the well-known multinational corporations such as L'Oreal, Estee Lauder, Clorox, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive and many more test on animals. When it comes to ethics these companies fall short and they make no effort to change their animal testing policies. Efforts to obliterate unethical animal experimentation have increased as our moral code developed. PETA works to stop the food industry, clothing industry, laboratories, and entertainment industry from animal testing. It effectively does this by investigations, protests, research, events, public education and animal rescues. CFI aims to put an end to animal testing worldwide. They have advocated for a cruelty free living for over 100 years because they believe that all experiments that use animals have no ethical justification for it. Just like the past, today we still perform experiments on animals but some of the testing can be categorised as ethical whereas some may not. Animal research has helped us develop vaccines such as RTS, S (a vaccine against Malaria) to fight against some of the most deadly diseases (Darwall, 1998). Along with that, animal testing helped successfully evolve veterinary medicine. In addition, some animals are reproduced in a lab to be tested on and would not survive a day in their natural habitat. Animals such as rats have a fast reproductive rate unlike humans and would we prefer to carry out the test on ourselves and put our population at risk for the sake of the animal population.

Our understanding and perception of history has drastically changed over time, such as our view of the Hiroshima bombing. History plays a great role in societal development. The study of historical events and their consequence help us in avoiding the same problems and solve problems that face society today. Similarly, our understanding and perception of ethics changed over time; for instance, our attitude towards animal testing. Any ethical code based off short-lived human institutions is bound to progressively change. Ethics has helped our society evolve by finding a viable accord between its members on what is morally justified.


Buccafusco, J (2000):Methods of Behavior Analysis in Neuroscience Wordsworth Editions

Brooks, T. (2011). Ethics and moral philosophy. Leiden: Brill.

Ham, P. (2014): Hiroshima, Nagasaki: The real story of the atomic bombings and their aftermath. New York : Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, [2014]

Darwall, S. L. (1998). Philosophical ethics. Boulder, Colo. [u.a.: Westview Press.

Deneau, G., Yanagita, T., & Seevers, M. H. (2009). Self-administration of psychoactive substances by the monkey. Psychopharmacology, 16(1), 30-48.

Southard, S. (2015): Nagasaki: Life after nuclear war. New York, NY : Viking, 2015.

Spinoza, B. . (2001). Ethics. Ware: Wordsworth Editions. Ware : Wordsworth Editions, 2001

Taylor, A. B. (2005). Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and beyond: Subversion of values. Victoria, B.C: Trafford.

Yarri, D. (2005). The ethics of animal experimentation: A critical analysis and constructive Christian proposal. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Watson, S. (2009). Animal testing: Issues and ethics. New York: Rosen Pub.


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