I had zero interactions with this professor except for attending one hour-long talk.

I had zero prior knowledge about the specifics of her topic, and I’ve learned basically nothing further about the specifics of her topic.

One sentence from her talk still comes to mind on a regular basis, and I increasingly believe that it’s an extremely important idea.

Let me tell you how it happened, as best I can remember. The specific topic was the behavior of people in concentration camps in Nazi Germany– how they attempted to cope and protect each other. This was part of the introduction, I think.

Professor: So, we’ve talked about the legal definiton of genocide. Genocide is committing various crimes– murder, involuntary sterilization– with the intent to destroy an ethnic or religious group. What’s wrong with that definition?

Another student: Uh… you can’t prove intent?

Professor: Exactly! When can you ever prove intent? After the fact!

She went on to talk about potential alternate definitions that could the victims’ experiences as a standard instead.

And that was my first exposure to the idea that wrongdoing should be defined based on the victim’s perspective and the harm it does, not the intent of the person who harmed them.

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