A Lover's Shame

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (5):615-630 (2012)
Shame is one of the more painful consequences of loving someone; my beloved’s doing something immoral can cause me to be ashamed of her. The guiding thought behind this paper is that explaining this phenomenon can tell us something about what it means to love. The phenomenon of beloved-induced shame has been largely neglected by philosophers working on shame, most of whom conceive of shame as being a reflexive attitude. Bennett Helm has recently suggested that in order to account for beloved-induced shame, we should deny the reflexivity of shame. After arguing that Helm’s account is inadequate, I proceed to develop an account of beloved-induced shame that rightly preserves its reflexivity. A familiar feature of love is that it involves an evaluative dependence; when I love someone, my well-being depends upon her life’s going well. I argue that loving someone also involves a persistent tendency to believe that her life is going well, in the sense that she is a good person, that she is not prone to wickedness. Lovers are inclined, more strongly than they otherwise would be, to give their beloveds the moral benefit of the doubt. These two features of loving—an evaluative dependence and a persistent tendency to believe in the beloved’s moral goodness—provide the conditions for a lover to experience shame when he discovers that his beloved has morally transgressed
Keywords Love  Shame
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-012-9356-5
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Stephanie Collins (2013). Duties to Make Friends. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (5):907-921.

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