Krista K. Thomason, Naked: The Dark Side of Shame and Moral Life, Oxford University Press, 2018.

Criminal Justice Ethics (forthcoming)

Mark Alfano
Australian Catholic University
In Naked, Krista K. Thomason offers a multi-faceted account of shame, covering its nature as an emotion, its positive and negative roles in moral life, its association with violence, and its provocation through invitations to shame, public shaming, and stigmatization. Along the way, she reflects on a range of examples drawn from literature, memoirs, journalism, and her own imagination. She also considers alternative views at length, draws a wealth of important distinctions, and articulates many of the most intuitive objections to her own view in order to defend it more thoroughly. As such, the book’s subtitle, The Dark Side of Shame and Moral Life, undersells its scope and ambition. This is an exploration not just of shame’s dark side but a kaleidoscopic appreciation of both the nature and the (dis)value of shame and shaming. Somewhat undercutting this breadth, Thomason relies heavily on Kantian intuitions about equal respect and recognition for persons and their dignity; in several key arguments, she tells us to disregard predictable and systematic consequences of emotions, practices, and institutions so that we can better focus on their constitutive or internal aspects. Of course, every philosopher inevitably brings theoretical commitments to bear when writing about moral psychology, but non-Kantian readers should be forewarned that — despite the fact that Thomason says that she does “not assume any particular moral theory” — her ethical conclusions about shaming and stigmatizing are likely to be plausible only to those who are already snugly tied into a web of “Kantian commitments” (p. 9).
Keywords shame  moral psychology  ethics
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