The politics of disgust and shame

Journal of Ethics 10 (4):383 - 418 (2006)
This is a critical study of Martha Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity. Central to Nussbaum’s book are arguments against society’s or the state’s using disgust and shame to forward the aims of the criminal law. Patrick Devlin’s appeal to the common man’s disgust to determine what acts of customary morality should be made criminal is an example of how society might use disgust to forward the aims of the criminal law. The use of so-called shaming penalties as alternative sanctions to imprisonment is an example of how society might use shame for this purpose. I argue that despite Nussbaum’s own view to the contrary, her arguments against such uses of disgust and shame are best understood as criticisms of programs of conservative political philosophy like Devlin’s and not of the emotions themselves.
Keywords conservative  Patrick Devlin  Disgust, Martha Nussbaum  Paul Rozin  shame
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