Shame and moral autonomy

Ratio 34 (1):44-55 (2021)
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Does shame have a place in a mature moral agent's psychology? Does it play a useful and positive role in morality? One skepticism that disputes shame's compatibility with mature moral agency or its being a useful moral emotion is that shame appears heteronomous in nature: We experience shame not because we have behaved badly by our own moral standards, but because we have been reproved by other people and suffered an injury to our social image. To mitigate this skepticism, this paper will propose a way in which we can reconcile shame with moral autonomy. Specifically, I will argue that a mature moral agent is vulnerable to shame because she cares a great deal about morality, and possesses certain character traits that dispose her to take others’ moral criticisms seriously. Occurrences of shame therefore are not always a threat to a moral agent's autonomous moral judgment.

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Jack M. C. Kwong
Appalachian State University

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References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations.Dennis Whitcomb, Heather Battaly, Jason Baehr & Daniel Howard-Snyder - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (3):509-539.
Understanding Why.Alison Hills - 2015 - Noûs 49 (2):661-688.
Shame and Necessity.Bernard Arthur Owen Williams - 1992 - University of California Press.

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