A Conditional Defense of Shame and Shame Punishment

Symposion: Theoretical and Applied Inquiries in Philosophy and Social Sciences 4 (1):77-95 (2017)
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Abstract

This paper makes two essential claims about the nature of shame and shame punishment. I argue that, if we properly understand the nature of shame, that it is sometimes justifiable to shame others in the context of a pluralistic multicultural society. I begin by assessing the accounts of shame provided by Cheshire Calhoun (2004) and Julien Deonna, Raffaele Rodogno, & Fabrice Teroni (2012). I argue that both views have problems. I defend a theory of shame and embarrassment that connects both emotions to “whole-self” properties. Shame and embarrassment, I claim, are products of the same underlying emotion. I distinguish between moralized and nonmoralized shame in order to show when, and how, moral and non-moral shame may be justly deployed. Shame is appropriate, I argue, if and only if it targets malleable moral or non-moral normative imperfections of a person’s ‘whole-self.’ Shame is unjustifiable when it targets durable aspects of a person’s “whole-self.” I conclude by distinguishing shame punishments from guilt punishments and show that my account can explain why it is wrong to shame individuals on account of their race, sex, gender, or body while permitting us to sometimes levy shame and shame punishment against others, even those otherwise immune to moral reasons.

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Erick José Ramirez
Santa Clara University

Citations of this work

Shame, Embarrassment, and the Subjectivity Requirement.Erick J. Ramirez - 2018 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 14 (1):97-114.

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