A Conditional Defense of Shame and Shame Punishments (pages 77-95)

Erick Jose Ramirez

ABSTRACT:In this paper I argue that, if we properly understand the nature of shame, 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 and 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 non-moralized 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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