Can We Force Someone to Feel Shame?

Philosophy Today 66 (4):817-828 (2022)
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For many philosophers, there is a tension inherent to shame as an inward-looking, yet intersubjective, emotion: that between the role of the ashamed self and the part of the shaming Other in pronouncing the judgement of shame. Simply put, the issue is this: either the perspective of the ashamed self takes precedence in autonomously choosing to feel shame, and the necessary role of the audience is overlooked, or else the view of the shaming Other prevails in heteronomously casting the shame, and the ashamed individual’s agency becomes problematically understated. I argue that this debate is fundamentally misguided insofar as it assumes that shame must be exclusively contingent upon either the perspective of the self or that of the Other, when it is in fact dependent upon both at once. This is the “double movement” of shame: an appraisal of the self that is at once social and private.

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Madeleine Shield
University of Queensland


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