How Should We Respond to Shame?

Social Theory and Practice 49 (3):513-542 (2023)
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How one should respond to shame is a moral consideration that has figured relatively little in philosophical discourse. Recent psychological insights tell us that, at its core, shame reflects an unfulfilled need for emotional connection. As such, it often results in psychological and moral damage—harm which, I argue, renders shaming practices very difficult to justify. Following this, I posit that a morally preferable response to shame is one that successfully addresses and dispels the emotion. To this end, I critique two common responses to shame, compliance and anger, and then propose an alternative: the practice of emotional vulnerability.

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Madeleine Shield
University of Queensland


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