The emotion of Shame in Medieval Philosophy

Num°05 SHAME

In her Pride, Shame and Guilt (1985) Gabriele Taylor discusses the emotions mentioned in the title of the book as those of self-assessment. She argues that the experience of such emotions involves beliefs about the self, its relations to social norms and its consequent standing in the world. Since Taylor’s work, many authors have published philosophical books or articles about shame and guilt in English, for example, Patricia Greenspan, Practical Guilt: Moral Dilemmas, Emotions, and Social Norms (1995), Phil Hutchinson, Shame and Philosophy (2008), and Julien A. Deonna, Raffaele Rodogno, and Fabrice Teroni, In Defense of Shame: The Faces of an Emotion (2012). The social, cognitive and neural aspects of the emotions of pride, shame, and guilt are discussed by many scholars in The Self-Conscious Emotions: Theory and Research, ed. Jessica L. Tracy, June Price Tangney and Richard W. Robins (2007).

In the first chapter of her book, Taylor comments on Hume’s view of pride, which has been a popular subject among Anglo-American authors. The second chapter, which is about shame, begins with a brief explanation of the famous anthropological distinction between a shame-culture and a guilt-culture. The distinguishing mark of the former is that public esteem is regarded as the basic value and public respect and self-respect stand and fall together, as in the heroes of Homer’s Iliad. Loss of honour in a shame-culture means that one has failed to meet the demands of the social group of which one is a member. Since people share the point of view of the group, they have failed in their eyes as well. Earlier in her book Taylor refers to medieval feudal chivalry, which exemplifies the social notions of pride and humility in a shame culture as well. While shame was an essential part of the medieval knightly system (Flannery 2012), the discussion of the emotion of shame in medieval scholarly treatises did not have many links with this social context. (See also Müller 2011.)

Taylor thinks that feelings of shame have preserved some structural features which show similarities to those of shame-culture. One of these is the fact that shame requires the idea of an audience. A person thinks or imagines being seen as deviating from a norm and in feeling shame he or she identifies with the audience’s view and concludes that status has been lost. According to Taylor, there are basically two factors in each case of shame. First, there is a self-regarding adverse judgement that one is degraded, being not the sort of person one believed or hoped one should be. Second, there is the notion of the audience, which can be described as awareness that one ought not to be in a position where one could be seen by a possible detached observer. Whether one is seen or imagines there is an observer is less relevant than the awareness of an observer-description. This distinguishes shame from other self-assessment emotions.

Shame may be associated with guilt, but need not be. These are different emotions, guilt deriving from a legal context. A person is guilty if he or she breaks a law, which may be a social or religious institution or a moral principle of right. People may be guilty without feeling guilty; feeling guilty implies an acceptance of a norm authority which Taylor says may be the voice of conscience, the notion of which is clearest if it is thought to reflect the edicts of some god. The notion of authority in guilt is often as obscure as that of the audience in shame may be obscure; however, while guilt is accompanied by an awareness of oneself in relation to obligatory action or abstention, shame is about oneself under a negative observer-description.

The emotion of Shame in Medieval Philosophy

scarica pdf

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Lascia un commento

You must be logged in to post a comment.

porno porno izle porno porno film izle