Is Shame a Social Emotion?
In this article, we present, assess and give reasons to reject the popular claim that shame is essentially social. We start by presenting several theses which the social claim has motivated in the philosophical literature. All of them, in their own way, regard shame as displaying a structure in which “others” play an essential role. We argue that while all these theses are true of some important families of shame episodes, none of them generalize so as to motivate the conclusion that shame is an essentially social emotion. We consider each thesis in turn, explaining in the process their connections with one another as well as the constraints on a theory of shame they help uncover. Finally, we show how a non-social picture of shame is not only capable of meeting these constraints, but has the further virtue of shedding light on those situations in which others seem to play no role in why we feel shame.
KeywordsSocial Emotion Negative Judgement Objective Judgement Shame Experience Imaginative Project
We are grateful to Otto Bruun, Tjeert Olthof, Kevin Mulligan, Martha Nussbaum and Raffaele Rodogno for their helpful comments on previous versions of this paper. This paper was written with the support of the Swiss National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) in Affective Sciences.
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