Self-Understanding and Moral Self-Improvement in Individual Shame and Shame Based on Group Identification

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  • Alba Montes Sánchez
  • Alessandro Salice
Shame presents us with a dilemma. On the one hand, this emotion has traditionally been accorded an important role in moral learning and self-reformation, as an unpleasant emotion that makes us feel bad about our flaws and motivates us to try to mend them. On the other hand, shame has also been contended to be morally counter-productive: it makes us react in antisocial ways, covering up our failings, shunning contact with others or lashing out in anger. Here, shame may backfire by causing antisocial behavior. This paper seeks to illuminate this dilemma by analyzing how self and others relate in shame and what kind of self-knowledge can we gain from experiencing this emotion. Our central examples are not cases of individual, but of shame based on group identification. Is shame equally appropriate, and does it have the same significance, when it is group-based? We argue that shame based on group identification comes in three different varieties. While their conditions of appropriateness are peculiar, their intentional structure and moral significance remains unchanged when compared to individual shame. In particular, group-based forms of shame can reveal the importance of certain others for our social identities, as well as warn us about the ease with which we can come to be influenced by such others. Shame, in its various forms, may pull us in moral and immoral directions, but it is anyway part of the sensibilities that make us moral. In the best cases, it allows us to understand how we stand in relation to our values, to the social world and its expectations of us.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Moral Psychology of Shame
EditorsAlessandra Fussi, Raffaele Rodogno
PublisherRowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publication date2023
ISBN (Print)9781538177693
ISBN (Electronic)9781538177709
Publication statusPublished - 2023
SeriesMoral Psychology of the Emotions

ID: 340699328