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Shame and Disgust - Martha Nussbaum

  1. Apr 27, 2006 #1

    selfAdjoint

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    I found this very interesting debate with philosopher Martha Nussbaum more or less by accident. I think the issues raised deserve airing here. Nussbaum asserts that shame and disgust, when projected at other people or groups of people (the current live example is gay marriage) are signs of unresolved issues in our own lives and are completely unworthy to be used in determining public polity. To declare my own interest, I firmly agre with her. What does anybody else think?

    BTW, Nussbaum, who started as a classicist, an expert on Aristotle, is an advocate of the view that morals are real and universal, just as Aristotle says. Might be interesting to study up some of her thinking for the Are Morals Real thread.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2006 #2
    I would say no because greed and abuse of power disgust me. Shame, probably so.
     
  4. Apr 28, 2006 #3

    selfAdjoint

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    Dave, I think you should look at Nussbaum's contrasting discussions of disgust and anger. Here is what she says about disgust:

    And here is a brief discussion of anger, and how it differs in society from disgust.

     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2006
  5. Apr 28, 2006 #4
    I found more interesting her assertion about emotions and public policy.
    The main problem I have with this is that it is merely a utlitarian precept since whether an emotion stands up to scrutiny is dictated by the majority.

    For example, the death penalty is an anger based emotion supported by a majority of Americans (last I heard - I haven't seen any recent polls). That anger stands up to scrutiny, but is in direct contradiction with what she implies about equal dignity for all citizens. To punish a person with the death penalty treats the offender as if they are not worthy of life, robbing them of their dignity.
     
  6. Apr 28, 2006 #5

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    I don't think she would accept that criticism. Of course I can only give my own reaction. Anger is a socially useful reaction to an ill such as murder because it motivates an effort to do something about it. Disgust at a murderer (which is at least a part of the support for the death penalty) is socially undesirable because it puts another human being in the place of a non-human "other", like feces or rotten eggs, to be eliminated from our world. The anger against murder and the desire to reduce its occurrence does not require this attitude toward those convicted of murder, as is proved by the successful reductions in murder rate in places that don't have the death penalty..
     
  7. Apr 29, 2006 #6
    You may be right. I guess it all comes down to distinguishing whether a reaction is motivated by disgust or anger. One viewpoint seems to say that the reaction/motive dictates whether to classify it as anger or disgust, the other view says the reaction/motive stems from whther it's anger or disgust. Either way, an intersting read.
     
  8. May 2, 2006 #7
    Whether they pose any psycological concerns or not, the fact is that disgust and shame are emotions, and as such have no place in deciding law or policy. Law should be logical: not to remove bias but to instill justice, and as such the ideas of disgust and shame should be absent from them. I don't think it requires a long debate or lengthy analysis to reach this general conclusion. Even though I agree with the end conclusion of the article, I can't help but think that it is trying to reinvent the wheel using overly complex methods.
     
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