A Confucian Theory of Shame

Sophia 54 (2):143-163 (2015)
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Abstract

This essay develops a Confucian theory of shame within a framework of related concepts, including concepts of value, personhood, and human flourishing. It proposes that all of these concepts should be understood in terms of a metaphysical concept of harmony. Moreover, it argues that this concept of harmony entails a relational experience of value, such that the experience of self-value and ‘other value’ are deeply intertwined. An important implication of this theory is that the harmonic realization of value that is required for human flourishing necessarily involves heightened sensitivity to shame. The goal of this essay is not only to describe Confucian shame but also to view the human experience of shame through a distinctly Confucian lens. Accordingly, it offers a Confucian take on the pathology of shame, as well as recent debates concerning the role of shame in modern society

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