Online Shaming and the Ethics of Public Disapproval

Journal of Applied Philosophy (2021)
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This paper illuminates an underappreciated tension between two desiderata for moral disapproval. First, moral disapproval should aspire to openness. This means, among other things, that it should aspire not to require silence from wronged parties. Second, moral disapproval should aspire to decency. This means, among other things, that it should not predictably cause psychological harm in a way that alienates or isolates people from their moral community. I illustrate the tension between these desiderata within the context of online shaming, and then show how that conflict generalizes. The shape of the conflict is this: in many cases, justice requires us to allow for highly public disapproval about an offender, but the publicity of that disapproval predictably fosters psychological harm, alienation, and isolation. To explain why many cases share this character, I appeal to psychological and philosophical research on the connections between shame, humiliation, aggression, isolation, and depression.



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James Fritz
Virginia Commonwealth University

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A Republican Conception of Counterspeech.Suzanne Whitten - 2023 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (4):555-575.

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