Shame as a self-conscious positive emotion: Scheler’s radical revisionary approach

In Alessandra Fussi & Raffaele Rodogno (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Shame. Rowman & Littlefied (forthcoming)
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This paper explores Max Scheler’s (1874–1928) essay “On Shame and Feelings of Modesty” (Über Scham und Schamgefühl) (1913). It analyzes Scheler’s view on shame as a specifically human self-conscious emotion in which the subject becomes aware of the positive values of the self, i.e., her self-worth. It is argued that, in the context of current research, Scheler should be regarded as defending a radical revisionary approach to this emotion. First, against today’s widespread view that shame is an intrinsically social emotion that requires real or imagined others to take place and which emerges to guarantee compliance with social norms, Scheler argues that shame is an emotion about the self which requires neither a relation with others nor internalized social norms. Second, rather than regarding shame as having a negative impact on the individual and her interpersonal relations, for Scheler, shame accomplishes the valuable function of disclosing and protecting positive values of the self, even if this self is not one’s own. With both claims, Scheler challenges what Deonna, Rodogno, and Teroni (2011) have labeled respectively “shame socialism” and “shame pessimism,” and offers an alternative to understand the nature, functions, and varieties of shame which remains as innovative today as it was in his own time.



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Íngrid Vendrell-Ferran
University of Marburg

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