Shame, Guilt and the 'Morality System'


  • Edward Harcourt Oxford University



shame, guilt, morality, embarrassment, survivor guilt, Bernard Williams, Richard Wollheim


Arguably the differences between guilt and shame have been exaggerated in the literature, especially with respect to the relationship of each to morality. Some fresh examples of shame are presented. While these point in the same direction, they also indicate a puzzling dualism within the structure of shame which threatens to bring shame and the 'morality system' closer again, albeit for a sub-class of cases. The dualism is explored, partly by way of a discussion of embarrassment. The conclusion drawn is that while the dualism remains puzzling, it does not re-establish a connection betweeb shame and morality. An explanation is then offered of survivor guilt which does not compromise its distinctiveness (that is, without resorting to the hypothesis that the survivor has harmed someone by surviving) but which - in contrast to the discussion of shame - affirms the relationship between survivor guilt and the morality system.


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How to Cite

Harcourt, E. (2023) “Shame, Guilt and the ’Morality System’”, Passion: Journal of the European Philosophical Society for the Study of Emotions, 1(2), pp. 125–138. doi:10.59123/passion.v1i2.15994.