Conscience, Guilt, and Shame

John Cottingham

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199545971
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Conscience, Guilt, and Shame

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This chapter begins by tracing the development of the notion of conscience in the Western philosophical tradition and then addresses questions regarding the supposed authority or normativity of conscience. The relation between the idea of conscience and the notions of guilt and shame is examined, which in turn leads on to the question of whether the concepts of guilt and shame inhabit essentially different ethical landscapes. The chapter concludes by looking at the contribution of psychoanalytic thinking to our modern understanding of the phenomena of conscience, guilt and shame, and by asking why the resulting insights have been so imperfectly assimilated into contemporary anglophone moral philosophy.

Keywords: guilt; shame; conscience; moral philosophy; ethics

Article.  8138 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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