Shame And Contempt In Kant's Moral Theory

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Kantian Review


Attitudes like shame and contempt seem to be at odds with basic tenets of Kantian moral theory. I argue on the contrary that both attitudes play a central role in Kantian morality. Shame and contempt are attitudes that protect our love of honour, or the esteem we have for ourselves as moral persons. The question arises: how are these attitudes compatible with Kant's claim that all persons deserve respect? I argue that the proper object of shame and contempt is not the humanity within a person, but rather her self-conceit, or the false esteem that competes with love of honour.