Saturday, November 3, 2007

Shame and Guilt without remorse - In Our Time

BBC's In Our Time took on the subject of guilt. In order to explain guilt, the major part of the show was used to distinguish guilt and shame. Show host Melvyn Bragg writes in his show notes:
The distinction between shame and guilt was well made. I wish we’d had more time to drive down to the burdensomeness, the pathology of guilt, which so many people I know claim. My Jewish friends say that there’s no guilt like Jewish guilt. My Protestant friends say there’s no guilt like Protestant guilt. My Roman Catholic friends say you know nothing about guilt until you have been a Roman Catholic. And so it goes. The burdensomeness of guilt is a subject that I would have liked to have gone into much, much further. Maybe I’m talking about this in a confessional way, i.e.: I would have liked In Our Time to act as a confession box. I’ve always rather envied Catholics having a confession box.

When the program ended, Miranda said “but we didn’t get to remorse”. Thank God!
After establishing the Classical world as one of a shame culture and ascribing guilt as a Christian (not Jewish?) invention, it is claimed that guilt in the individual, voluntary and social responsible sense is kicked off with the Reformation. Then we go through Luther, Kant, Hume, Freud and end up with Nietzsche. Nietzsche apparently points back to shame and the value we have lost there.

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