Guilt: The Bite of Conscience

Guilt: The Bite of Conscience

Guilt: The Bite of Conscience

Guilt: The Bite of Conscience


This is the first study of guilt from a wide variety of perspectives: psychology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, six major religions, four key moral philosophers, and the law. Katchadourian explores the ways in which guilt functions within individual lives and intimate relationships, looking at behaviors that typically induce guilt in both historical and modern contexts. He examines how the capacity for moral judgments develops within individuals and through evolutionary processes. He then turns to the socio-cultural aspects of guilt and addresses society's attempts to come to terms with guilt as culpability through the legal process.

This personal work draws from, and integrates, material from extensive primary and secondary literature. Through the extensive use of literary and personal accounts, it provides an intimate picture of what it is like to experience this universal emotion. Written in clear and engaging prose, with a touch of humor, Guilt should appeal to a wide audience.


“FOR I CAN TELL YOU,” wrote Cervantes in the introduction to Don Quixote, “that although it cost me some effort to compose [this book], none seemed greater than creating the preface you are now reading. I picked up my pen many times to write it, and many times I put it down again because I did not know what to write.”

Many an author has shared Cervantes’s experience, as I do now. Why should writing an introduction be so hard?

To begin with, there is a general feeling, be it true or not, that people do not read introductions. Like the prefatory remarks to a speech or mail addressed to Resident, they seem generic, and hence of no personal interest. For the author, another problem is deciding what to say. Would revealing the highlights of the book whet the reader’s appetite or dull it like a lump of sugar before a meal? In order to entice the reader, should one give away the goods before they are carefully unwrapped?

Much depends on what the material sets out to do. To be properly called an “introduction” it should delve into the subject matter itself, like a short chapter. A preface, on the other hand, is an introduction to the book; it tells the reader what to expect. What I have here is a preface aimed at three objectives: to tell the reader why I have written the book; to propose reasons for reading it; and to provide a road map to the contents.

My reasons for writing this book are similar to those that led me to teach an undergraduate seminar on guilt and shame at Stanford University for a decade. I told my students that I had two main interests in teaching the course: one was professional, the other personal. With respect to the first, most of the . . .

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