Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame and the Law

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame and the Law

Article excerpt

Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame and the Law Martha C. Nussbaum. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004. 432 pp. $49.50 (hb), $29.95 (pb).

Martha C. Nussbaum draws upon her previous lectures and writings to offer a more detailed and integrated repudiation of the current trend of detaching emotion from legal analysis and the utilitarian tradition. Nussbaum is concerned primarily with punishment and deterrence and the criminal law. But since our notions of what is wrong and right in this sense resonate throughout society, Hiding from Humanity implicates the concern over the breakdown of responsibility and norms beyond the criminal law alone. As control of petty crime relates to quality of life in the immediate neighborhood so does a broader emotional appeal and unified norms impact the quality of society as a whole. Rejecting anger, fear, and other base emotions as motivator, Nussbaum focuses upon two other emotions, disgust and shame. Although the philosopher might argue that her discussion is less than pure and the social scientist might argue her cherry-picking of studies in psychology (cognitive, clinical and experimental/developmental) sweeps too broadly, her attempt to synthesize knowledge across disciplines is without doubt intriguing if not laudable. Ultimately rejecting disgust, perhaps less in theory and more from practice (as its misuse is recounted, e.g., to stigmatize, to politicize, etc.), Nussbaum's intent is to present us with an "essay about the psychological foundations of liberalism" (16) but at the same time to critique Mill, Rawls, and other variations of the political liberal continuum (communitarian, contractarian, etc. …

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