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Shame & Guilt - Manifestos of the Moon

About Shame & Guilt

Previous Entry Shame & Guilt Oct. 13th, 2005 @ 02:28 am Next Entry
When we think about morality biologically, we begin to notice things that we might otherwise miss. For example, why do humans feel experiences of guilt and shame?

Rather, why is it possible for humans to feel guilt and shame?

Why did the ability to feel guilt and shame evolve?

It is evidence, I submit, of the biological nature of morality.

It is also evidence that humans are supposed to feel guilt and shame sometimes. That is to say, it is evidence that the methods of human morality are built into our nature. And note that shame and guilt also imply that we have a moral nature distinct from our choices and preferences—otherwise there would be no reason for "learning methods" like shame and guilt to exist in us.

Much the same has long been said in different terms from the theistic perspective, but I've never seen it stated in biological/evolutionary terms from an atheist perspective.

Obviously our "moral nature" is pretty flexible. It incorporates the ability to adjust our behavior to current environments and circumstances by the imposition of feelings of shame and guilt.

Such feelings are usually thought of as resulting from a recognition of the impropriety of our behavior in the eyes of others around us: i.e. guilt and shame are seen as helping us conform to social norms.

But guilt and shame can also be experienced when one is quite alone and in opposition to social norms. For example I have felt guilt about killing insects, and I have felt shame at not being legitimate enough to go naked in the sunlight. These feelings first happened to me when I was young, indeed happened shortly after I decided to reject all morality and instead "feel" what to do.

I was certainly never socialized to like nudity or to mind killing insects. Once moral feelings like these arose in me, however, I gradually modified my belief-system to embrace them. Not, as far as I can tell, the other way around.
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From:jajy1979
Date:October 13th, 2005 05:50 am (UTC)
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Ever notice a cat or a dog can look guilty? Yet we certainly don't ascribe morals to them. Hell anyone who works with animals enough knows when an animal has done something the animal recognizes as wrong. Anthropomorphism aside. It's learned, not inate.

All 'shame' and 'guilt' seem to stem from learned ideas and behaviors. Animals and people not trained to recognize these seem to find no shame or guilt. No remorse. You really should look up the psychological profile of serial kills and how they respond to shame or guilt. It's often quite interesting to see the vast range of different psychological responses.

The response to our 'shame' or 'guilt' is probably biologically based but induced by selective breeding within ancestores, probably millions upon millions of years ago, long before we were human. Since we're not the only species which uses things such as ostrocism as a punishment. You see, they exist because we've become social creatures, and we needed a biological re-enforcer to hold that construct together. Thus early individuals who had a 'penalty' for goig against the group were favored. Simple enough. But a modern person may knowingly act against these things should they so choose and may even train themselves out of the response as dictated by society, though as you point out most people form their moral compulsions around the feelings that we seem to inately pick up. Howeever I assure you that most, if not all (I can't prove all) are learned reactions from development stages early in society and the home.

Again, rambling...again, awake after far too little sleep.

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From:csn
Date:October 13th, 2005 09:05 pm (UTC)
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I congratulate you...I try to do the same.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:September 4th, 2006 07:17 am (UTC)

shame on you!

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There is a big difference in humans and animals. Humans have a conscience, where as animals do not. Humans have choices, animals live in the moment. Many humans act like animals, but they do have choices.
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