Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law

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9780691095264: Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law
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Should laws about sex and pornography be based on social conventions about what is disgusting? Should felons be required to display bumper stickers or wear T-shirts that announce their crimes? This powerful and elegantly written book, by one of America's most influential philosophers, presents a critique of the role that shame and disgust play in our individual and social lives and, in particular, in the law.


Martha Nussbaum argues that we should be wary of these emotions because they are associated in troubling ways with a desire to hide from our humanity, embodying an unrealistic and sometimes pathological wish to be invulnerable. Nussbaum argues that the thought-content of disgust embodies "magical ideas of contamination, and impossible aspirations to purity that are just not in line with human life as we know it." She argues that disgust should never be the basis for criminalizing an act, or play either the aggravating or the mitigating role in criminal law it currently does. She writes that we should be similarly suspicious of what she calls "primitive shame," a shame "at the very fact of human imperfection," and she is harshly critical of the role that such shame plays in certain punishments.


Drawing on an extraordinarily rich variety of philosophical, psychological, and historical references--from Aristotle and Freud to Nazi ideas about purity--and on legal examples as diverse as the trials of Oscar Wilde and the Martha Stewart insider trading case, this is a major work of legal and moral philosophy.

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Winner of the 2004 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Law, Association of American Publishers

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"This exciting book on emotions and the law tackles universal questions central to every legal system. We may pretend that law is a wholly rational discipline. We may try to tame strong emotions. But as Martha Nussbaum shows in her analysis of the passions that influence our attitude to law and its problems, we cannot deny our human feelings. Sometimes in the law, however, we strongly need to keep them in check. Intuition, in particular, is often wrong. Disgust is sometimes based on an infantile dislike of the unfamiliar."--Justice Michael Kirby, High Court of Australia

"This elegantly written book interweaves materials from psychoanalytic theory, ancient and contemporary moral and political philosophy, literature and law. Hiding from Humanity represents a comprehensive, sustained, and highly impressive analysis of the emotions of shame and disgust and the role they play in moral and legal analysis."--Seana Shiffrin, University of California, Los Angeles

"A pleasure to read. The skill and dexterity of Nussbaum's arguments demonstrate why she is so widely admired."--Jack M. Balkin, Yale University

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9780691126258: Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law

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ISBN 10:  0691126259 ISBN 13:  9780691126258
Publisher: Princeton University Press, 2006
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