Episode 2 of “This Is the Way”: Confucians on Shame

The second episode of This Is the Way is on shame as a moral emotion, as understood by classical Confucian philosophers (especially Confucius and Mencius, but also Xunzi). Our special guest is Jing Iris Hu (HU Jing 胡婧), author of “Shame, Vulnerability, and Change.” Key questions include the following: What are the Confucian arguments for having a sense of shame? To what extent can shame be autonomous or independent of social attitudes, and what mechanisms do the Confucian recommend for making it so independent? Do fully virtuous people need a sense of shame?
Below you will find a more detailed accounting of topics, some specific passages and books or articles mentioned in the episode, and an opportunity to “weigh in” and share your views about the topic (or about the hosts’ wild claims about the text).


Your feedback is very welcome! Please leave a comment below, mail the hosts at ChinesePhilosophyPodcast@gmail.com, or follow them on X @ChinesePhilPod.

Chapter markers

0:00 Part I — Introduction
16:53 Part II — Confucians on shame
16:54 Introducing Jing HU 胡婧 (our guest)
19:52 The two main claims of Hu’s article
22:53 The Confucian response to “shame rejectionism”
27:53 Whether Confucians need real, “objective” values to underwrite their views about shame
34:37 Why shame’s pro-social orientation is a good thing
42:51 Whether we need a sense of shame in order to have the right communicative channels with others
49:45 Would a fully virtuous person need a sense of shame? (Aristotle vs. the Confucians vs. Songzi)
1:05:13 Closing questions for our guest
1:11:16 Preview of the next episode
Key passages

     Governing by instilling a sense of shame


The Master said, “If you try to guide the common people with coercive regulations (zheng 政) and keep them in line with punishments, the common people will become evasive and have no sense of shame. If, however, you guide them with Virtue, and keep them in line by means of ritual, the people will have a sense of shame and will rectify themselves” (Analects 2.3, Edward Slingerland’s translation)

Other sources mentioned

Note: This Is the Way is a podcast series on Chinese philosophy. Links to support pages for all published episodes can be found here.

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