Hiding from Humanity

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 Drawing on an extraordinarily rich variety of philosophical, psychological, and historical references--from Aristotle and Freud to Nazi ideas about purity--and on legal examples as diverse as the trials of Oscar Wilde and the Martha Stewart insider trading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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Product details

  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 152 x 235 x 26.92mm | 595g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 0691126259
  • 9780691126258
  • 226,224

Back cover copy

"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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Table of contents

Acknowledgments xiii Introduction 1 I. Shame and Disgust: Confusion in Practice and Theory 1 II. Law without the Emotions? 5 III. Two Problematic Emotions 13 Chapter 1. Emotions and Law 19 I. Appeals to Emotion 20 II. Emotion and Belief, Emotion and Value 24 III. Emotions, Appraisal, and Moral Education 31 IV. Emotion and the "Reasonable Man": Manslaughter, Self-Defense 37 V. Emotions and Changing Social Norms 46 VI. Reasonable Sympathy: Compassion in Criminal Sentencing 48 VII. Emotions and Political Liberalism 56 VIII. How to Appraise Emotions 67 Chapter 2. Disgust and Our Animal Bodies 71 I. Disgust and Law 72 II. Pro-Disgust Arguments: Devlin, Kass, Miller, Kahan 75 III. The Cognitive Content of Disgust 87 IV. Disgust and Indignation 99 V. Projective Disgust and Group Subordination 107 VI. Disgust, Exclusion, Civilization 115 Chapter 3. Disgust and the Law 124 I. Disgust as Offense, Disgust as Criterion 125 II. Disgust and the Offender: The "Homosexual-Provocation" Defense 126 III. Disgust and the "Average Man": Obscenity 134 IV. Disgust as a Reason for Illegality: Sodomy, Necrophilia 147 V. Disgust and Nuisance Law 158 VI. Disgust and the Jury: "Horrible and Inhuman" Homicides 163 Chapter 4. Inscribing the Face: Shame and Stigma 172 I. The Blushing Face 173 II. Primitive Shame, Narcissism, and the "Golden Age" 177 III. The Refusal of Imperfection: The Case of B 189 IV. Shame and Its Relatives: Humiliation, Embarrassment 203 V. Shame and Its Relatives: Disgust, Guilt, Depression, Rage 206 VI. Constructive Shame? 211 VII. Stigma and Brand: Shame in Social Life 217 Chapter 5. Shaming Citizens? 222 I. Shame and the "Facilitating Environment" 223 II. Shame Penalties: Dignity and Narcissistic Rage 227 III. Shame and "Moral Panics": Gay Sex and "Animus" 250 IV. Moral Panics and Crime: The Gang Loitering Law 271 V. Mill's Conclusion by Another Route 278 Chapter 6. Protecting Citizens from Shame 280 I. Creating a Facilitating Environment 282 II. Shame and a Decent Living-Standard 282 III. Antidiscrimination, Hate Crimes 287 IV. Shame and Personal Privacy 296 V. Shame and People with Disabilities 305 Chapter 7. Liberalism without Hiding? 320 I. Political Liberalism, Disgust, and Shame 321 II. Mill's Defense of Liberty Reconsidered 322 III. The Case against Disgust and Shame 335 IV. Emotions and Forms of Liberalism 340 Notes 351 List of References 389 General Index 401 Index of Case Names 412
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Review quote

Winner of the 2004 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Law, Association of American Publishers "[A] lucid and carefully argued new book."--Brigitte Frase, Ruminator Review "A remarkably wide ranging and nuanced treatise on the interplay between emotions and law... A short book review cannot do justice to Nussbaum's exceptionally thorough evaluation of shame, disgust and the law."--Stefanie A. Lindquist, Law and Politics Book Review "Disgust and shame are problematic emotions that often appear to want to repudiate our basic, body-based humanity, Martha Nussbaum claims in this ambitious and timely book... Nussbaum is by no means in favor of purging the law of all reference to emotion: she in fact makes an eloquent case for why this cannot and should not be done... But there are some emotions--Nussbaum mentions jealousy as well as shame and disgust--that appear to offer an unreliable guide to human behavior, to risk calling up mere prejudice and social stigma instead of valid distinctions."--Peter Brooks, Green Bag "Nussbaum is America's most prominent philosopher of public life, and a new book by her is always a force to be reckoned with. The argument of Hiding from Humanity, characteristically lucid, is carried on at two levels. First, she wants to put disgust on trial... At a deeper level, however, Nussbaum's argument is not simply about the law, but about a whole conception of human society and what it means to be human."--John Wilson, The Boston Globe "What part should disgust pay in determining which acts society punishes, and how severely? And to what extent, if at all, should disgust's cousin, shame, be harnessed to play a role in punishment? As a liberal, Nussbaum comes to a liberal answer. But this does no credit to the painstakingly fair way in which she sets out and explores the arguments in both directions, and any reader who approaches her book with views firmly set is likely to leave it with solid certainties somewhat shake... She traverses some difficult territory, from necrophilia and bestiality to Martha Stewart, to reach as close to a civilized conclusion as the subject may admit."--David Honigmann, Financial Times "This study, written in an engaging style that reflects Nussbaum's concern to make philosophy accessible, contains a keen and erudite examination of the emotions of disgust and shame... Getting to the root of what causes us disgust, shame and righteous anger forces us to clarify what we value. This is the task to which Nussbaum's study should inspire us."--Christian Century "Writing in an academically sophisticated but accessible style, Nussbaum is equally at home discussing Aristotle and Freud, Whitman's poetry and Supreme Court case law. The result is an exceptionally smart, stimulating and intellectually rigorous analysis that adds an illuminating psychological dimension to our understanding of law and public policy."--Publishers Weekly "[A] sophisticated exploration of how emotions enlarge or contract the nation's commitment to equal dignity for all... Populists and communitarians will lock horns with legal theorists in the debates this book will provoke."--Booklist "Nussbaum's work is rich and readable. To construct her argument she uses thick case studies and extensive research from a wide variety of literary, experimental, and sociological sources. She gives a fair hearing and fair treatment not only to her own liberal position and its accompanying conclusions but to those whose conclusions mark out strong disagreement with her."--Dolores L. Christie, Magill's Literary Annual 2005 "Hiding from Humanity is a noteworthy addition to recent scholarship on emotions and a valuable counterweight to the growing--and at times unexamined--endorsement of disgust and shame."--Justin Reinheimer, Law, Culture, and the Humanities
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About Martha C. Nussbaum

Martha C. Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics in the Philosophy Department, Law School, and Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Her most recent book is "Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions".
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Rating details

144 ratings
4.14 out of 5 stars
5 38% (55)
4 42% (61)
3 16% (23)
2 3% (4)
1 1% (1)
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