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Listen: Philosophy Professor Krista Thomason on Shaming on Social Media

Krista Thomason: Second Tuesday

Krista Thomason
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Earlier this semester, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Krista Thomason discussed the social repercussions of shaming on social media in her lecture, "Should We Shame on Social Media?" during the Second Tuesday Arts & Humanities Cafe. In her talk, drawn from her current book project, she considers shaming practices and how they relate to the emotion of shame. She explores whether or not a moral argument can be made in favor of shaming.

Thomason's areas of specialization include ethics, moral psychology, Kant's moral theory, and social/political philosophy. Other interests include philosophy of law, bio-ethics, continental philosophy, race and gender theory, and ancient philosophy. 

Sponsored by the Aydelotte Foundation, the Second Tuesday Arts & Humanities Cafes are a monthly series that highlight the intellectual relevance of humanities approaches to arts and culture on topics ranging from visual narratives in Japan, reflections on life and death in South Indian religions, and current intersections of theater, dance, and music performance in the United States. Events are geared for individuals with no formal background in the arts and humanities. The only requirement is curiosity.

Audio Transcript

Yvonne:   Good afternoon. I want to welcome everyone to our new year, second Tuesday café. Thank you all for ... Those of you who participated in the survey that was sent around. It's really good information for us to have as we continue this series. And we really appreciate your comments and insights, it means a lot. We will be continuing our series on the humanities, telling stories and song and poetry and looking for meaning. Next month however, we'll be meeting on March 1st. Because of the spring break, we won't have second Tuesday. So ... And professor [inaudible 00:00:51] Will be speaking. So there'll be some notices that go around, okay? So it's my great pleasure to introduce our speaker today. Kristin Thomason is an assistant professor in the philosophy department. She received her PHD from the University of Illinois in 2009 and her areas of research include moral philosophy with an emphasis on moral emotions. Cons moral and political theory and social/political philosophy. This is true humanist work. Some of her writing appears in journals such as Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, [inaudible 00:01:33] Review and Philosophical Papers.

And most importantly she is a sports fan, a runner and a dog lover. So ... And we love dog runners. So today she's gonna talk to us about, Should We Shame on Social Media? Thank you, all right.

Krista:  Thank you. All right so I'm wearing the mic, hopefully you guys can hear me. But unfortunately I didn't wear pants today, so I have no belt clip, so ima have to carry this around. So thank you all for coming today. Before I get started, as you can see the title of my talk is Should We Shame on Social Media? I want to do a couple of things before I get started. One of them is give you a bigger context for the papers. Where is it in the rest of my research? I also want to tell you maybe a little something about how philosophers go about doing what they do, cause I think that's not always obvious to people. So let me start with the context part. So this paper comes out of the last chapter of the book that I'm working on, which is my very first book. My ... The book is really much more, what we might think of traditional philosophy. I do moral philosophy in particular, that's my specialization. As Yvonne says I do moral emotions. So the book itself is really about shame, but it's about shame as the feeling.

But you can't really talk about shame as the feeling unless you ... You end up getting into issues of shaming practices. So in the last chapter of the book I deal with shaming practices, as they are or are not related to the emotion of shame. So that this paper comes out of some of the work that's in that fifth chapter, which is all still in draft form at this point. So how do I go about doing what I do? What do philosophers do? In the classical humanist way, not all humanists may identify with this. But I think a lot of humanists do. They're kind of two pieces to what we do. We read books and then we think about stuff. That's pretty much it, right? So different humanist disciplines will read books and think about stuff in different ways. So how do we read books and think about stuff?

Well I read the books that are in the tradition of the field of philosophy. So philosophy's a really old discipline, it's really long it's existed for a lot of years. So I read a lot of the moral theory that gets done in both classical and contemporary moral philosophy. And then I use all of that knowledge to then think about, sort of more contemporary topics. Not always more contemporary topics, sometimes more contemporary topics. So I use all that reading that I do as a base for thinking about these kinds of issues. But I pair that with just sort of considered reflections on it, right? So hence the read books and think about stuff. You know you ask different philosophers different ... You're gonna get different answers about how you go about doing philosophy. But I think that's a pretty accurate description of what I do. In terms of thinking about stuff, most of the time what philosophers do is create arguments.

So we specialize in argument construction. That's how we go about doing what we do. So I hope that you'll see throughout the paper that, that's kind of the methodology that I'm using. Is trying to construct arguments about stuff. What I'm doing here then, is constructing an argument, a moral argument about whether or not we should shame on social media. So, let's see how that looks. The first thing I'm gonna do is tell you a story. This is a story about two people named Adrea and Hank. So the story comes from John Ronson's book, which is called, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. John Ronson is a journalist and he spends his book profiling people who have been subject to various form of online shaming. So Adrea and Hank is one of the cases that he talks about. So here's the story of Adrea and Hank.

Adrea and Hank were at a tech conference together, they're both in the technology field. Hank was sitting behind Adrea in a presentation and he and his friends started making some jokes. I don't know if you can actually see the text that's up here. I won't read it because it's kind of lewd. So he made a lewd joke to one of his friends. It was ... It's supposed to be ... It's a lewd joke that comes from some sort of pun on some technology terms. I'll be honest, I don't actually get the joke. So don't worry if you don't get it either. So he made this lewd joke, well Adrea heard him cause she was sitting in front of him and she was offended by the joke, very insulted. Here she is a woman in a predominately male field, here she is a woman of color in a predominantly white male field.

So it made her feel very unwelcome and insulted. So in response, she took her phone and she turned around and she took a picture of Hank and his friend. And she posted it to her own Twitter feed, and so this is the picture that she posted to her Twitter feed. And she made a comment about the off color joke and how she didn't care for it. She followed that up the next day with a blog post explaining why she done what she done. Because the Twitter account had gotten some hits on it, right? People had started to pay attention. So in the account in her blog post, she said, "I'm standing up for women in technology. I wanted to make my voice heard and this is how I did it." Well, the reason that we know about this story is cause it kinda blew up way past Twitter, and a bunch of people got ahold of it, and actually Hank ended up losing his job over the Tweet. And then Adrea ended up losing her job over the Tweet.

So that's why they're featured in Ronson's book, because this is one of those cases where social media shaming bleeds outside of social media life. So that's ... I think a classic case, one of the classic cases of social media shaming. So if I want to ask the question, this is the question I want to ask. Is is okay for us to do these sorts of things? Is it okay for somebody like Adrea to shame somebody like Hank in this way? I think the first thing we need to do if we're gonna ask that question is try to figure out what shaming is. So I'm gonna start by trying to explain what kinds of things shaming isn't, before I talk about what shaming is. I think there's some related concepts that we often run into when we use the term shaming. Or when we're thinking about shaming. I think one of those related concepts is feelings on shame.

Now it's certainly true that if you are shamed by someone, you might end up feeling, feelings of shame. That's entirely possible. However, those two things can come apart. So people can feel shame about stuff that no one knows. You can feel shame about a dark secret. You can feel shame when you're perfectly alone, right? If somebody tries to shame you, you might actually feel something that isn't shame. You might feel angry or you might think it is hilarious that these people have tried to shame you, right? So you don't have to respond with feelings of shame to shaming practices. I think those two things conceptually are the same. So I'm gonna pull those apart and I'm gonna leave feelings of shame to the side. I think stigmatizing is another closely related concept. So they're groups in the ... Wherever you happen to be. There are groups that suffer certain kinds of stigmas. So people with Down Syndrome for example, suffer certain kinds of stigma.

Those stigmas arise out of a whole bunch of different things. Sometimes they're related to actual events of shaming. But sometimes they're related to just a big confluence of different things. Ignorance about Down Syndrome, lack of resources for example. There's a lot of things that lead to a stigma, right? Again I think those things are conceptually different. I think it's true that you could feel shame or be subject to shaming, if you are a member of a stigmatized group. But those two things can come apart I think. So again, I'm gonna leave stigmatizing to the side. I'm also gonna leave shaming punishments to the side. Not because I think they're not instances of shaming, I think they absolutely are. They also have this added dimension of being part of the legal system. And so that opens up all sorts of other questions, once you get into legal punishment. There's a whole bunch of different questions that you would have to ask.

Besides just the question that I'm interested in. Which for me is just the plain old moral question, is it the right sort of thing to do? So again, I'm gonna leave aside the shaming legal punishments also. Even though those are enjoying quite a renaissance nowadays. So if none of those things are shaming, well then what is shaming? So one of the things that philosophers love to do is make distinctions. One of the other things we love to do is try to come up with definitions. And so this gonna be my provisional definition at least for what shaming is. We do that by looking at a bunch of different cases and trying to figure out what they all have in common, right? So I think here's one thing that shaming has in common. I think the main thing is what we're trying to do when we shame. Is we call collective attentions to another person's flaw or misdeed.

Right? And when we shame on social media, we're doing that over social media, okay? So we call collective attention, so if you think about cases of shaming, instances of shaming. I think that's most of the time what we're trying to do. I think actually one of the classic examples of shaming is something like that taunts that kids hurl at each other, over the school playground, right? Those of us who have been called four eyes in our lives at some point or another, right? For the dreaded defect of wearing glasses. So that's ... It's calling everybody's collective attention to this flaw, this thing, this perceived defect. We may do that I think with a couple of different intentions. So when we call this collective attention to somebody's flaw or misdeed. I think one of the reasons we do it, is to inspire what I'm gonna call moral reform, or moral self reflection or at the very least moral awareness.

We want people to realize what they've done is offensive or insulting. This is why Adrea shames Hank, right? Is to try to say maybe ... That this might be one of the reasons, right? She wants him to see that the joke was offensive and he currently doesn't. And so shaming is one way of inspiring that realization. I think one of the other intentions we might have is to signal that, that flaw or misdeed is morally unacceptable. From the perspective of whatever community we belong to.  Whether that's the wider moral community, whether that's a community with a certain kind of  set of shared vales, as I'll talk about later.  I think when we shame, when we engage in shaming practices, usually these are the two things that we're doing. That we're trying to accomplish when we shame people, okay? That's the intention with which we shame.

So in favor of shaming, so as I said at the very beginning, philosophers really love arguments. It's our currency, it's what we do. We're specialists in argument construction. If you're a specialist in argument construction, then one of the things you gotta do is have the opposition to your argument in your mind at all times, right? Because you gotta think, "Well how is somebody gonna disagree with me?" When I'm constructing my own argument, okay? So in order for me to do that, I want to be charitable to my opposition. I want to try to present the case in favor of shaming, in the strongest possible light. In the strongest reasons that I can think of. So I wanted to do that for you. So if you're not already on board with shaming being okay thing to do, here are some reasons why you might think shaming is an okay thing to do.

So one reason might be, it's frequently aimed at behaviors that we think are particularly egregious. This is particularly true on social media. Usually we are ... We aim shaming at people who make sexist remarks or racist remarks. Those things seem pretty bad, right? And so we think that those things are at least deserving of sort of the targets of shame, okay? Why might we think that, that's a good idea? Why might we think it's ... Those kinds of behaviors are good target for shaming? Well one reason might be because it makes racism and sexism visible. In a way that regular role of condemnation doesn't, right? So heres the truth of the matter, women online, people of color online are often subject to a bunch of different kinds of harassment. Nasty emails, nasty messages, nasty Tweets. That are about the fact that they're women or about the fact that they're people of color, right?

Well they only know ... They're the only ones that know that. Especially if the messages are private, right? Sometimes those messages are public, but oftentimes they're not. So shaming somebody who tweeting nasty, sexists things at me, right? Is a way for me to say, "Hey this is the kind of thing that happens to me. Look at me. Let me make is visible, cause let me show you that this kind of thing has happening." So we might ... That might be a desirable thing. Shaming also acts as a kind of social punishment. So it's not often the case that we can, formally punish anybody for doing these sorts of things, right? For engaging in sexist or racist behavior, particularly online. Where if somebody says something jerky, sexist to me. There's not a lot of recourse that I have. But shaming can function as kind of a social punishment. It gives me an option, it gives me a way of responding to this, right? In a way that I didn't have one before. So everybody can sort of scorn this person in shaming, right? That makes me feel better, number one.

But it also does ... It sends a message to this person, this kind of behavior's unacceptable as I said before, right? The other thing and this is often the case that people make in favor of shaming. Is that it changes behavior very quickly and very [inaudible 00:14:14] So it's frequently the case if you witnessed and instance of shaming on Twitter. You've got somebody who will Tweet something, somebody else will retweet it and say, "Look at this terrible thing this person said." And then everybody will start responding to that person, and before you know it, that Tweet's been deleted. And the account, maybe the account has even been privatized. Or maybe the account itself has been deleted, right? So it's very fast and it's very effective shaming.

So we may think, "You know that actually works." And particularly in terms of sexism and racism, maybe we want that kind of quick change. For something that's ultimately kind of slow. So one of the things as I said, we're experts in argument construction. So then I look at all the arguments for the pro shaming, right? And I think, and a lot of them I think there's this implicit assumption. So it's not something that they necessarily say outright, but I think it's there, built into the arguments. I think the implicit assumption in many pro shaming arguments, is that shaming is what I'm calling a morally neutral tool. It's something that can be used for good, and it is something that can be used for ill, right? The way we evaluate that tool, is when it's used for good, it's okay. When it's used for bad it's not okay.

But ultimately that's when we usually talk about whether or not shaming is good or bad. The question is, well who's being shamed, right? And if it's somebody who we think really deserves it, than A okay. And if we think it's not somebody who deserves it, than not okay, right? So just as a quick example, back to Hank. Suppose you think that Hank really is being a sexist jerk, and maybe we think it's okay to shame him. But typically we don't think it's okay to shame Hester Prynne from the Scarlet Letter, right? Other than the fact that the Puritans got methods a little heavy handed. And we also may not think that something like adultery is something you should be publicly shamed for, right? Maybe it's just ... It's a private matter and we shouldn't bring it up. Setting aside that hers is also a legal punishment and it's also a case of regular old shaming, right? So again, the idea of shaming is this morally neutral tool used for good or ill.

That's the question that I want to ask. Is shaming properly characterized as a morally neutral tool? Maybe it's not, so in other words what I want to argue. Is a matter of fact we ought not shame people, even when we think they deserve it. Even if we think we have really good reasons to shame people, right? So in order to figure that question out, what I'm gonna do is explore what I'm gonna call the moral structure of shaming. So the moral structre of shaming is just kind of a catch all term that I'm using here. For what kids of beliefs, judgments or reasons do we use when we shame. What kind of implicit reasoning are we relying on? And then what's the nature of the relationship between the shammer and the shamed, okay? I think ... Asking these two questions are gonna help us get clear with this moral structure of shaming is.

So remember I'm interested, not in what we do with it. But what's going on internally in the practice of shaming. So again, philosophers love distinctions. One of the things that I think that comes out of these examples that we don't often see that easily. Is that people in the examples are playing two different roles. So one role is they're playing moral agents. Now moral agents, that's just one of those technical terms that philosophers like to use. Particularly moral philosophers, for people who do moral stuff. For people who respond to moral reasons, for people who make moral arguments, for people who make moral judgements, for people who have moral obligations. Or who think themselves to have moral obligations, right? A person who does moral stuff.

So Hank and Adrea in the case that I'm telling you about. They're both individuals who are moral agents that stand in a moral interpersonal relationship with one another, right? I'll say more about that in a second. They're also members of a shared community, right? Which is not necessarily the same thing as being a moral agents. They are members of this technology community and they think this technology community should have certain sort of values. Now we talk about that kind of stuff all the time, right? We talk about what Swathmore's values are. What are community values are, what we stand for. What kinds of things we should uphold. So I thinks that's true, most of Adrea and Hank as well. So they are members of this shared community. They have the same ... That have standards, aspirations and values that they want their community to display and that they want members of the community to uphold.

I think that distinctions gonna become important. So again back to the initial intention, so why we shame. So when we're looking at the case of Adrea and Hank I think there's two possibilities. I think it's probably the case that actually that Adrea is going for possibility one in the way that ... Excuse me possibility two, in the way that the story actually plays out. But I want to entertain both possibilities just in case, just to be safe. So one possibility is ... So why does Adrea shame Hank? One possibility is she wants him to realize his joke was offensive, right? She wants him to have a basic kind of realization. The other possibility is she wants to signal somehow, that his behavior is unacceptable within the community. I think it's probably possibility two, but again just to be on the safe side, let's do both.

I think there's reasons against shaming for both possibilities. So what I'm gonna do is try to talk you through what the reasons against shaming are for both of these possibilities. So possibility's one moral reform and reflection. We shame because we want people to have a certain kind of realization. What are we trying to do when we're doing that? Well I think actually this is much more familiar to us than we realize. There's a difference between moral condemnation and shaming. We actually engage in moral condemnation more than you think. We tend to think that moral relationships and moral stuff only happens in like a once in a lifetime, right? That this is a rare occasion when we run into moral quandaries or moral dilemmas. I think that's actually not true. I think our lives are actually shot through will all sorts of moral questions.

So imagine you have a colleague and your colleague is late to every single meeting that you schedule, every single one. And like egregiously right? Not just five minutes late. Thirty minutes late, right? Every single time. It's conceivable that somebody right? In your department could say, "Look. You really should stop being late to these meetings all of the time. It's disrespectful to the rest of us, it's not valuing our time. You know you really need to be here when we say we're gonna schedule meetings, you should be here when we schedule these meetings." Now that's a form of moral condemnation. It's not hitting anybody over the head or trying to arrest anybody, right? There's no huge consequences of it, but it is a form of moral condemnation. It's a form of what I'm gonna call moral communication, right?

Somebody's doing something disrespectful and you want to tell them, " I think this is disrespectful that you're doing this sort of thing." Right? But that kind of moral condemnation, we do that kind of stuff all the time. And that moral condemnation really is aimed at trying to get people to see something new about their behaviors. So moral condemnation, segwaying to the second point, I think is mostly what we do when we're morally communicating with each other. We trade reasons back and forth, I say look, "I think this is really disrespectful of you." And somebody might ... My colleague who's late all the time might say, "Oh well but look, I had these other obligations that prevent me from getting there." Or something like that, try to justify or excuse behavior.

That's a kind of trading in moral communication, we're offering reasons to each other. When we shame though, I think actually we're not aiming at moral communication in the same way. I think what were doing is wielding social power over someone, right? So it's the idea that I can sort of marshal all this scorn towards you and towards this fault or misdeed that you have. That's what gets you to stop doing what you're doing for the most part. Shaming it is aimed at changing behaviors. Changing behaviors might be good, but it may not actually achieve this kind of moral reform or reflection that we're actually interested in, when were morally communication with each other. I think the other thing that we're doing when we shame in this way. If we're trying to inspire someone else to reform. I think actually the relationship we've set ourselves up in. Is not from one moral agent to another, but from moral educator to moral pupil.

This actually should ... This should be a little bit more familiar maybe than it initially sounds. I bet you all have had some sort of experience, maybe in primary school, maybe in secondary school. Where a teacher shamed you. Probably, it's probably not a nice memory, right? For the most part it's not a nice memory, when you remember these things. But notice that you're ... Your teacher is engaging in that practice because she's trying to teach you something or so she thinks. Maybe she does a bad job, maybe that's not a good message. But maybe she's trying to teach you something. As so I think what's presupposed when we shame, is that sort of we are in the position to educate, right? And so we think this is the person that I'm shaming is sort of backwards, or benighted or ignorant in some way. And I need to show them the light, right?

I'm gonna say a little bit more about that later, but I think there's a problem in assuming that that's the relationship you have to somebody else. How about that second possibility? I think this one is closer to the Hank and Adrea situation. So the members of a shared community that have shared community standards. So maybe the reason that Adrea is shaming Hank, is because she wants to  condemn his behavior and show that it's unacceptable. Signal to the rest of the community that this kind of behavior is unacceptable, right? Okay fair enough. Again though, I think we've got this issue of equating what often gets called "Calling out" Right? With condemnation. So take a different case, I'm a member of a moral community, right? My community values honesty a great deal, right? Suppose I find out that somebody in my community has lied. What are my options there? One there's a question of, to what extent does each individual behavior that doesn't uphold the value, right?

That violates that value. To what extent does that individual act, violate the standard right? Or damage the community? Maybe that's not clear, right? Maybe it's actually not obvious to what extent that really happens. But I'm gonna ... Let's go ahead and grant that, right? Grant that it in fact does serious damage in some way. I think that we're falsely equating this notion of shaming or calling out someone's behavior, with condemning that behavior. So back to my case in the community that values honesty. I could say to my fellow community member, "Hey. What you did was really dishonest, and I really don't think that, that reflects the values that we have in this community. This is the kind of behavior that I think is not really welcomed in this." But again, we're back to a kind of interpersonal communication.

Right? For the most part. And maybe what we want that person to do is again, reflect on the extent to which he or she is upholding the community values, maybe that's important. But then we're sort of back to possibility number one and we can just do all of that with regular old moral condemnation and not necessarily shaming. I think the other problem is, this argument that we can shame to uphold community standards is, we're equating upholding values with enforcing values, right? So what that then means is if I should shame people for not upholding the values of my community. What that ends up making me is actually a policeman, right? Rather than one moral agent to another. I'm starting to police everybody's behavior and I'm saying, in order for me to uphold this value. What I've got to do is go around and make sure every instance of that value is being upheld by every instance of everybody's behavior.

I think that's not a great way to relate to another person. As it turns out, I also think it offers this kind of zero sum game, when you're talking about upholding values. So here's the example that I'll use. Suppose I'm really committed to becoming a well read person, right? Now it would be true if I never ever picked up a book. Than you could really question whether or not I was actually committed, right? To being a well read person. Cause you might think, well in what sense are you being committed to being a well read person? If you literally never picked up a book. But that also doesn't mean that I have to then pick up a book every single time the opportunity presents itself, right? In order to count as upholding the values. I still might care about that, but I may have a time when you know what? I'm just tired and if I start reading a book right now, I'm gonna fall asleep.

That doesn't mean that my commitment to being a well read person is waning. It just means that in order to uphold the commitment or uphold a value, it doesn't necessarily mean I have to take every single opportunity to act on behalf of that value. I think the argument in favor of shaming sort of equate those two things. Now, argument construction.

Audience member:          [Inaudible question from an audience member]

Krista:  Right. So on the one hand it depends on whether that's an argument about effectiveness. Or an argument about, or the moral argument, right? So I'm interested in the moral argument, whether or not it's the right sort of thing to do. I think there are real questions about whether or not shaming is effective. I think the jury's sort of out, right? If you actually look at some of the Empiracle research on this, some of the Empiracle's research from my friends over in Psychology. It's actually not clear the extent to which shaming is effective in the way that we want it to be effective, right? It can be effective in changing behavior in the immediate realm. But it may not be effective either in long term behavior, but it also may not be effective in the sense that people don't always respond to shaming in the way we want them to. So there is ... I think there is a bigger issue about sort of power structure's and how that tends to play into this. Because one of the nice things about shaming is that it gives us access to powerful people, in a way that we wouldn't have.

I think though that's again envisioning shaming as this kind of political tool. Rather than saying that it's okay, right? It's about whether or not it's an effective political tool. Which I think maybe it is an effective political tool. But maybe it's an effective political tool that ultimately is morally risky. So, again philosophers construct arguments. So one of the things that we have to do in order to construct arguments well, is to imagine what our opponents are gonna say to us. So we sort of have this little opponent right, sitting on our shoulders. Philosophers are weird cause we have multiple voices in our heads at all times. A little opponent sitting on my shoulder right? Who's reading my argument, and he says, "Hey. I don't think you've shown what you think you've shown." Right? "You think you've shown that it's wrong, but what you've only show is that it's unnecessary.

All you've shown is that shaming isn't the sort of thing we have to do. Right? That it's ... But maybe it's morally permissible in some ways. But we can do. ... There are alternatives, but just cause there're alternatives, doesn't mean that you've shown that it's wrong." Fair enough, I say to my opponent. I think there are still overriding moral reasons not to shame. So what's kind of big picture take away for me? I think the big picture take away are these two things. I think it undermines the equal standing of moral agents when we shame. So what does that mean? So I think moral agents are equal to one another. And so far as we're all moral agents, and we're all members of the same moral community. Nobody has power or standing over anybody else. Right? We're all equal in that sense. I think when we shame, we set ourselves up in weird power relationships to each other, right?

So we set ourselves up as moral educators and moral pupils, which I think is a problematic kind of relationship. I think we also and particularly on social media we take a tiny times slice view of people, right? So I take one Tweet as representative of you and why should I do that? Right? Maybe that one Tweet is actually not necessarily representative of you. But more than that, what I do is, I take that one Tweet is representative of you. And then I put myself in the position of judge, but also of executioner. And I then feel comfortable sort of calling all this collective attention to your flaw and misdeed, right? Flaw or misdeed. And then I've sort of, right ... And now it's my job to condemn you in this way. You know people who are like this, right?

Maybe you don't realize you know people that are like this. But let me segway into, and I'll tell you the people that you know who are like this. Also, [inaudible 00:30:33] Is that kind of arrogance about one's on moral clarity. So back to the educator/pupil. The reason your teacher felt comfortable shaming you, is because she thought she knew better than you did, right? So she thought she knew what was good for you and what you needed to know. When we shame other people, I think we're also setting ourselves up as kind of with this very secure moral clarity. Now it's not that we're never in a position to judge other people. I don't want to make that claim. Of course, sometimes we're in a position to judge other people. But shaming other people's not merely judging other people. Right? It's also you feel comfortable marshaling all this collective attention toward this person's misdeed, and sort of siccing the public on people. Right?

I think that essentially implies that you think you would never be subject to this same sort of mistake. So why do I think that? You know about that person who always corrects everybody's grammar? Yeah you do, maybe you are that person. I'm sorry, but you know that person, right? You know that person. The problem with that is that you're sort of assuming and feeling comfortable going around, correcting everyone's grammar all of the time. You imagine yourself never to be subject to the same sort of grammar mistakes. That you're going around very publicly and unashamedly correcting other people's grammar about. Right? But here's what you don't realize, there maybe some even bigger grammar nerd than you. Right? Who will hear you say something that you would never think was wrong or grammatically incorrect. And then it turns out, that person who knows way more than you, right? Says, "Oh you're using that word wrong, you don't realize that do you?"

I think when we shame we sort of set ourselves up with this perfect moral clarity. That we're able to tell and easily discern whether or not this person's mistake, misdeed or flaw is sort of representative of ... As a whole. And whether or not we're sort of in this position to kind of judge because we're very clear about our own moral standing, about our own virtue. We think we would never be subject to the same sorts os mistakes, the same sorts of flaws or the same sorts of misdeeds. So I think it lends itself to this kind of, both unequal standing relationship to other moral agents when we shame. And I think it also presupposes this kind of arrogance about what's on moral clarity. So I think even if shaming is just merely impermissible, it is ... They're overriding moral reasons not to do it. I just want to say thank you before I close, to my wonderful colleagues over in the [inaudible 00:32:53] Department who are here. To the [inaudible 00:32:56] Foundation and Evon for organizing everything. To my colleagues from some other departments who have actually heard this paper before at a different dinner that I did.

If you have further thoughts, please feel free to email me. And if you're brave enough to join the Twitter verse, there I am. Thank you. 

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