Chiara Militello


Chiara Militello

Title : Shame and Reason. The Cognitive Requirements of Aischynê according to Plato


Abstract

 

While the ethical and political significance of aischynê (shame) in Plato has been studied by Christina H. Tarnopolsky (Prudes, Perverts, and Tyrants, 2010), the cognitive requirements of this emotion have yet to be investigated. This question seems to be very interesting though, especially considering that in the fourth book of the Topics – a text still heavily influenced by the doctrines of the Academy – Aristotle states that the place of aischynê is not the spirited soul (to thymoeides), but the rational one (to logistikon: Arist. Top. IV, 5, 126a, ll. 3-13). This assertion is interesting not only because of its implications about the place of aischynê in Plato’s tripartite soul, but also because it would make no sense if this emotion were not linked to some high-level cognitive process: if aischynê is in the rational soul, it means that it cannot arise unless there is some reasoning. What kind of rational judgment is necessary for aischynê to appear according to Plato? Moreover: does aischynê influence the acts of the rational soul? Plato’s dialogues will be thoroughly investigated in order to answer these questions. Also, Plato’s theses about aischynê will be compared to his statements about the related, but distinct emotion of aidôs, whose place in Plato’s tripartite soul has been studies by Douglas L. Cairns (Aidōs. The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature, 1993, pp. 381-392).

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