Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thom Brooks on "Shame on You, Shame on Me? Nussbaum on Shame Punishment"

Thom Brooks, "Shame on You, Shame on Me? Nussbaum on Shame Punishment," Journal of Applied Philosophy 25(4) (2008): 322-34. (subscription-only)


Shame punishments have become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional punishments, often taking the form of convicted criminals holding signs or sweeping streets with a toothbrush. In her Hiding from Humanity, Martha Nussbaum argues against the use of shame punishments because they contribute to an offender's loss of dignity. However, these concerns are shared already by the courts which also have concerns about the possibility that shaming might damage an offender's dignity. This situation has not led the courts to reject all uses of shaming, but only to accept shaming within certain safeguards. Thus, despite Nussbaum's important reservations against shame punishments, it may still be possible for her to accept shaming within specific parameters such as those set out by the courts that protect the dignity of an offender. As a result, she need not be opposed to the use of legitimate shame punishment.

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