Shame and ‘Shame Instinct' in Kant's Pre-Critical Texts

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This essay addresses Kant's discussion of the role of shame in the evolution of the relationship between the sexes. Particular attention is given to the historical and genetic development of a complex line of reasoning Kant first presented in his courses on ethics, in the beginning of the 1760s. Faced with certain perplexities that we can assume were roused in him by the reading of Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, Kant confronted his students with a metaphysical hypothesis accounting for a way out of the state of nature and which involves exploring the most primitive dynamics of the shame instinct. I analyze this problem in Kant's early texts and draw a comparative approach to the structural expansion of it, as applied to a justification of the ultimate purpose of the relationship between the sexes, ending with a note on the paradoxical conclusions it ultimately leads to.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-364
Number of pages19
JournalCosmos and History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2021


  • Kant
  • Bernard Williams
  • Anthropology
  • State of nature
  • Shame


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