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to do something, “we are certainly and immediately conscious of a faculty
enabling us to overcome, by ¬rm resolve, every incentive to transgression,
however great.”92
Here too, a phenomenological description of how things seem is no
proof that this is how they really are. But here as well, I do think Kant™s own
analysis of this particular aspect of human experience rings truer to many
more people than does Williams™, and that the non-Kantians therefore
have a lot of work to do. When Williams asserts that obligations are merely
expressions of desire and thus always presuppose them (albeit desires that
are “essential” to the agent and “have” to be satis¬ed), there is likely to be
a loud phenomenological rejoinder coming from many quarters: “In my
experience I certainly have recognized the force of obligations that I had
no desire to ful¬ll. And after re¬‚ecting on them I saw that I could in fact
ful¬ll them.” And underneath the rejoinder is a sense that the power of
practical reason is much stronger in human life than Williams is willing to
Williams is ¬rmly convinced that the I of practical deliberation “must
be more intimately the I of my desires than [Kant™s] account allows.”93 I
don™t think most people are inclined to follow him here. There are many,
many areas in human life “ moral as well as non-moral “ where we assess

90 Hume (1748/1975), p. 95. The opening epigraph of Kane (1996), also seems apt here:
“There is a disputation [that will continue] till mankind are raised from the dead between
the Necessitarians and the partisans of Free Will. “ Jalalu™ddin Rumi, twelfth-century
Persian poet,” p. 3.
91 Kant (1785/1996d), Ak. 4: 459; pp. 104“05.
92 Kant (1793/1996h), Ak. 6: 50 n.; p. 93 n.
93 Williams (1985), p. 67.
130 Robert B. Louden

and critique our own as well as others™ desires based on (what we think
are) reasons. (For example: “But dad, I don™t want to practice piano,” “Yes,
but there are good reasons why you should.” Or: “He needs to work on his
anger.” “Yes, you™re right.”) Granted, some of these alleged reasons turn out
to be better than others. And here the most promising path for minimizing
bias and prejudice would seem to lie in addressing one™s reasons “to the
public in the strict sense, that is, the world”94 “ so that the widest number
of people possible can test and debate them. But to get back to my point:
this mundane possibility of a critique of desire seems to be foreclosed by
Williams™ neo-Humeanism. Most people, I submit, are not willing to settle
for a picture that says their cognitive selves are simply slaves to the I of their
Morality, like other all-too-human practices, is prone to error and illu-
sion, and part of a philosopher™s job is to correct its mistakes. But to assert
that we would be better off without it, once we see what this it encompasses,
is to ask us to accept a very uninspiring picture of ourselves and our possi-
bilities “ a picture that our own experience also speaks against. Do we have
a choice on the matter? Can we think about it? If so, I vote to keep it.95


Barnes, Jonathan (1993). “Like Us, Only Better: Bernard Williams™ Theory of the
Decline in Ethics since the Early Greeks,” Times Literary Supplement, April 23.
Baron, Marcia (1995). Kantian Ethics Almost Without Apology (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press).
Berlin, Isaiah (1969). Four Essays on Liberty (New York: Oxford University Press).
Bible: King James Version (1998). Romans 3: 8 (Oxford, Oxford Paperbacks).
Donagan, Alan (1977). The Theory of Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago

94 Kant (1784/1996c) Ak. 8: 38; p. 19.
95 Concluding not-entirely-philosophical postscript: I did not know Bernard Williams very well, and
last saw him in April 1994, at a conference held at the University of Chicago. The conference
itself went very well “ the results were later published in Louden and Schollmeier (1996).
However, after it was over, I somehow managed to miss the last shuttle-bus back to the
airport, and as a result became quite worried that I would also miss my ¬‚ight home. My
only option at this point was to take a cab, but unfortunately I did not have enough funds to
cover more than a small fraction of the fare. Just as panic was setting in, Bernard Williams
strolled by and said: “Why don™t you come with me in the cab I™ve reserved? My treat.” We
were in the cab with each other for over an hour, during which time we talked about (among
other things) African politics, California, Nietzsche, Kant, universities in the United States,
the United Kingdom, Germany, and elsewhere, and opera. I have very fond memories of
the philosopher who made it possible for me to catch my plane.
The Critique of the Morality System

Donagan, Alan (1987). “Consistency in Rationalist Moral Systems,” in W. Christo-
pher (ed.), Moral Dilemmas (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 271“290.
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and Vices (Berkley: University of California Press), pp. 157“173.
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Morality (New York: Cambridge University Press).
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H. B. Nisbet (trans.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
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Perspective,” in H. E. Mason (ed.), Moral Dilemmas and Moral Theory (New York:
Oxford University Press), pp. 167“198.
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(ed.), 2nd ed., text rev. P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
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Kant (1996a), pp. 39“117.
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Immanuel Kant (1996a), pp. 125“131.
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(1996a), pp. 139“271.
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pp. 317“351.
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pp. 365“603.
Kant, Immanuel (1793/1996i). Religion and Rational Theology, trans. and ed. Allen
W. Wood and George di Giovanni (New York: Cambridge University Press).
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(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 122.
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Immanuel Kant (1997), pp. 37“222.
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¨ ¨
and ed. Robert B. Louden and Gunter Zoller (New York: Cambridge University
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Honor of Arthur W. H. Adkins (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
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134 Robert B. Louden

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and Phenomenological Research 49, No. 4, pp. 721“731.
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5 Shame, Guilt, and Pathological Guilt:
A Discussion of Bernard Williams

Shame and Necessity1 continues Bernard Williams™ trenchant critique of
Morality, Our Peculiar Institution.2 One of its main themes is that our ethi-
cal theories overemphasize guilt and, concomitantly, underemphasize, even
ignore, shame. They, thus, make serious theoretical and ethical errors: they
misunderstand themselves, misunderstanding even their central notion,
guilt; and they encourage us to misunderstand ourselves and our relations
with others. Three quotes from chapter four, “Shame and Autonomy,”
which focuses on these errors, give a good indication of those claims:

[Guilt] can direct one towards those who have been wronged or damaged,
and demand reparations in the name, simply, of what has happened to them.
But it cannot by itself help one to understand one™s relations to those hap-
penings, or to rebuild the self that has done these things and the world
in which one has to live. Only shame can do that, because it embodies
conceptions of what one is and how one is related to others.3

Shame can understand guilt, but guilt cannot understand itself.4

The conceptions of modern morality . . . insist at once on the primacy of
guilt, its signi¬cance in turning us towards victims, and its rational restric-
tion to the voluntary . . . if we want to understand why it might be important
for us to distinguish the harms we do voluntarily from those we do invol-
untarily, we shall hope to succeed only if we ask what kinds of failing or
inadequacy are the sources of the harms, and what those failings mean in
the context of our own and other people™s lives. This is the territory of
shame; it is only by moving into it that we may gain some insight into one
of the main preoccupations of the morality that centers itself on guilt.5

1 Williams (1993).


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