What's So Shameful About Shameful Revelations?
Law, Ethics and Philosophy
Jonathan Wolff, amongst others, has criticised luck egalitarian theories of distributive justice because these theories require untalented citizens to reveal their lack of talent to the state. He believes that, even in an ideal egalitarian society, this would cause citizens to feel ashamed. Having to reveal facts that one considers shameful undermines one's self-respect. The state should treat its citizens with respect and, thus, it ought not to treat them in ways that undermine their
... ct. In this paper, I argue that this shameful revelations allegation is false. In an ideal egalitarian society, people would believe that a person's natural marketable talents are an inappropriate basis on which to measure her value. Emotions typically have a cognitive structure: one of the constitutive components of each particular emotion is a particular type of belief. Shame is felt when one believes that one does not possess some quality that one believes one needs to have in order to have value. So, since citizens of an ideal egalitarian society will not believe that a person's value depends on her natural marketable talents, they will not feel ashamed of being untalented. This is good news. Luck egalitarian theories require citizens to reveal their untalentedness because it is necessary in order to achieve fairness in the distribution of resources and/or welfare. Wolff's allegation therefore implies that fairness and respect will conflict in an ideal egalitarian society. But, if I am correct, we may be able to achieve both these values