What Is Guilt?

Guilt [is] the most important problem in the development of civilization and... the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt.

- Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss morality by taking a long hard look at the idea of guilt. The 18th century politician and philosopher Edmund Burke was once moved to comment: “Guilt was never a rational thing; it distorts all the faculties of the human mind, it perverts them, it leaves a man no longer in the free use of his reason, it puts him into confusion.” Guilt is a legal category but also a psychological state and a moral idea. Over the centuries theologians, philosophers and psychologists have tried to determine how it relates to morality, reason and the workings of the mind. The answers seem to cut deeply into our understanding of what it is to be human.

Listen to Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Guilt on the In Our Time podcast

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

If there is one thing we have learned from returning war veterans — especially those of the last decade — it’s that the emotional reality of the soldier at home is often at odds with that of the civilian public they left behind.  And while friends and families of returning service members may be experiencing gratefulness or relief this holiday, many of those they’ve welcomed home are likely struggling with other emotions.

High on that list of emotions is guilt. Soldiers often carry this burden home — survivor guilt being perhaps the kind most familiar to us...

Continue reading Nancy Sherman's article: War and the Moral Logic of Guilt

Further Reading

Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a universal moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Guilt

Related Topics

Freud | Hypocrisy | Punishment | Self-control

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