Embarrassment: A Philosophical Analysis

Luke Purshouse 


This paper considers the sorts of evaluations that underlie the emotion of embarrassment, by questioning what unifies the various kinds of situations in which this emotion typically arises. It examines the difference between embarrassment and shame, and then addresses problems with the accounts of embarrassment proposed by previous authors, in particular Solomon, Taylor and Goffman. It proposes a new model, on which the emotion involves viewing an interpersonal situation, in which you are involved, as containing an exposure to which you are averse. This may either be your own exposure to others, or others' exposure to yourself. The emotion thus reflects the value we attach to placing limits on the sorts of interactions and contact we have with other people.