Guilt?

This morning I was with our friends at BBC Radio Gloucestershire talking to John Rockley about guilt. We covered eco-guilt, parental guilt and charity use of guilt to get us to pay up.

Two questions spring to mind that students might be interested in:

  • What makes you feel guilty?
  • Is guilt a bad thing / is it pointless / should we not feel even more guilty?

I look forward to your responses… please use the ‘comments’ option to respond..

Cheers, Dave

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22 thoughts on “Guilt?

  1. We feel guilty when we are doing something wrong, inconsistent with our morality. In my opinion, an independent man who has self-respect, shouldn’t feel guilty. Guilt can be devastating emotion. It is better to work on situations that can make us feel guilty. Guilt makes me think of altruistic ethics. Altruism is not capable of creating an idea of strong and proud man. A man is a sacrificial animal and an animal demanding sacrifices. It is a mixture of cynicism [I don’t accept rules of altruistic ethics] and guilt [I haven’t got enough courage to reject that].

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  2. We feel guilty when we are doing something wrong, inconsistent with our morality. In my opinion, an independent man who has self-respect, shouldn’t feel guilty. Guilt can be devastating emotion. It is better to work on situations that can make us feel guilty. Guilt makes me think of altruistic ethics. Altruism is not capable of creating an idea of strong and proud man. A man is a sacrificial animal and an animal demanding sacrifices. It is a mixture of cynicism [I don’t accept rules of altruistic ethics] and guilt [I haven’t got enough courage to reject that].

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  3. What makes me feel guilty? Well, obviously when I do something that I KNOW I shouldn’t it makes me feel guilty.Guilt is not a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing. For me, it helps me to know when I might have mistreated someone or something, and to hopefully not repeat whatever the offense was to begin with. Basically, without guilt, we would all be wild savages doing whatever pleased us.

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  4. Ok, this comes hot off the press from my first lecture. I think guilt is a product between an imbalance between our Appetites and Reason (you’ll hate me but I’m refering to the Plato tripartite – spirit, reason, appetites). Anyhow, as I was reading above comments – and potatan, don’t you know a rhetorical question when you read one? – guilt is described as doing something when we ‘know’ it is wrong. So if we continue along the lines of having and then manifesting an ‘appetite’, our reason has a hairy fit and the result is ‘guilt’. I just wonder how we are always so sure our Appetites are wrong. Appetites have been labouring under the militantism of Reason for centuries, misunderstood, belittled, marginalised, demonised. Reason is just a big bully, cowing our desires, keeping us in check to be ‘productive, mature, employable, virtuous, lifeless’ bodies. The Appetites are the only way to be alive, happy, life-preserving – if properly respected they would inevitably lead to a ‘Good’ life, not a departure, as some may think.Guilt is a powerful force that keeps us goose-stepping with the neighbours. Useless and stupid.

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  5. Well, I feel guilty when I do something I know I shouldn’t be doing. I feel guilty if I act in a way other than what I know is right.I believe guilt is something that we all need to feel in order to help us grow. I look at guilt as conviction. I don’t think it’s pointless at all, but I do think it’s used improperly to get people to do things they don’t want to do. If people use guilt to trick others, such as in the case of charities guilting us into paying more money, then I think guilt has been used in an improper manner. If you feel guilty, (and it’s not because you were tricked into feeling that way) then the guilt you feel will hopefully help you learn not to act that particular way again.

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  6. Mostly, whenever I feel that I have offended someone in anyway or when I inconvenience anyone I feel guilty.Guilt is not a bad thing when it helps us address and identify an issue but I think it can be bad if we let it eat us up inside. Once we have amended the problem, we can find peace about it and not let it control us.

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  7. Guilt can motivate me to take the appropriate action for the issue that is provoking that feeling. However, feelings of guilt are sometimes unjustified and it is important to recognise the difference. Guilt can also cause me to act in way that relieves that feeling rather than taking an action that is more useful.

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  8. I can honestly say that guilt is not something that I feel very often if at all because I’d rather just look at something like a mistake and learn rather than sit there stewing over it.

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  9. I actually think Guilt is an emotion that many don’t really understand, perhaps misinterpret. From my experience, many people have claimed to be feeling guilty to me about one thing or another, when actually they are feeling a different emotion such as worry, anguish or insecurity.

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  10. So, what, guilt can be quantified? A little bit is OK, but too much is just not OK? And are we so sure we know right from wrong? Or are our ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ dictated by social structures, politics and the status quo? We know slavery is wrong, we’ll buy a cinema ticket to ‘Amazing Grace’ and shed a tear and say ‘Thank God that’s over with’ or ‘I would certainly never be a slave driver’, and yet trafficking of people is constant and continual in our society – places like Switzerland (you wouldn’t think, would you?) is a second tier country where trafficking is ignored and therefore allowed. And racism, let’s pick on Switzerland again, if an immigrant breaks the law, he/she must serve the sentence and then be deported. OK, tough but fair, you may think, well the law-breaking immigrant also has to carry back to his/her country of origin his entire family. Racism breaks all rules of equality, but it continues with force. Guilt hasn’t done a jot of good, to make us ‘better’ people while atrocities against people continues. Guilt schmilt

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  11. I think that although our own guilt must be related to our own moral judgements, that it’s not uncommon to feel guilty even when, by our own morals, we’ve done nothing wrong. Perhaps this is indicative of how we are affected by the morals of others even though we may disagree with them.I think this is in some way distinguishes between two types of guilt. We genuinely feel a bad kind of guilt when we have done something against our own moral code, but when we have done something against someone else’s (society’s, your parents’ etc.) moral code that is not against our own moral code, then this is perhaps what we refer to as a guilty pleasure, a nice kind of guilt that feels like a bit of a “screw you” to whoever would think what you did was ‘wrong’.

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  12. in my opinion, guilt is a beneficial emotion. I am more than likely just immitating what others have said(but i didnt read all comments haha). We can learn from feeling guilty, as it is not the easiest feeling to deal with. Without it we may be able to detect right from wrong, but if we choose to do something that is considered “wrong”, but feel no guilt, we wouldnt have a problem re-offending! we have an innate sense of right and wrong, and we also learn from our own experience and culture, yet just knowing may not be strong enough to prevent us from doing wrong.Furthermore, if we experience solely positive emotions, we would never learn from our mistakes.

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  13. I am interested in the innate comment Kayleigh, i think I may have used to agree with that but i dont think i do anymore. My reason is the vastly different ideas between peoples on what is right and wrong, and what circumstance may make a wrong act, right. For example, I know many people who would not think twice about keeping an extra £100 if it were accidently dispensed from they cash machine, but if they were paid an extra 3100 by mistake by an old lady/man when doing a job for them, they would undoubtedly pay it back. Is not the act the same? why is one OK and one not – one carrying a sentence of guilt, one not? I honestly doubt that a truly objective idea of right and wrong is possible – and therefore guilt must be a subjective emotion?

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  14. Jason, I’m not sure you used the best example. The act clearly isn’t the same for the exact reason you stated, one carries a sentence of guilt and the other doesn’t. Why that is most likely differs from person to person. Personally, I’d feel better about taking an extra £100 from a cash machine than from a person because it’s ‘stealing’ from a cooperation to which £100 is of little value, rather than from a human being whose financial situation could be anything. I noticed sociopathy hasn’t been brought up yet. I’d be interested to hear everyone’s views on it in terms of guilt, as sociopaths typically feel none. Is it then really guilt that stops us doing so-called ‘wrong’ things? I don’t think it can be, because if you were really angry at someone over something and wanted to hit them, you might stop yourself out of concern for the consequences (i.e. they hit you back harder or you get in trouble), even though, if you feel they deserved it, you wouldn’t feel any guilt for doing it.

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  15. but some people who suffer with mental disorders feel no emotion, probably a terrible example here but i love the films so.. Hannibal Lecture, he did awful things, which to any normal person can clearly be seen as wrong, in every sense. You may think this contradicts what i said earlier about innnate feelings, which it does. But this can be explained by looking at the chemical balance/imbalance depending on which way you look at it. Guilt, as an emotion is Universal, however, the “causes” of guilt are not. With the example you gave, it all depends on experience and your upbringing, because i know plenty of lads that would take the £100 off the old person. I do believe we have an innate sense of right/wrong, but i feel it changes and develops over time from our experiences in this world.

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  16. Oh and to jess“he act clearly isn’t the same for the exact reason you stated, one carries a sentence of guilt and the other doesn’t”are you saying that in your opinion an act is defined by the amount of gulit it causes? if so, I assume you are saying there can never be a truly objective act – the same for everyone?

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  17. And to kayleigh..If our sense of guilt depends on our environemnt – ie/ as you say you know guys who would take the money off the old folk (me too sadly), and if like me you are saying they would feel no guilt, then is their innate sense of right and wrong different to others? or do you think they feel the same feelings of guilt anyone would, but due to their upbringing/experiences are able tu surpress it?

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  18. I’m interrupting an interesting discussion, but oh well! I feel guilty when I know I’ve done something I shouldn’t have done, something that I know is wrong. Even though the emotion guilt isn’t a ‘nice’ feeling, I believe that it is a beneficial feeling because otherwise we would never learn from our mistakes.So that was just what everyone else said really!

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