Call for Papers: Shame and Virtue in Antiquity

Aix-Marseille University, France, 15-17 June 2020

Deadline: 20 December 2019

Moral philosophy is nowadays marked by an interest in questions of psychology and anthropology of behaviour, and in the ethics of virtues rather than in the ethics of duties. This context has brought to the forefront the issue of emotions. The dominant paradigm is no longer an opposition between reason and desires or passions, but a complex interaction between the normative and rational principles of action and the emotions of the moral agent. Emotions are understood not as obstacles or disturbances to the morality of behaviour, but as factors that play a positive and driving role in this respect.

In ancient philosophy, this turning point is reflected in the rise of studies devoted to emotions, feelings and passions in the ethical and social register. Major works in this area include those of Douglas Cairns (1993) and Bernard Williams (1994) on shame, William Harris (2004) on anger, and David Konstan on fear, pity or hate (2006). All these feelings have a clear moral dimension, which is developed within an anthropology whose central subject is a social individual, a member of a community constituted by a sharing of values and beliefs, source of both norms and expectations. As a result, these emotional states have an ambivalent relationship with morally right or virtuous behaviour.

The conference Shame and Virtue in Antiquity aims to question this ambivalence by focusing on shame, an emotion that is particularly rich in this respect. Shame is a fundamental social emotion in Mediterranean cultures, which (still nowadays) place a strong and structuring value on honour, and ancient literature bears its mark. From the outset, it is also an ambivalent emotion, with contrasting faces, as evidenced by the semantic differences and overlaps of the doublet αἰσχύνη/αἰδώς. The historical field targeted by the scientific committee of the colloquium is broad, where existing studies preferentially focus on archaic poetic texts (Homer, tragic poets) and on classical authors, Plato and especially Aristotle. The conference Shame and Virtue proposes, from and beyond this period, to extend the investigation to Hellenistic schools, the Roman world and ancient Christianity. In this field, which articulates various types of pluralism (historical, political, linguistic, religious), the papers presented will help to explore the ambivalent relationship between shame and virtue in antiquity.

Abstracts of no more than 500 words are to be submitted in English or French. Please send your proposal and a short bio-bibliography to isabelle.koch@univ-amu.fr and anne.balansard@univ-amu.fr no later than December 20th, 2019. Authors will be notified of acceptance by January 31st, 2020.