The moral significance of shock

Oded Na'aman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This chapter proposes that shock can be morally significant independently of its consequences but only as part of an ongoing commitment to certain norms, in particular norms that constitute recognizing another as a person. When we witness others in agony, or being severely wronged, or when we ourselves severely wrong or mistreat others, our shock can reflect our recognition of them as persons, a recognition constituted by our commitment to certain moral norms. However, if we do not in fact respond to the suffering or wrong in accordance with these norms-if, for example, we do not act to relieve their suffering or to properly address the wrong done, and do not avoid or prevent its recurrence-then our commitment to the relevant norms is undermined. When we consistently violate the norms whose violation initially shocked us, our lingering shock upon repeated violations gradually loses its significance and becomes a mere impulse-a fossil of a past commitment, so to speak-before it disappears completely. The failure to be shocked in such instances marks the failure of our moral commitments, which is the failure to recognize others as persons.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Politics of Emotional Shockwaves
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783030560218
ISBN (Print)9783030560201
StatePublished - 8 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


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