Jea S. Oh


"Discovering A Pandemic Culture of Shameless and Recovering Morality for Symbiosis: An Asian Ecofeminist Perspective"


Jea Sophia Oh

(West Chester University of Pennsylvania, PA)

According to Mengzi (6A7), all heart-minds have Li [理cosmic order] and yi [義rightness] in common. For Mengzi, shame and dislike are a beginning foundation or a sprout of rightness. This study focuses on the moral functions of shame in oneself when dealing with others, in between heaven and earth. Junzi (君子 exemplary person) according to Mengzi (7A20) must have no occasion for shame before heaven and earth. For humans shame and guilt are ambiguously interwoven in terms of morality. Feeling shameful is a crucial mechanism of being a moral person in both Mengzi and the Genesis. Mengzi’s teaching of four moral ‘sprouts’ of human beings are synthetically inter-related: compassion (惻隱之心) is the sprout of benevolence (仁 ren), deference (辭讓之心) is the sprout of social propriety (理li), approval/disapproval (是非之心) is the sprout of wisdom (知 zhi), and shame (羞惡之心) is the sprout of justice (義yi). In other words, if you do not feel shameful when your morality is not fulfilled such as being naked in public, you are not (qualified as) a (moral) human person.

This study recognizes shame as a mechanism of emotion to recognize morality for symbiosis by dealing with shameless cultures of environmental egoism such as individual capitalism, heartless separatism, and panic buying which have been shamefully disclosed throughout the process of pandemic situations under quarantine due to the COVID-19 crisis. Humans and their environments are interconnected and interdependent. Relationships between human themselves and the rest of this planet are more symbiotic than parasitic. Recognizing this symbiotic interdependence of humans and the rest of the planet is the first step to realizing co-existence of oneself with human others and with more-than-human others.

This study recognizes shame as a crucial moral emotion, which we human beings must have in immoral and shameless situations. If not, we have to learn/teach to feel shame. Moreover, shame can be positive relational affects, which is as contagious as pandemic diseases to recover and heal our morality for symbiosis beyond separatism and social distancing to live together. Separatism is more epidemic and contagious than a viral infection. Compassion is an optimal vaccine to heal the pandemic coronapocalypse. This study is suggesting an extensive understanding of shame for expanding the symbiotic relationality of humans and the other planetary beings through an Asian ecofeminist perspective.