Nursing Schadenfreude: The Culpability of Emotional Construction
McNamee, Michael John
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 2007 September; 10(3): 289-299
The purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of Schadenfreude - the pleasure felt at another's misfortune - and to argue that feeling it in the course of health care work, as elsewhere, is evidence of a deficient character. In order to show that Schadenfreude is an objectionable emotion in health care work, I first offer some conceptual remarks about emotions generally and their differential treatment in Kantian and Aristotelian thought. Second, I argue that an appreciation of the rationality of the emotions is crucial to our self-understanding as persons in general and nurses in particular. Third, I present a critique of Portmann's (2000, When Bad Things Happen to Other People . London: Routledge) defence of Schadenfreude with examples from both nursing and medical scenarios. Specifically, I show how his exculpation of the emotion in terms of low self-esteem and a commitment to justice are not compelling. I argue that we are active in the construction of our emotional experiences of Schadenfreude , how we may indeed ,nurse' the emotion, and thus become culpable for them in ethical terms.
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