Monday, November 9, 2009

Herant Katchadourian - Guilt

Host Bobbi Emel reports on the November 5th event:

As always, it was wonderful to have a Stanford professor speak at Kepler's. Herant Katchadourian is emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford and former president of the Flora Foundation (part of the William and Flora Hewlett family.) Dr. Katchadourian and his wife, Stina, came early to the event and were eager to see Guilt: The Bite of Conscience as they had not yet received a copy since it had been published. Gracious and pleasant, they said they were happy to browse Kepler's until the event started as "this is our favorite bookstore."

The audience was very attentive from the start and I couldn't resist but saying in my introduction, "Thank you for coming. Would you have felt guilty if you hadn't?"

Guilt is a remarkable work in that Dr. Katchadourian reviews the concept from just about all angles, covering religious, psychological, philosophical, and sociological views. And I may have left some out.

He discussed how guilt is a natural human emotion, just like all emotions, and can serve productive purposes in giving us cues to moral behavior. The only times guilt is really a problem is when it either becomes so excessive that the person experiencing it becomes psychologically impaired or when there is an absolute absence of guilt which can produce sociopathic behavior.

The audience had many interesting questions for the author, many of which had to do with cultural differences related to guilt. This brought up discussions of the development and definitions of morality . . . I think the conversation could have lasted much longer than the imposed time limit. I commented to Dr. Katchadourian afterwards that the event seemed like a university seminar. He smiled and, with a twinkle in his eye, said, "Yes, it did feel like a seminar. I love to teach!"

Teaching is what propelled him on the road to writing Guilt as he taught a seminar at Stanford on the topic for almost a decade. Guilt, while not wholly a scholarly work, is full of philosophical content that the author explores comprehensively. As Dr. Katchadourian said with a wink to one of the audience members, "Take it in small chunks."

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