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Keywords:

  • collective guilt;
  • collective shame;
  • ethnicity;
  • Gilbert;
  • moral emotions;
  • Weber

Abstract: Many individuals experience feelings of collective guilt or shame for the blameworthy historical acts of the nations or ethnic groups to which they belong. I reject the idea that collective moral sentiment rests on inherited moral responsibility. I suggest that the possibilities for individual action inherent in membership in ethnic identity groups can be a source of special moral duties. I argue that collective guilt and shame are moral emotions that individuals experience in response to complex assessments of their groups' histories and of their own practical responses to those histories. The approach I take to analyzing the concept of an ethnic identity group makes use of tools developed by Max Weber. Weber's conceptual work on social groups and related phenomena has been strongly criticized in a widely discussed book by Margaret Gilbert. I show that Gilbert's arguments fail to discredit Weberian analyses of social groups and their properties.