Self-Betrayal and Moral Repair: A Philosophical Counselor’s Case Study


This paper begins with a case study recounted from my philosophical counseling practice. The case of “Eddy” serves to open questions that are elaborated in this essay: the philosophical and clinical meanings of moral injury, and whether self-betrayal is a significant harm that falls under the sorts of psychological and normative suffering implied by the concept of moral injury. My review of recent philosophical and clinical literature on moral injury shows that it is typically described as a syndrome resulting from one’s experience of moral betrayal within the context of trust in institutionally-respected authorities; authorities that lead one to actions that compromise one’s own values while fulfilling one’s institutionally-mandated duties. I argue that this described syndrome falls short of capturing the problem of voluntary complicity such as in the case of Eddy. My claim is clarified by my review of other experiential examples of complicity found in the philosophical literature. I explain that the process notion of normative-ideal agentic identification is helpful to understand the agentic state of some people, such as Eddy, who voluntarily elect to comply in harmful institutional or social situations. I develop the notion of qualitative complicity, which captures the syndrome of normative self-betrayal that occurs in such cases. I conclude that efforts to recover moral integrity in such cases necessitate gestures of reparation by morally-injured agents toward the moral community with whom they identify; moral communities that are betrayed by their voluntary complicity.

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Kate Mehuron, Eastern Michigan University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: IICAH2023
Stream: Philosophy

This paper is part of the IICAH2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Mehuron K. (2023) Self-Betrayal and Moral Repair: A Philosophical Counselor’s Case Study ISSN: 2432-4604 – The IAFOR International Conference on Arts & Humanities – Hawaii 2023 Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon