From guilt-oriented to uncertainty-oriented culture: Nietzsche and weber on the history of theodicy

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7 Scopus citations


A psychology of the emotions should recognize that culture grounds our experience of emotions, particularly existential emotions such as guilt and the anxiety of uncertainty. Nietzsche and Weber present historical models that emphasize the role of culture in solving the problem of theodicy- explaining seemingly unjust suffering- and thereby conditioning the individual's experience of emotion in response to suffering. More important, they identified the transition from cultural premodernity to modernity with the shift from guilt-oriented to uncertainty-oriented culture. Although individuals in premodern cultures tended to interpret suffering in terms of personal inadequacy and guilt, individuals in modern culture tend to interpret suffering in terms of uncertainty and disillusionment. In the present article I review the histories of theodicy of Nietzsche and Weber. This cultural-historical theory is applied to integrate diverse empirical findings from psychology and anthropology relevant to the relationship between culture and existential emotion and to enrich relevant contemporary theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-124
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Culture
  • Emotion
  • Friedrich nietzsche
  • Max weber
  • Suffering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Psychology


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