The pejorative “shameless,” applied liberally to religious and intellectual antagonists until quite recently, now has a distinct period feel, and has frequently and casually been taken to justify diagnosing those who use it as “anxious.” The essay shows that the accusation of shamelessness has a precise and fairly stable sense from antiquity through the Enlightenment; that this sense differs materially from what modern readers and scholars typically suppose it to be; that the accusation persists now, though under a different verbal formula; and that its persistence is unsurprising, because the possibility of making such an accusation is virtually a necessity of reasoned discourse.

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