The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The MIT Press
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If memory serves, this book, and the dissertation that it grew out of, was sparked by an eye-opening seminar on biological and cultural explanations of human behavior I attended while in graduate school, a great conference on moral psychology in the summer of 2004 at Dartmouth College, and a number of conversations with my advisor, Steve Stich, at least one of...
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Pick a random person off the street and ask him to name five disgusting things off the top of his head, and you are likely to get an earful about filth, disease, death, bugs, and perhaps the mention of some sort of exotic food he finds particularly unpleasant, like pickled snake or boiled sea cucumber. These are the types of things mention of disgust most...
1. Toward a Functional Theory of Disgust
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One interesting fact about disgust is that it is a piece of human psychology that does not sit easily on either side of the traditional nature–nurture divide. On the one hand, the capacity to be disgusted, together with a small set of things that appear to be universally and innately disgusting, is a part of the species’ typical psychological endowment. These are a part of human...
2. Poisons and Parasites: The Entanglement Thesis and the Evolution of Disgust
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A few comparative questions will help frame the discussion in this chapter. First: is the emotion of disgust found only in human beings? This question is interesting not only for the insight an answer might shed on human nature but also because different theorists working on the emotions have given it different answers. On the one hand, a group of prominent researchers who have focused...
3. Disgust’s Sentimental Signaling System: Expression, Recognition, and the Transmission of Cultural Information
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Anyone who has played Texas hold ’em or seven-card draw can tell you how hard it is to keep a good poker face. It is extremely difficult to keep from broadcasting to the entire table your opinion of a hand, whether you are elated that you made a full house, disappointed that you missed a high flush by a single card, disgusted that you think your opponent pulled an...
4. Disgust and Moral Psychology: Tribal Instincts and the Co-opt Thesis
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What is the relationship between disgust and morality? Although both this chapter and the next attempt to say something about this relationship, I do not pretend to provide an exhaustive answer. Indeed, the question can feel not just difficult but intractable largely because, as stated, it is ambiguous and so can be interpreted in a number of ways. One might be interested, for example, in whether...
5. Disgust and Normative Ethics: The Irrelevance of Repugnance and Dangers of Moralization
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Like the last chapter, this one examines the relationship between disgust and morality, but it focuses on a different facet. Here I begin by considering two diametrically opposed views on the moral significance of what is sometimes called the “yuck factor.” Say your response to an activity or social practice is simply...
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Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 5 figures
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology
Series Editor Byline: Kim Sterelny and Robert A. Wilson