Theories of Disgust

Colin McGinn

in The Meaning of Disgust

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199829538
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919482 | DOI:
Theories of Disgust

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This chapter suggests that the core examples of disgust are provided by: putrefied flesh, feces, and wounds. Put in terms of processes, we have bodily decay, excretion, and injury to the body. By the last of these it includes not only sliced or ripped flesh but also diseases that affect the integrity of the flesh, such as leprosy. Other cases branch out from these three core areas, sometimes by close resemblance, sometimes more tenuously. At any rate, that is the working hypothesis, to be tested by examining all the cases listed earlier in the book in the light of whatever theory is being considered. Any theory of disgust needs to be evenhanded, both as to cases and as to sense modalities, though some selection of basic cases seems inevitable. With these conditions of adequacy in mind, some theories are considered, beginning with what are considered to be the least plausible: the taste-toxicity theory, the foul-odor theory, the animal-heritage theory, the life-process theory, the death theory, and the death-in-life theory.

Keywords: disgust; taste-toxicity theory; foul-odor theory; animal-heritage theory; life-process theory; death theory; death-in-life theory

Chapter.  11425 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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