Thoughts of Death

Colin McGinn

in The Meaning of Disgust

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

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This chapter makes some remarks about death and the conceptual framework in which it is embedded, which relates to the modality we attribute to death. The rotting corpse makes us think specifically of the death of a conscious being, problematically dependent upon an organic body, where this death strikes us as contingent and adventitious—a tragedy that need not have occurred, a cosmic screw-up. Such a death strikes us as absurd (in the metaphysical sense) because nothing about the conscious self as such entails it. Resentment naturally follows—and a sense of bafflement. Our disgust reaction conjures up this whole complex of thoughts and feelings. We apprehend the world as unintelligible, absurd, and contrary to reason—as well as terrifying and unpredictable. In the attitude of disgust, we take the measure of the disjunction between how the world actually works and how we would like it to be. We rebel at the sheer perversity of it all. This is why disgust is a philosophical emotion.

Keywords: death; disgust; conscious self; body; philosophical emotion

Chapter.  3455 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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