Philosophy of the Social Sciences 42 (4):459-488 (2012)

Evolutionary psychology and human sociobiology often reject the mere possibility of symbolic causality. Conversely, theories in which symbolic causality plays a central role tend to be both anti-nativist and anti-evolutionary. This article sketches how these apparent scientific rivals can be reconciled in the study of disgust. First, we argue that there are no good philosophical or evolutionary reasons to assume that symbolic causality is impossible. Then, we examine to what extent symbolic causality can be part of the theoretical toolbox of the evolutionary social sciences. This examination leads to the conclusion that it is possible to make evolutionary sense of Mary Douglas’s theory of disgust, and that her view of symbolic causality can and should inform evolutionary theories of disgust.
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DOI 10.1177/0048393111425328
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