Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (3):679-693 (2016)

Suppose that disgust can provide evidence of moral wrongdoing. What account of disgust might make sense of this? A recent and promising theory is the social contagion view, proposed by Alexandra Plakias. After criticizing both its descriptive and normative claims, I draw two conclusions. First, we should question the wisdom of drawing so straight a line from biological poisons and pathogens to social counterparts. Second, we don’t need to explain the evidential value of disgust by appealing to what the response tracks. These lessons point toward an alternative: namely, that disgust is a moral heuristic. On the heuristic view, disgust is a trigger for the subconscious use of a particular rule: I show how this view fits with a plausible hypothesis about the social function of disgust, and then apply it to Leon Kass’s famous use of repugnance to criticize cloning.
Keywords Disgust  Social contagion  Alexandra Plakias  Leon Kass  Moral heuristics
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10677-015-9673-6
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
Ethical Intuitionism.Michael Huemer - 2005 - Palgrave Macmillan.
Ethics and Intuitions.Peter Singer - 2005 - The Journal of Ethics 9 (3-4):331-352.

View all 26 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

I Eat, Therefore I Am: Disgust and the Intersection of Food and Identity.Daniel Kelly & Nicolae Morar - 2018 - In Tyler Doggett, Anne Barnhill & Mark Budolfson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 637 - 657.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Good and the Gross.Alexandra Plakias - 2013 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (2):261-278.
Moral Disgust.Michael Hauskeller - 2006 - Ethical Perspectives 13 (4):571-602.
What in the World Is Moral Disgust?Alberto Giubilini - 2016 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (2):227-242.
Disgust, Moral Disgust, and Morality.Joshua Gert - 2014 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (4):33-54.
Disgust: The Body and Soul Emotion in the 21st Century.P. Rozin, J. Haidt & C. R. McCauley - 2009 - In B. O. Olatunji & D. McKay (eds.), Disgust and its disorders. American Psychological Association. pp. 2008.
Visceral Values: Aurel Kolnai on Disgust.Carolyn Korsmeyer & Barry Smith - 2004 - In Barry Smith & Carolyn Korsmeyer (eds.), Aurel Kolnai's On Disgust. Open Court Publishing Company. pp. 1-23.
Disgust and Moral Taboos.John Kekes - 1992 - Philosophy 67 (262):431 - 446.


Added to PP index

Total views
503 ( #13,904 of 2,432,812 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
47 ( #16,393 of 2,432,812 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes