That’s disgusting!…and immoral?

Posted on August 18th, 2010 by

Photo by NeilT at

Would you eat a cockroach? If you find the very idea disgusting, would you be surprised to learn that some researchers believe that your disgust–a so-called “moral emotion”–is one of the drivers of humans’ higher moral judgments?

Psychologists and philosophers at a recent conference on disgust discussed (heh heh) this issue in considerable detail. Some scientists argued that “a significant slice of morality can be explained by our innate feelings of disgust,” while others dispute this claim, arguing that such a move makes morality far too simplistically physiological. Moral reasoning, they argue, plays a central role in moral decision making.

(By the way, for those interested in a particularly gastronomic look at the matter of disgust and food, the philosopher Carolyn Korsmeyer has written  a piece entitled “Delightful, Delicious, Disgusting.” Her book Savoring Disgust will be out next year.)


One Comment

  1. Nick Harper says:

    Interesting! This post made me think of some reading I did over the summer. Martha Nussbaum just published a text on the politics and ethics of disgust as a measure of morality. Particularly, she applies her discussion of it to the history of laws applying to homosexual conduct, but her initial review of disgust can be applied to most any moral issue. Something to look into if anyone wants to pursue this topic further from a critical perspective.