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De-Moralizing Disgustingness

Christopher Knapp
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Vol. 66, No. 2 (Mar., 2003), pp. 253-278
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20140536
Page Count: 26
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De-Moralizing Disgustingness
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Abstract

Understanding disgustingness is philosophically important partly because claims about disgustingness play a prominent role in moral discourse and practice. It is also important because disgustingness has been used to illustrate the promise of "neo-sentimentalism." Recently developed by moral philosophers such as David Wiggins, John McDowell, Simon Blackburn, Justin D'Arms and Dan Jacobson, neo-sentimentalism holds that for a thing to be disgusting is for it to be "appropriate" to respond to it with disgust. In this paper, I argue that from what we currently know about the disgust response, these accounts are mistaken. Instead, disgustingness is best understood as a descriptive property: fundamentally, things that are disgusting-for-S are things that possess triggers for S's disgust mechanism. Theoretically, my account puts pressure on neo-sentimentalists to show that the responses they appeal to can anchor normative properties. Practically, my account shows that we must abandon authoritative claims that certain things really are--or are not--disgusting.

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