Review of The Meaning of Disgust by Colin McGinn [Book Review]

Daniel Kelly
Purdue University
Colin McGinn's The Meaning of Disgust numbers among several scholarly books on disgust that have been published in the last couple of years (including, in the interest of full and up front disclosure, one by the writer of this review). McGinn's book argues for a coherent, if incredible, account of the essence of disgustingness and of the emotion of disgust, and reflects on the potential significance of that account for different areas of human concern. It also bears many of the characteristics that readers of McGinn will have come to expect. The overall structure is tidy; the prose is flowery but lucid, though due to the subject matter here, often cloying; and for most part the discussion avoids technical jargon, with a brief discussion of encapsulation (59-60) and persistent use of the term "Sosein" being notable exceptions. These are exciting times for research on disgust, in large part because insightful contributions are being made from researchers whose approaches and disciplinary backgrounds differ, but whose interests have led them to converge on this puzzling emotion. This book barely acknowledges, let alone engages with, most of these contributions, and as a result The Meaning of Disgust is tragically flawed.
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