The response model of moral disgust

Synthese 195 (12):5453-5472 (2018)
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The philosophical debate over disgust and its role in moral discourse has focused on disgust’s epistemic status: can disgust justify judgments of moral wrongness? Or is it misplaced in the moral domain—irrelevant at best, positively distorting at worst? Correspondingly, empirical research into disgust has focused on its role as a cause or amplifier of moral judgment, seeking to establish how and when disgust either causes us to morally condemn actions, or strengthens our pre-existing tendencies to condemn certain actions. Both of these approaches to disgust are based on a set of assumptions that I call, in what follows, the evidential model of disgust. This paper proposes an alternative model, which I call the response model. Instead of looking at disgust as a cause and justification of judgments of moral wrongness, I will argue that disgust is better understood as a response to wrongness. More precisely, I argue that disgust is a response to norm violations, and that it is a fitting response insofar as norm violations are potentially contagious and therefore pose a threat to the stability and maintenance of norms.



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Alexandra Plakias
Hamilton College

Citations of this work

Experimental moral philosophy.Mark Alfano, Don Loeb & Alex Plakias - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:1-32.
You Disgust Me. Or Do You? On the Very Idea of Moral Disgust.Iskra Fileva - 2021 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (1):19-33.
Is There Such a Thing as Genuinely Moral Disgust?Mara Bollard - 2022 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 13 (2):501-522.

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References found in this work

The Moralistic Fallacy.Daniel Jacobson - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (1):65-90.
The Moralistic Fallacy: On the 'Appropriateness' of Emotions.Justin D'Arms & Daniel Jacobson - 2000 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 61 (1):65-90.
Does Disgust Influence Moral Judgment?Joshua May - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (1):125-141.

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