People can be disgusted by the concrete and by the abstract -- by an object they find physically repellent or by an ideology or value system they find morally abhorrent. Different things will disgust different people, depending on individual sensibilities or cultural backgrounds. In _Yuck!_, Daniel Kelly investigates the character and evolution of disgust, with an emphasis on understanding the role this emotion has come to play in our social and moral lives. Disgust has recently been riding a swell of (...) scholarly attention, especially from those in the cognitive sciences and those in the humanities in the midst of the "affective turn." Kelly proposes a cognitive model that can accommodate what we now know about disgust. He offers a new account of the evolution of disgust that builds on the model and argues that expressions of disgust are part of a sophisticated but largely automatic signaling system that humans use to transmit information about what to avoid in the local environment. He shows that many of the puzzling features of moral repugnance tinged with disgust are by-products of the imperfect fit between a cognitive system that evolved to protect against poisons and parasites and the social and moral issues on which it has been brought to bear. Kelly's account of this emotion provides a powerful argument against invoking disgust in the service of moral justification. (shrink)
After introducing the new field of cultural evolution, we review a growing body of empirical evidence suggesting that culture shapes what people attend to, perceive and remember as well as how they think, feel and reason. Focusing on perception, spatial navigation, mentalizing, thinking styles, reasoning (epistemic norms) and language, we discuss not only important variation in these domains, but emphasize that most researchers (including philosophers) and research participants are psychologically peculiar within a global and historical context. This rising tide of (...) evidence recommends caution in relying on one’s intuitions or even in generalizing from reliable psychological findings to the species, Homo sapiens. Our evolutionary approach suggests that humans have evolved a suite of reliably developing cognitive abilities that adapt our minds, information-processing abilities and emotions ontogenetically to the diverse culturally-constructed worlds we confront. (shrink)
Human behavior and thought often exhibit a familiar pattern of within group similarity and between group difference. Many of these patterns are attributed to cultural differences. For much of the history of its investigation into behavior and thought, however, cognitive science has been disproportionately focused on uncovering and explaining the more universal features of human minds—or the universal features of minds in general. -/- This entry charts out the ways in which this has changed over recent decades. It sketches the (...) motivation behind the cultural turn in cognitive science, and situates some of its central findings with respect to the questions that animate it and the debates that it has inspired. Woven throughout the entry are examples of how the cognitive science of culture, and especially its elevated concern with different forms of diversity and variation, continues to influence and be influenced by philosophers. -/- One cluster of philosophical work falls within the traditional subject matter of philosophy of science, in this case of the cognitive and social sciences. Philosophers have analyzed and assessed the methods and evidence central to the scientific study of cognition and culture, and have offered conceptual scrutiny, clarification, and synthesis. Research in a second vein sees philosophers themselves contributing more directly to cognitive scientific projects, (co)constructing theories, helping build computational models, even gathering empirical data. A third kind of work is naturalistic philosophy or philosophy of nature, wherein philosophers seek to use results from the cognitive science of culture to inform or transform debates over long-standing philosophical questions, including questions about the nature of philosophy and philosophical methodology itself. (shrink)
Scholars, journalists, and activists working on climate change often distinguish between “individual” and “structural” approaches to decarbonization. The former concern choices individuals can make to reduce their “personal carbon footprint” (e.g., eating less meat). The latter concern changes to institutions, laws, and other social structures. These two approaches are often framed as oppositional, representing a mutually exclusive forced choice between alternative routes to decarbonization. After presenting representative samples of this oppositional framing of individual and structural approaches in environmental communication, we (...) identify four problems with oppositional thinking and propose five ways to conceive of individual and structural reform as symbiotic and interdependent. (shrink)
Our primary aim in this paper is to sketch a cognitive evolutionary approach for developing explanations of social change that is anchored on the psychological mechanisms underlying normative cognition and the transmission of social norms. We throw the relevant features of this approach into relief by comparing it with the self-fulfilling social expectations account developed by Bicchieri and colleagues. After describing both accounts, we argue that the two approaches are largely compatible, but that the cognitive evolutionary approach is well- suited (...) to encompass much of the social expectations view, whose focus on a narrow range of norms comes at the expense of the breadth the cognitive evolutionary approach can provide. (shrink)
We argue that work on norms provides a way to move beyond debates between proponents of individualist and structuralist approaches to bias, oppression, and injustice. We briefly map out the geography of that debate before presenting Charlotte Witt’s view, showing how her position, and the normative ascriptivism at its heart, seamlessly connects individuals to the social reality they inhabit. We then describe recent empirical work on the psychology of norms and locate the notions of informal institutions and soft structures with (...) respect to it. Finally, we argue that the empirical resources enrich Witt’s ascriptivism, and that the resulting picture shows theorists need not, indeed should not, choose between either the individualist or structuralist camp. (shrink)
The moral/conventional task has been widely used to study the emergence of moral understanding in children and to explore the deficits in moral understanding in clinical populations. Previous studies have indicated that moral transgressions, particularly those in which a victim is harmed, evoke a signature pattern of responses in the moral/conventional task: they are judged to be serious, generalizable and not authority dependent. Moreover, this signature pattern is held to be pan‐cultural and to emerge early in development. However, almost all (...) the evidence for these claims comes from studies using harmful transgressions of the sort that primary school children might commit in the schoolyard. In a study conducted on the Internet, we used a much wider range of harm transgressions, and found that they do not evoke the signature pattern of responses found in studies using only schoolyard transgressions. Paralleling other recent work, our study provides preliminary grounds for skepticism regarding many conclusions drawn from earlier research using the moral/conventional task. (shrink)
The vast literature on negative treatment of outgroups and favoritism toward ingroups provides many local insights but is largely fragmented, lacking an overarching framework that might provide a unified overview and guide conceptual integration. As a result, it remains unclear where different local perspectives conflict, how they may reinforce one another, and where they leave gaps in our knowledge of the phenomena. Our aim is to start constructing a framework to help remedy this situation. We first identify a few key (...) ideas for creating a theoretical roadmap for this complex territory, namely the principles of etiological functionalism and the dual inheritance theory of human evolution. We show how a “molecular” approach to emotions fits into this picture, and use it to illuminate emotions that shape intergroup relations. Finally, we weave the pieces together into the beginnings of a systematic taxonomy of the emotions involved in social interactions, both hostile and friendly. While it is but a start, we have developed the argument in a way that illustrates how the foundational principles of our proposed framework can be extended to accommodate further cases. (shrink)
From an early age, humans exhibit a tendency to identify, adopt, and enforce the norms of their local communities. Norms are the social rules that mark out what is appropriate, allowed, required, or forbidden in different situations for various community members. These rules are informal in the sense that although they are sometimes represented in formal laws, such as the rule governing which side of the road to drive on, they need not be explicitly codified to effectively influence behavior. There (...) are rules that forbid theft or the breaking of promises, but also rules which govern how close it is appropriate to stand to someone while talking to them, or how loud one should talk during the conversation. Thus understood, norms regulate a wide range of activity. They exhibit cultural variability in their prescriptions and proscriptions, but the presence of norms in general appears to be culturally universal. Some norms exhibit characteristics that are often associated with morality, such as a rule that applies to everyone and prohibits causing unnecessary harm. Others norms apply only to certain people, such as those that delimit appropriate clothing for members of different genders, or those concerning the expectations and responsibilities ascribed to individuals who occupy positions of leadership. The norms that prevail in a community can be more or less fair, reasonable, or impartial, and can be subject to critique and change. This entry provides an overview of interdisciplinary research into the psychological capacity for norm-guided cognition, motivation, and behavior. The notions of a norm and normativity occur in an enormous range of research that spans the humanities and behavioral sciences. Researchers primarily concerned with the psychology distinctive of norm-governed behavior take what can be called “cognitive-evolutionary” approaches to their subject matter. These approaches, common in the cognitive sciences, draw on a variety of resources and evidence to investigate different psychological capacities. This entry describes how these have been used to construct accounts of those cognitive and motivational features of minds that underpin the capacity to acquire, conform to, and enforce norms. It also describes how theories of the selective pressures and adaptive challenges prominent in recent human evolution have helped to inform and constrain theorizing about this psychological capacity, as well as how its features can influence the transmission and cultural evolution of norms. By way of organization, the entry starts with basics and proceeds to add subsequent layers of intricacy and detail. Researchers taking cognitive-evolutionary approaches to norms come from a wide range of disciplines, and have formulated, explored, and debated positions on a large number of different issues. In order to present a comprehensible overview of these interconnected literatures, the entry starts by laying out main contours and central tenets, the key landmarks in the conceptual space common to different theories and claims. It goes on to provide a more detailed description of the kinds of theoretical resources that researchers have employed, and identifies important dimensions along which more specific accounts of the psychology of norms have varied. It then canvasses different sources of empirical evidence that have begun to illuminate other philosophically interesting features of the capacity for norms. Finally, it ends with a discussion of the relationship between norm cognition and morality, with a few illustrations drawn from recent debates in moral theory. (shrink)
While those who take a "structuralist" approach to racial justice issues are right to call attention to the importance of social practices, laws, etc., they sometimes go too far by suggesting that antiracist efforts ought to focus on changing unjust social systems rather than changing individuals’ minds. We argue that while the “either/or” thinking implied by this framing is intuitive and pervasive, it is misleading and self-undermining. We instead advocate for a “both/and” approach to antiracist moral education that explicitly teaches (...) how social structures influence ideas about race and how ideas about race shape, sustain, and transform social structures. Ideally, antiracist moral education will help people see how social change and moral progress depend on the symbiotic relations between individuals and structures. We articulate a conception of “structure-facing virtue” that exemplifies this hybrid approach to illuminate the pivotal role moral education plays in the fight for racial justice. (shrink)
We first describe recent empirical research on racial cognition, particularly work on implicit racial biases that suggests they are widespread, that they can coexist with explicitly avowed anti-racist and tolerant attitudes, and that they influence behavior in a variety of subtle but troubling ways. We then consider a cluster of questions that the existence and character of implicit racial biases raise for moral theory. First, is it morally condemnable to harbor an implicit racial bias? Second, ought each of us to (...) suspect ourselves of racial bias, and therefore correct for it in ordinary activity, such as grading student papers? (shrink)
My modest aim in this piece is to frame and illuminate some of the issues surrounding normative motivation, rather than take a firm position on any of them. I begin by clarifying the key terms in my title of this essay, and unpacking some of the assumptions that underpin its question. I then distinguish four kinds of answers one might give. In this short essay I will not be able to properly develop and evaluate an argument for the view that (...) normative motivations are psychologically primitive, but I will have some comments about what such an argument might look like, and what it would have to show. (shrink)
At the end of a chapter in his book Race, Racism and Reparations, Angelo Corlett notes that “[t]here remain other queries about racism [than those he addressed in his chapter], which need philosophical exploration. … Perhaps most important, how might racism be unlearned?” (2003, 93). We agree with Corlett’s assessment of its importance, but find that philosophers have not been very keen to directly engage with the issue of how to best deal with, and ultimately do away with, racism. Rather, (...) they have tended to make cursory remarks about the issue at the end of papers devoted to defining “racism” or attempting to capture the essence of racism itself. In this article, we put the issue of how to best deal with racism front and center. We need not start from scratch, however. Despite not being central to many philosophical discussions about race, a number of different strategies for dealing with racism have been suggested. To that end, we have identified three of the most concrete proposals made by philosophers and social theorists, each of which seeks to mitigate racism by inducing psychological changes in individuals.2 For each, we formulate the.. (shrink)
Allen Buchanan and Russel Powell’s The Evolution of Moral Progress (EMP) is likely to become a landmark. It adeptly builds on much of the recent empirical work, weaving it together with philosophical material drawn from a series of essays published by the two authors. EMP makes the case that moral progress is not only consistent with human psychology but—under some conditions—likely. At its heart is a careful, well-developed rebuttal to the idea that there are evolved constraints endogenous to human minds (...) that place significant limits on various forms of moral progress, especially on the spread and sustainability of inclusive values. The alternative picture they present acknowledges that evolutionary history has shaped how our minds produce behaviour, but emphasizes that the contexts in which they currently operate are just as pivotal. While safe and stable ecological and social circumstances are hospitable to cosmopolitanism and encouraging of inclusive values, dangerous and threatening circumstances are more favourable to parochialism, exclusivist values, and morally regressive outgroup hostility (also see Buchanan and Powell , , ). Overall, EMP is a compelling, well-researched, and timely book. It articulates arguably the most persuasive naturalistic theory of moral progress to date, and lays the groundwork for important and impactful research. (shrink)
The view we defend is that in virtue of its nature, disgust is not fit to do any moral or social work whatsoever, and that there are no defensible uses for disgust in legal or political institutions. We first describe our favoured empirical theory of the nature of disgust. Turning from descriptive to normative issues, we address the best arguments in favour of granting disgust the power to justify certain judgements, and to serve as a social tool, respectively. Daniel Kahan (...) advances a pair of theses that suggest disgust is indispensable (Moral Indispensability Thesis), and so has an important part to play in the functioning of a just, well-ordered society (Conservation Thesis). We develop responses and show how they rebut the arguments given in support of each thesis. We conclude that any society free of social disgust would be more just, reasonable and compassionate. (shrink)
Questions regarding the nature of moral judgment loom large in moral philosophy. Perhaps the most basic of these questions asks how, exactly, moral judgments and moral rules are to be defined; what features distinguish them from other sorts of rules and judgments? A related question concerns the extent to which emotion and reason guide moral judgment. Are moral judgments made mainly on the basis of reason, or are they primarily the products of emotion? As an example of the former view, (...) Kant held all moral requirements to be derived from a principle of rationality (the categorical imperative). As an example of the latter, Hume famously claimed that reason is “the slave of the passions” and that moral judgments stem from the moral emotions. When addressing these issues, philosophers have largely relied on the traditional tools of philosophical analysis, along with introspection, anecdotal evidence and armchair speculation. In recent years, however, a rich body experimental psychology has emerged which, in the view of a growing number of philosophers, casts important new light on these venerable questions. Our aim, in this chapter, is to illustrate how empirical methods can help move traditional philosophical debates forward in interesting and important ways. Since space does not permit an exhaustive survey of the relevant experimental work, we will focus on a few of the most compelling examples. (shrink)
A core question of contemporary social morality concerns how we ought to handle racial categorization. By this we mean, for instance, classifying or thinking of a person as Black, Korean, Latino, White, etc.² While it is widely FN:2 agreed that racial categorization played a crucial role in past racial oppression, there remains disagreement among philosophers and social theorists about the ideal role for racial categorization in future endeavors. At one extreme of this disagreement are short-term eliminativists who want to do (...) away with racial categorization relatively quickly (e.g. Appiah, 1995; D’Souza, 1996; Muir, 1993; Wasserstrom, 2001/1980; Webster, 1992; Zack, 1993, 2002), typically because they view it as mistaken and oppressive. At the opposite end of the spectrum, long-term conservationists hold that racial identities and communities are beneﬁcial, and that racial categorization —suitably reformed —is essential to fostering them (e.g. Outlaw, 1990, 1995, 1996). While extreme forms of conservationism have fewer proponents in academia than the most radical eliminativist positions, many theorists advocate more moderate positions. In between the two poles, there are many who believe that racial categorization is valuable (and perhaps necessary) given the continued existence of racial inequality and the lingering effects of past racism (e.g. Haslanger, 2000; Mills, 1998; Root, 2000; Shelby, 2002, 2005; Sundstrom, 2002; Taylor, 2004; Young, 1989). Such authors agree on the short-term need for racial categorization in at least some domains, but they often differ with regard to its long-term value. (shrink)
We situate Henrich’s book in the larger research tradition of which it is a part and show how he presents a wide array of recent psychological, physiological, and neurological data as supporting the view that two related but distinct processes have shaped human nature and made us unique: cumulative cultural evolution and culture-driven genetic evolution. We briefly sketch out several ways philosophers might fruitfully engage with this view and note some implications it may have for current philosophic debates in moral (...) and political theory and over the nature of extended cognition. We end by noting how Henrich’s view of the source of cultural design and innovation, and the prominence of place he gives to the extended process of cultural evolution, cuts against a cluster of broad but common views about human minds, recasting putative bugs as features and indicating that many of the distinctive features of our individual minds evolved to allow them to be effective cogs in the larger, more productive cultural machine. (shrink)
In this paper we compare two theories about the cognitive architecture underlying morality. One theory, proposed by Sripada and Stich (forthcoming), posits an interlocking set of innate mechanisms that internalize moral norms from the surrounding community and generate intrinsic motivation to comply with these norms and to punish violators. The other theory, which we call the M/C model was suggested by the widely discussed and influential work of Elliott Turiel, Larry Nucci and others on the “moral/conventional task”. This theory posits (...) two distinct mental domains, the moral and the conventional, each of which gives rise to a characteristic suite of judgments about rules in that domain and about transgressions of those rules. We give an overview of both theories and of the data each was designed to explain. We go on to consider a growing body of evidence that suggests the M/C model is mistaken. That same evidence, however, is consistent with the Sripada and Stich theory. Thus, we conclude that the M/C model does not pose a serious challenge for the Sripada and Stich theory. (shrink)
S-frames and i-frames do not represent two opposed types of intervention. Rather they are interpretive lenses for focusing on specific aspects of interventions, all of which include individual and structural dimensions. There is no sense to be made of prioritizing either system change or individual change, because each requires the other.
Ainslie's account of willpower is conspicuously individualistic. Because other people, social influence, and culture appear only peripherally, it risks overlooking what may be resolve's deeply social roots. We identify a general “outside-in” explanatory strategy suggested by a range of recent research into human cognitive evolution, and suggest how it might illuminate the origins and more social aspects of resolve.
Race is one of the most common variables in the social sciences, used to draw correlations between racial groups and numerous other important variables such as education, healthcare outcomes, aptitude tests, wealth, employment and so forth. But where concern with race once reflected the view that races were biologically real, many, if not most, contemporary social scientists have abandoned the idea that racial categories demarcate substantial, intrinsic biological differences between people. This, in turn, raises an important question about the significance (...) of race in those social sciences: if there is no biological basis of race, why are racial categories useful to social scientists? More specifically, in virtue of what are racial categories a successful basis of informative, important social scientific generalizations? 2 We’ll call this social science’s race puzzle. (shrink)
Psychological research has been discovering a number of puzzling features of morality and moral cognition recently.2 Zhong & Liljenquist (2006) found that when people are asked to think about an unethical deed or recall one they themselves have committed in the past, issues of physical cleanliness become salient. Zhong & Liljenquist cleverly designate this phenomenon the “Macbeth Effect,” and it takes some interesting forms. For instance, reading a story describing an immoral deed increased people’s desire for products related to cleansing, (...) like a shower soap, disinfectants, or antiseptic wipes. Moreover, Zhong & Liljenquist found that cleaning one’s hands after describing a past unethical deed actually reduced moral emotions such as guilt and shame. So much so that those who did “wash away their sins” were less likely than other participants to help out a.. (shrink)
We endorse Cesario's call for more research into the complexities of “real-world” decisions and the comparative power of different causes of group disparities. Unfortunately, these reasonable suggestions are overshadowed by a barrage of non sequiturs, misdirected criticisms of methodology, and unsubstantiated claims about the assumptions and inferences of social psychologists.
This essay is an introduction to a special issue centered on Cecilia Heyes’ article ‘Rethinking Norm Psychology’. This target article criticizes nativist accounts of the psychological processes dedicated to social norms and offers an alternative account of norm psychology as a cognitive gadget that is culturally evolved and socially learned. The essay sketches out the conceptual landscape around that article and locates within it some of the main points of the 14 short commentaries. These discussions focus especially on trying to (...) clarify the central phenomena that a theory of norm psychology should seek to explain and examining Heyes model and its depiction of the interaction of implicit and explicit processes. They also consider Heyes' methodological proposal for how to best test hypotheses against each other and marshal evidence for claims about innateness. This introduction essay separates out social normativity from other forms of normativity. It also offers brief arguments that future work by norm psychologists should focus on further clarifying its relationship to a handful of nearby phenomena, including status psychology, social identity, and hierarchy; normalcy and the concept of normal, and the nuances of norm enforcement. (shrink)
Rather than set out an overarching view or take a stand on the debunking of morality tout court, in what follows I’ll explore a divide and conquer strategy. First, I will briefly sketch a debunking argument that, instead of targeting all of morality or human moral nature, has a more narrow focus—namely, the intuitive moral authority of disgust. The argument concludes that as vivid and compelling as they can be while one is in their grip, feelings of disgust should be (...) granted no power to justify moral judgments. Importantly, the argument is grounded in empirical advances concerning the character of the emotion itself. Next, I will step back and consider the argument’s general form. I then point to arguments that others have made that seem to share this form and selective focus, and comment on what such arguments do and do not presuppose. Finally, I locate the selective strategy with respect to other approaches moral debunking. (shrink)
Although we are enthusiastic about a Darwinian approach to culture, we argue that the overview presented in the target article does not sufficiently emphasize the crucial explanatory role that psychology plays in the study of culture. We use a number of examples to illustrate the variety of ways by which appeal to psychological factors can help explain cultural phenomena.
The world has surpassed three million deaths from COVID-19, and faces potentially catastrophic tipping points in the global climate system. Despite the urgency, governments have struggled to address either problem. In this paper, we argue that COVID-19 and anthropogenic climate change (ACC) are critical examples of an emerging type of governance challenge: severe collective action problems that require significant individual behavior change under conditions of hyper- partisanship and scientific misinformation. Building on foundational political science work demonstrating the potential for norms (...) (or informal rules of behavior) to solve collective action problems, we analyze more recent work on norms from neighboring disciplines to offer novel recommendations for more difficult challenges like COVID-19 and ACC. Key insights include more attention to (1) norm-based messaging strategies that appeal to individuals across the ideological spectrum or that reframe collective action as consistent with resistant subgroups’ pre-existing values, (2) messages that emphasize both the prevalence and the social desirability of individual behaviors required to address these challenges, (3) careful use of public policies and incentives that make individual behavior change easier without threatening norm internalization, and (4) greater attention to epistemic norms governing trust in different information sources. We conclude by pointing out that COVID-19 and climate change are likely harbingers of other polarized collective action problems that governments will face in the future. By connecting work on norms and political governance with a broader, interdisciplinary literature on norm psychology, motivation, and behavior change, we aim to improve the ability of political scientists and policy makers to respond to these and future collective action challenges. (shrink)
Public attitudes concerning cognitive enhancements are significant for a number of reasons. They tell us about how socially acceptable these emerging technologies are considered to be, but they also provide a window into the ethical reasons that are likely to get traction in the ongoing debates about them. We thus see Conrad et al’s project of empirically investigating the effect of metaphors and context in shaping attitudes about cognitive enhancements as both interesting and important. We sketch what we suspect is (...) a central theme that runs through these public attitudes, but that Conrad el al’s paper elides. We were disappointed that they did not more directly explore the efficacy of frames and metaphors associated with the values of authenticity and self-expression. This seems like a missed opportunity. Based on the premise that individualistic values enjoy centrality in Western and especially North American culture (e.g. Taylor 1989), we hypothesize that metaphors and frames informed by those values will be especially effective in shaping public attitudes. That is, when various kinds of novel enhancement are described as allowing people to more fully express themselves, or as helping people overcome obstacles to being authentic and true to their inner sense of themselves, those enhancements will be considered justified, and their use more likely to be viewed as socially acceptable by the public. We support our contention by drawing on work by Elliott (2004, 2011, c.f. Kadlac 2018), and discuss how this study, and others modeled on it, might shed light on our hypothesis. (shrink)
Kurth wants us to understand and appreciate our anxiety more than we typically do. His concise and crisply written monograph makes a good case that we should. It deepens our understanding of what anxiety is, and of how it animates different facets of our mental and moral lives. The case he builds that, roughly, anxiety is one of the brain’s ways of affectively signaling and responding to uncertainty is clearly argued and meticulously organized. Kurth hits the targets he sets for (...) himself, and advances his agenda in a way that I found largely convincing. The result is a book that is a must-read for anyone working on anxiety and other moral emotions, and that will reward anyone who is curious about the nature and value of this increasingly, and perhaps alarmingly, prominent component of our minds. (shrink)
I argue that the recent debate about the role disgust deserves in ethical thought has been impoverished by an inadequate understanding of the emotion itself. After considering Kass and Nussbaum’s respective positions in that debate, and the implausible views of the nature of disgust on which their arguments rest, I describe my own view, which makes sense of the wealth of recent, often puzzling, empirical work done on the emotion. This view sees disgust as being primarily responsible for protecting against (...) toxins and infectious diseases, but as also having been recruited to play auxiliary roles in the cognition of social norms and group boundaries. I argue that this view provides new and more plausible foundations for skepticism about the idea that disgust deserves some kind of special epistemic credit or moral authority, that the emotion is a trustworthy guide to justifiable moral judgments, or that there is any deep wisdom in repugnance. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
States that are about things are intentional, that is, they have content. The precise nature of intentional states is a matter of dispute.What makes some states, but not others, intentional? Of those states that are intentional, what makes them about what they are about as opposed to something else, i.e. what gives them their specific content?
In this book, leading Christian political thinkers and practitioners critique the Rawlsian concepts of “justice as fairness” and “public reason” from the perspective of Christian political theory and practice. It provides a new level of analysis from Christian perspectives, including implications for such hot topics as the culture war.
This dissertation explores issues in the philosophy of psychology and metaphysics through the lens of the emotion of disgust, and its corresponding property, disgustingness. The first chapter organizes an extremely large body of data about disgust, imposes two constraints any theory must meet, and offers a cognitive model of the mechanisms underlying the emotion. The second chapter explores the evolution of disgust, and argues for the Entanglement thesis: this uniquely human emotion was formed when two formerly distinct mechanisms, one dedicated (...) to monitoring food intake and protecting against poisons, the other dedicated to protecting against parasitic infection, where driven together until they became functionally integrated. The third chapter explores the sorts of acquisition mechanisms that could give rise to the patterns of individual and cultural level variation we find with disgust elicitors. It argues for the Empathic Acquisition thesis, which holds that one important route for the social acquisition and transmission of disgust elicitors is linked to empathic recognition of facial expressions of the emotion. The fourth chapter builds on the Entanglement thesis, and embeds the emotion of disgust in gene-culture coevolutionary theory and the tribal instincts hypothesis. The Co-opt thesis is defended, which maintains that disgust was co-opted to play an important role in our moral psychology, particularly in our cognition of social norms and ethnic boundary markers. In doing so, however, it brings to bear many features initially linked to poisons and parasites. This explains the puzzling and troublesome character of moral judgments linked to disgust. After shifting gears from psychology to metaphysics, the fifth chapter recasts the Humean tradition of projectivism in the terminology of cognitive science. Using examples such as disgust, I argue that a psychologized projectivism is able to make sense of the idea that some properties are projected onto the world, rather than found there to begin with. The final chapter criticizes three other accounts of the property of disgustingness, two inspired by functionalism in the philosophy of color, one inspired by fittingness accounts in metaethics. I argue that none provide nearly as satisfactory account of the property as the psychologized projectivism articulated previously. (shrink)