Yuck!: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust

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Overview

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 surveys the empirical literature and experimental results relevant to disgust and proposes a cognitive model that can accommodate what we now know about it. 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. Drawing on gene culture coevolutionary theory, Kelly argues that disgust was co-opted to play certain roles in our moral psychology. 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.

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Editorial Reviews

The European Legacy

Sophisticated, broadly interdisciplinary....the book as a whole provides a fine example of careful intellectual argument, a model, in fact, for students not only in philosophy.

From the Publisher
"This entertaining and informative book is an excellent example of a relatively new genre: philosophy informed by and working in partnership with cognitive science, evolutionary psychology and neurophysiology....I found it hard to put this book down, and recommend it as a shining example of genuine progress in moral philosophy, arising from bona fide increases in our understanding of who and what we are."—Simon Blackburn, Times HigherEducation

"Kelly has provided the best kind of gateway for anyone interested in learning about disgust and its pervasive role in our society....By looking closely at the functional nature of disgust, the highly complex and subtle workings behind a given motivational and evaluative attitude have been revealed."—Tom Cochrane, Queen's University Belfast, NotreDame Philosophical Reviews

" Yuck! is a short, clear, engaging book that is likely to make a lasting impact on philosophical thinking about the emotions. No philosopher making claims about the emotions can afford not to read it and learn its lessons."—Timothy Schroeder, Ethics

"Yuck remains an impressive achievement and is well worth reading. Kelly's theory of disgust is intricate, novel, and compelling, and Kelly raises many fascinating questions about its implications." — Philosophical Quarterly

"This book is highly recommended for those readers interested in the latest and most exciting aspects of current scholarship on the study of the emotions. Readers too who are interested on evolutionary psychology, moral psychology or neuroethics will find this book stimulating." —Neuroethics

Times Higher Education - Simon Blackburn

This entertaining and informative book is an excellent example of a relatively new genre: philosophy informed by and working in partnership with cognitive science, evolutionary psychology and neurophysiology.... I found it hard to put this book down, and recommend it as a shining example of genuine progress in moral philosophy, arising from bona fide increases in our understanding of who and what we are.

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews - Tom Cochrane

Kelly has provided the best kind of gateway for anyone interested in learning about disgust and its pervasive role in our society.... By looking closely at the functional nature of disgust, the highly complex and subtle workings behind a given motivational and evaluative attitude have been revealed.

Ethics - Timothy Schroeder

Yuck! is a short, clear, engaging book that is likely to make a lasting impact on philosophical thinking about the emotions. No philosopher making claims about the emotions can afford not to read it and learn its lessons.

Philosophical Quarterly

Yuck! remains an impressive achievement and is well worth reading. Kelly's theory of disgust is intricate, novel, and compelling, and Kelly raises many fascinating questions about its implications.

Neuroethics

This book is highly recommended for those readers interested in the latest and most exciting aspects of current scholarship on the study of the emotions. Readers too who are interested on evolutionary psychology, moral psychology or neuroethics will find this book stimulating.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Daniel Kelly is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Toward a Functional Theory of Disgust 11

2 Poisons and Parasites: The Entanglement Thesis and the Evolution of Disgust 43

3 Disgust's Sentimental Signaling System: Expression, Recognition, and the Transmission of Cultural Information 61

4 Disgust and Moral Psychology: Tribal Instincts and the Co-opt Thesis 101

5 Disgust and Normative Ethics: The Irrelevance of Repugnance and Dangers of Moralization 137

Notes 153

References 165

Index 189

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