Foul Behavior with Victor Kumar


September 13th, 2021

27 mins 1 sec

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About this Episode

Disgust is often thought of as a negative emotion, and even moreso when it comes to morality. Many have argued that the feeling we have when we are morally disgusted by others has a questionable evolutionary history, is not always reliably produced, and has inspired acts of great evil in our past. In his paper, Victor Kumar argues that it's not all bad though, and that moral disgust can sometimes be a fitting response to moral wrongs. Specifically, he argues that disgust is fitting when it is evoked by moral wrongs that pollute social relationships by eroding shared expectations of trust. In these cases, moral disgust can help right certain wrongs, serve as a useful tool for social signalling, and enourage political organization.

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Paper Quotes

Many philosophers are skeptical of moral disgust, perhaps because they assume that it is tied exclusively to conservative norms and values. I have shown, to the contrary, that disgust is implicated in important moral norms and values that are shared by liberals and conservatives. Disgust is repurposed in ways that support these norms and values, by motivating an important form of punishment, tracking the spread of moral violations, and expressively coordinating collective action. Disgust accurately reflects the nature of certain wrongs that commonly elicit moral revulsion. Instead of ridding ourselves of disgust, then, we would do better to understand its fittingness and unfittingness, its uses and its hazards, and thus arrive at a richer appreciation of its suitability for moral life.