The Meaning of Disgust

The Meaning of Disgust

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Disgust has a strong claim to be a distinctively human emotion. But what is it to be disgusting? What unifies the class of disgusting things? Colin McGinn sets out to analyze the content of disgust, arguing that life and death are implicit in its meaning. Disgust is a kind of philosophical emotion, reflecting the human attitude to the biological world. Yet it is an emotion we strive to repress. It may have initially arisen as a method of curbing voracious human
desire, which itself results from our powerful imagination. Because we feel disgust towards ourselves as a species, we are placed in a fraught emotional predicament: we admire ourselves for our achievements, but we also experience revulsion at our necessary organic nature. We are subject to an affective
split. Death involves the disgusting, in the shape of the rotting corpse, and our complex attitudes towards death feed into our feelings of disgust. We are beings with a "disgust consciousness ", unlike animals and gods-and we cannot shake our self-ambivalence. Existentialism and psychoanalysis sought a general theory of human emotion; this book seeks to replace them with a theory in which our primary mode of feeling centers around disgust. The Meaning of Disgust is an original study of a
fascinating but neglected subject, which attempts to tell the disturbing truth about the human condition.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 260 pages
  • 148 x 211 x 26mm | 384g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0199829535
  • 9780199829538
  • 1,777,446

Table of contents

Part One: The Analysis of Disgust ; 1. The Aversive Emotions ; 2. The Elicitors of Disgust ; 3. The Architecture of Disgust ; 4. Theories of Disgust ; 5. Handling the Cases ; 6. The Function of Disgust ; Part Two: Disgust and the Human Condition ; 7. Our Dual Nature ; 8. Repression and Disgust ; 9. Thoughts of Death ; 10. Culture and Disgust
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Review quote

[T]he speculations McGinn proffers about the importance of disgust as a 'philosophical emotion' are thought-provoking and interesting. * Carolyn Korsmeyer, Mind * I suspect that disgust means something, as McGinn maintains, but that it has less to do with death-in-life than with the opaque but fragile crust on the surface of the self that is a crucial condition of civilization, allowing us to present to others a carefully controlled and cleaned-up version of ourselves. Reminders of the mess that lies beneath it, and of its vulnerability to penetration, can cause us to shrink away in disgust, even though we also want to break
through it sometimes, with sex, or a dish of calf's brains. * Thomas Nagel, New York Review of Books *
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About Colin Mcginn

Colin McGinn teaches philosophy at the University of Miami, specializing in philosophy of mind, metaphysics and philosophy of language. He has taught at Rutgers University, Oxford University and London University.
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Rating details

16 ratings
2.94 out of 5 stars
5 12% (2)
4 31% (5)
3 19% (3)
2 12% (2)
1 25% (4)
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