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The Meaning of Disgust$
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Colin McGinn

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199829538

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199829538.001.0001

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Theories of Disgust

Theories of Disgust

(p.64) (p.65) 4 Theories of Disgust
The Meaning of Disgust

Colin McGinn

Oxford University Press

This chapter suggests that the core examples of disgust are provided by: putrefied flesh, feces, and wounds. Put in terms of processes, we have bodily decay, excretion, and injury to the body. By the last of these it includes not only sliced or ripped flesh but also diseases that affect the integrity of the flesh, such as leprosy. Other cases branch out from these three core areas, sometimes by close resemblance, sometimes more tenuously. At any rate, that is the working hypothesis, to be tested by examining all the cases listed earlier in the book in the light of whatever theory is being considered. Any theory of disgust needs to be evenhanded, both as to cases and as to sense modalities, though some selection of basic cases seems inevitable. With these conditions of adequacy in mind, some theories are considered, beginning with what are considered to be the least plausible: the taste-toxicity theory, the foul-odor theory, the animal-heritage theory, the life-process theory, the death theory, and the death-in-life theory.

Keywords:   disgust, taste-toxicity theory, foul-odor theory, animal-heritage theory, life-process theory, death theory, death-in-life theory

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