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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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Our Dual Nature

Our Dual Nature

(p.135) 7 Our Dual Nature
The Meaning of Disgust

Colin McGinn

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the duality of our nature. It argues that the two sides of our nature are fused, yet each pulls in its own direction, wagging a finger at the other. Our fine side deplores our gross side, while our gross side seems intent on dragging down our fine side. We are caught in the middle. Animals and infants feel no such ambivalence about their nature, because disgust is foreign to them: the duality in question has no hold over their thoughts and feelings. The gods also suffer no such qualms, because there is nothing about them to disgust, not having an organic nature. Only mature human beings, of all the creatures of the natural (and supernatural) world, feel this awkward split, this wretched dissonance. We are, as has been well said, the “god who shits,” and we are only too well aware of our peculiar status. In another image: we are the worm that philosophizes. Trapped in our natural grossness, we nevertheless aspire to great things—and even achieve them. We feel greatness glowing within ourselves, yet at the same time we are flooded with the sordidness of our nature as mere organisms. We exist as a kind of ontological oxymoron.

Keywords:   Descartes, dualism, mind, body, duality, disgust

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