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The Role of Disgust in Norms, and of Norms in Disgust Research: Why Liberals Shouldn’t be Morally Disgusted by Moral Disgust


Recently, many critics have argued that disgust is a morally harmful emotion, and that it should play no role in our moral and legal reasoning. Here we defend disgust as a morally beneficial moral capacity. We believe that a variety of liberal norms have been inappropriately imported into both moral psychology and ethical studies of disgust: disgust has been associated with conservative authors, values, value systems, and modes of moral reasoning that are seen as inferior to the values and moral emotions that are endorsed by liberal critics. Here we argue that the meta-ethical assumptions employed by the critics of disgust are highly contentious and in some cases culture bound. Given this, we should avoid adopting simplified meta-ethical positions in experimental moral psychology, as these can skew the design and interpretation of experiments, and blind us to the potential value of moral disgust harnessed in the service of liberal ends.

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