From First Things Via The A & L Daily: ‘In Defense Of Disgust’

Full piece here.

Our author, Joe Carter, puts up an argument against Martha Nussbaum‘s work:

Those who reject the concept of the wisdom of repugnance must be prepared to deliver solid arguments against incest, bestiality, necrophilia, and other moral horrors that lie within the Pandora’s Box of taboo behaviors. If all ethical arguments must withstand the rigors of analytical reasoning then we will have to reject a great deal of our deepest moral presuppositions. Are we prepared to do that in order that radical individualism may advance unimpeded?

You’ve probably been hearing the slippery slope argument for a while, and may find the logic compelling.  There is a deep debate here, about what moral-philosophical framework we use in order to base our moral thinking and thus our laws (Nussbaum isolates disgust from other emotions as particularly unreliable, and argues it does not justify moral censure through law).  She offers her own framework as an alternative.

The comments hold a lively debate.

Also On This Site:  Taking religion out of the laws, and replacing it with a Millian/Aristelolian framework?: Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder…From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

What are some examples of the dangers of post-Enlightenment reason? (Nussbaum offers examples of Nazism taking advatage of disgust):  A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…did Leo Strauss offer an alternative? (he argued that Nazism is a post Enlightenment pursuit the nihilistic logic inherent in modernity):  From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’…Strauss was worried that even Edmund Burke had succumbed to what he termed ‘historicism’: Some Quotations From Leo Strauss On Edmund Burke In ‘Natural Right And History’

Repost-Steven Weinberg’s Essay ‘On God’ In The NY Times Review Of Books

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?

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From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Full interview here.

Nussbaum elaborates on her argument a bit.

Below, would this be a fair outline of Nussbaum’s argument, which I wrote in the comments section of the previous Nussbaum post:  From The Nation Via A & L Daily-’Back Talk: Martha Nussbaum’?:

“Disgust should not be used to make laws. It is an emotion that is potentially irrational and a cowardly withdrawal from our obligations to maintain and free and equitable society. It is also a way to project our own irrationality regarding the body, weakness and mortality onto others. In so doing, often we maintain unjust laws, or inequitable legal, social, and political structures.”

Mill’s harm principle is a better tool to maintain freedom and equality than the moral doctrines of Christianity…not only, but especially when, disgust is used to interefere into the lives of others through the laws (Gays and Lesbians in America, Outcasts in India…Bahai, for example, in Iran perhaps).

Also On This Site:  Martha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

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From The Nation Via A & L Daily-‘Back Talk: Martha Nussbaum’

Full piece here.

I don’t always agree, but Nussbaum has thought deeply.   Of J.S. Mill:

“The key notion in making something legally regulable is the notion of a potential harm. If there’s no harm in the offing except a self-chosen one, for Mill that’s just no business of the law.”

She’s quite after decoupling religious moral teaching from the laws of the state, and using Mill to do it.  She has also argued that disgust ought not to be the basis of our laws, and can get in the way of a free and egalitarian society:

“But disgust always has this edgy irrationality about it. It’s a way of fleeing from yourself. Whether it’s useful in evolutionary terms, that I leave to evolutionary scientists. Probably it is. That doesn’t mean that in the law we should rely on it. The imagination of humanity, of course, can be unreliable too. But all we’re really asking is that people see the other people as people.”

You mean see people as ends in themselves, and not means to an end?   It’s a good idea, but I wonder if moral and religious principles aren’t lurking somewhere here in the background, vis a vis Kant, or Darwin, or simply through Mill’s utilatarianism?  I think it’s also reasonable to worry about a potential secular morality developing out of this (evolutionary psychology, neuroscience etc.) that could become secular moralism.   “Humanity” could become a blunt instrument;  a way to keep a free and open society by asking this much of its individual members, but also problematic when it comes to individual liberty and the state.

There are always reasons to be a Stoic.

Yet Nussbaum doesn’t go as far as to argue that morality is based in our feeling:

“I don’t think any emotion should be trusted on its own without being constantly in dialogue with moral principles. At every point, whether it’s anger or fear or any emotion–even compassion, which can, of course, lead you to favor your family against other people–you should always be asking, Is this consistent with the idea of a society of people who are free and equal?”

Jesse Prinz has made those arguments, via David Hume:

An interesting thinker.

Also On This Site: Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West BengalMartha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionAnother Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”

From Bloggingheads: Tamar Szabo Gendler On Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

And:   A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”A Few Responses To Kant’s Transcendental Idealism

Mill’s Harm Principle Mentioned:

From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?

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