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The Yuck Factor

Charles Fethe on the Wisdom of Repugnance.

I am not sure whether two thousand years of philosophical discussion about ethics has contributed much to the moral improvement of civilization, but I believe thoughtful people should at least give the philosophers credit for introducing some intriguing additions to the ethical lexicon. When your moral debates start drifting toward vituperation, ad hominem slurs and banal quotes from the Bible, you might be able to score some intellectual points and raise the level of the argument by borrowing from the philosophical vocabulary. Throw in a few references to Stoic virtues, hedonistic fallacies, utilitarian rationality, or that Teutonic trump, the Categorical Imperative, in all its versions. If these terms do nothing else, they will at least give your audience an opportunity to pause for reflection.

Unfortunately, lexicographical innovation in philosophical discourse about ethics has diminished over the years.

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