We've all heard the old saying, de gustibus non est disputandum, which literally means that in matters of taste there can be no disputes. In plain English it means there's no accounting for taste. Among the tenured it means that everything is relative, so nothing is intrinsically superior to anything else, in any dimension (e.g., aesthetics, morality, culture, etc.).
One of our readers is disgusted by President Trump, to such an extent that it is "pushing me towards a belief in the existence of objective evil." Conversely, I am disgusted by the president's haters but believe in the existence of objective evil. Is there any accounting for our differing reactions, or in matters of disgust can there be no disputes?
More generally, disgust is both over- and under-appreciated. I, for example, find it to be a rapid and effective cognitive early warning system. However, our Trump-hating commenter would no doubt say the same thing, and yet, we are disgusted by opposite flavors -- as if what is sweet to him is bitter to me, and vice versa.
Now, some flavors that are initially bitter can become enjoyable; in fact, two of these are central to the Raccoon lifestyle, coffee and beer. In short, one must undergo some gustatory training in order to appreciate some flavors. I suppose the same is true of cigars, or hard liquor, or any number of more subtle distinctions known only to foodies, enologists, and other picky connoisseurs of this or that.
When it comes to disgust, there's always a lot of signaling and social mimicry going on. One signals to one's fellow posers by being attracted to, or disgusted by, the proper things. In the past I've spoken of my father-in-law's ugly collection of modern art. It wasn't disgusting -- like, say, a painting done with menstrual blood -- but just irrelevant to any normal person's conception of beauty.
Clearly, much of politics revolves around this mechanism of tribal signaling. Sometimes the purpose of being in a club is simply to identify whom we may licitly hate. Human nature being what it is, we have to hate someone or something, and politics is a nonlethal way to organize our hatreds. Even (or especially) God hates evil, and if we are the i. and l., then so should we.
Back when I was a knee-jerk lefty, I was disgusted by conservatives, even though I didn't really know any, and knew nothing about conservatism except what I'd heard from fellow members of my tribe. Now I am disgusted by the left, but it's because I'm so familiar with its ideas.
However, a leftist has to go very much out of his way to familiarize himself with conservatism. I live in a deeply blue state and an even bluer congressional district, and toil in one of the bluest of all professions, psychology. I routinely meet people who pretend to understand conservatism, but they are able to articulate only a straw man version to which they react with disgust.
Now, if you're going to be properly disgusted by something, you should at least understand it. I, for example, am disgusted and horrified by socialism, not because I don't understand it, but because I do.
Where is this post going, you might ask? Well, I was thinking of how there is something much deeper than just intellectual agreement. Living as I do among the primitive tribe of Blue Meanies, I am accustomed to "passing." In other words, I am circumspect about revealing my true identity and allegiances. I only know I'm fully in the clear if my interlocutor is absolutely disgusted by the same things: if you share my disgust, then you earn my trust!
Perhaps I should emphasize that this is distinct from merely hating the same things. I don't trust hate. It's too crude and simplistic, not to mention (if you pay attention to it) enjoyable. As alluded to above, it's fun to hate the Bad Tribe. But there's nothing fun about my disgust for, say, Adam Schiff. When I see and hear him on television, I can literally feel the rising of nausea at the base of the throat. That's genuine disgust.
But again, we must be disgusted by the proper things. Our disgust must be rightly ordered. How do we know when our disgust is operating as it should? For example, are "homophobia," or "Islamophobia," or "transphobia" just different names for "normal"?
Let me think for a
moment day or two while giving you some aphorisms to ponder:
--I trust less in the arguments of reason than in the antipathies of intelligence.
--Our spontaneous revulsions are often more lucid than our reasoned convictions.
--One who does not share our repugnance does not understand our ideas.
--He who does not smell sulfur in the modern world has no sense of smell.
--Nothing makes more evident the reality of sin than the stench of the souls that deny its existence.
--Moral indignation is not truly sincere unless it literally ends in vomiting (Dávila).
In the natural world, disgust signals Danger! Do not swallow! In other words, same as in the transnatural world. Some kinds of fruit may look good but are not to be eaten or even touched without risking death (or so we have heard from the wise).
Liberal ideas are congenial. Their consequences are disastrous (ibid.).