…mounds of dung and worm-eaten corpses, the hallmark triggers of disgust
February 16, 2020 3:11 PM Subscribe
"Disgust is inherently ambivalent—it at once revolts and attracts us. This reflects, for Strohminger, the larger evolutionary ambivalence that disgust stems from, since we “must balance the need for nutrition against the peril of toxic comestibles, the need to socialize against the threat of communicable disease.” In short, disgust may not derive from a simple aversion to harmful substances but from a tension between the desire to explore and consume new things and the dangers of doing so": Why We Love to Be Grossed Out (Nautilus)
What perplexes Strohminger is our attraction to aversion. “We need to account for the fact that we chase after disgust,” she said. Our attraction to disgust is hardly modern. The grotesque fascinated painters from the Renaissance to Goya, with his visages of Saturn, and Francis Bacon, with his distorted portraits. Even earlier, the ancient Greeks told gut-wrenching stories about how Atreus killed and cooked his brother Thyestes’ children and fed them to their unwitting father. Perhaps disgust is cathartic to enjoy when there’s no real threat of contamination, just like it’s cathartic to feel the rush of heart-pounding thrillers or tragedies. Or perhaps Plato was right to say that disgust was contrary to reason, something that we just can’t explain. As a matter of taste, disgust is inherently subjective. There’s no real reason why one person might crave bacon-flavored ice cream with pickles while the thought of that might make another retch. And that might be why it’s hard to explain why we chase after disgust, too. In the end, we might have just developed a taste for it.
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