The Corner

Reason Voluptuaries

Several readers have chastised me for imbuing the “ick” factor with significance and merit. They say that all arguments must be made from principle and have the clarity of rigorous logic etc etc. I reject this.

Yeah, yeah,I agree that all arguments must appeal to reason and employ logic or they’re not really arguments, just rants. But quite often, the purely rational argument is not the best argument among non-Vulcans. As Chesterton noted the purely rational man will not marry and the purely rational soldier will not fight. If you think the visceral and emotional have no place in political arguments you must live alone on an island. There may good arguments and logical justifications for saying “ick” (or yuck, blech etc) but that doesn’t mean we should simply dismiss plain old revulsion out of hand. As a matter of pure objective analysis, the political agent who ignores the role of passion and revulsion will invariably lose against the one who takes such things into account.

Let’s get sex out of it. Cannibalism is disgusting to most of us in the West. And yet, I’m sure you could come up with an entirely rational argument for eating the dead or feeding them to animals, whatever. I’m sure there are rational arguments against that too. But without the ick factor we have to discuss each and every idea as if it had merit and once we do that, we’ve already lost something. I would rather live in a society that justified its prohibitions on cannibalism or, say, necrophilia out of disgust than out of pure reason.

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