2013-01-18 – I don’t care if Brussels sprouts are good for you. They disgust me! So I am calling for a national ban.
In making this call, I am relying on an argument made by Leon R. Kass, head of President George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Bioethics, that our sense of disgust is a valid basis for national policy. The pros and cons of this argument are recounted in an interesting article called “The Delights of Disgust” by Justin E.H. Smith in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Read this article and then tell me that Brussels sprouts shouldn’t be banned.
The argument against Kass is basically that people don’t agree about what disgusts them. But I think there is more to it than that. Kass was disgusted by the ideal of anal sex and therefore thought that gay sex should be disapproved. I don’t know what level of disadvantage he wanted to impose, but approval or acceptance was not part of his vision.
Good thing our sexual ethics aren’t determined by nine-year old boys! You know what they say about hetero sex: ewww gross! (Come to think of it, there are folks who want the nine-year-old view to be the policy of the land.)
I actually agree, partially, with Kass. People’s feeling do need to be taken into account in forming public policy. But there is a limit. Most people are disgusted by racial hatred (at least by the extreme forms of racial hatred), but some people are turned on by it. Most people are disgusted by rape (at least by “legitimate” rape), but some people are turned on by it. Most people are disgusted by murder (at least by the kind that causes death), but some people are turned on by it.
Understanding people’s emotions on these subject is certainly important, but emotions are not a basis for public policy all by themselves. When I get the urge to kill someone, it is not okay to act on the urge just because I feel it.
Our society generally requires that behaviors have to cause harm to another person to be subject to sanctions of the state. My personal feelings might be contrary to that, but I have to control myself. I may hate gays (I don’t), but I shouldn’t be able to use the power of the state to penalize them, as long as they leave me alone.
Brussels sprouts . . . Oh, good grief! Eat ‘em if you want. Just don’t let them touch anything on my plate.
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