Robert is reading a classic book on psychology, morals, and politics.

The Anatomy of Disgust, by William Miller. Harvard University Press.


“With the possible exception of earwax, which simply must be removed upon the knowledge of its presence, other dangerous bodily excreta are benign if in their proper place inside the body. Saliva in the mouth, snot in the nose, blood in veins, feces in the colon, urine in the bladder are basically not present, being safely where they belong as long as attention is not called to them. The magical transformation that happens once any of these substances leaves its natural domain can be illustrated by a thought experiment Gordon Allport proposed more than forty years ago:

‘Think first of swallowing the saliva in your mouth, or do so.  Then imagine expectoraint it into a tumbler and drinking it! What seemed natural and “mine” suddenly becomes disgusting and alien. Or picture yourself sucking blood from a prick in your finger; then imagine sucking blood from a bandage around your finger! what I perceive as separate from my body becomes, in the twinkling of an eye, cold and foreign.'”

Lots of nice passages like this.  The main conclusions of the book, which Robert has not yet gotten to but which he knows have entered into lots of moral psychology, is that disgust is highly linked to thoughts of “otherness” between people.  Leading to such nice things as racial intolerance and genocide.