Disgust: A complex and culturally characterized emotion

Renzo Carli


In the 1940s, in a close confrontation on the dangers of misrepresentation of data on individual differences or the universality of social expressions, Margaret Mead and Paul Ekman considered the question of whether to provide footholds for the Nazi racism of that time, and also to all the racisms potentially present in the social system.
The dispute between Mead and Ekman, duly recalled by the latter in the “Afterword” to the edition of “The expression of emotions in man and animals” by Charles Darwin that he edited, opens up to the problem of which sense the emotional expression plays in the genesis of emotions.
Tracing the theme of the genesis of emotions, this work proposed the distinction between thought and acted emotions, identifying facial expressions as the only possible way for acting emotions. The work highlights disgust, considered, among the emotions that are acted out, that aimed at deteriorating the human essence, the right to exist of the other, albeit as an enemy. With disgust, the other is deteriorated to the point of legitimizing his/her destruction.
The dynamics of disgust excludes any cognitive exploration of the context that we interact with, it transforms the social relationship into an incitement to the violence that nullifies the shapeless and no longer human “thing”, produced by disgust itself.


emotions; expression of emotions; disgust; facts and emotions; Ekman.

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