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Horribly Wrong

Moral Disgust and Killing


  • Stephen S. Bush

Stephen S. Bush, Department of Religious Studies, Box 1927, 59 George Street, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912,


Moral horror is an extreme emotional response to that which violates things we regard as sacred. In Robert Merrihew Adams's view, horror is a response to badness and not to wrongness, and so one could properly regard some actions as horrible but not wrong. In contrast, I argue that horror, when directed toward actions, is only appropriate for wrong actions. The reason is that horror involves moral disgust, and agents who committed a horrible action would have self-disgust, that is, they would be repulsive to themselves. I argue, with reference to killing in combat and in self-defense, that those who have done no wrong should not be in such a state.