Disgust and Death

My cat likes to catch lizards and bring them into the living room to frolic with. I try to remove them before he kills them. Today I found a writhing detached tail, the rest of the lizard being elsewhere. I felt a rush of disgust at the sight of the still-animated tail. This struck me as a perfect illustration of the death-in-life theory of disgust: attached lizard tails are not disgusting at all, wriggle as they may, but once the tail becomes detached it takes on a death-in-life aspect, and thus invites the reaction of disgust. Neither living lizards nor dead ones evoke this reaction, but the “alive” detached tail excites disgust. (Notice that this has nothing to do with pathogens and disease.)

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