The Wall Street Journal’s Sohrab Ahmari interviews Leon Kass on Gosnell, Boston, and repugnance:
[The] appalling details of the Gosnell trial elicit reactions that might be called revulsion or disgust or horror. The word that eminent bioethicist and physician Leon Kass prefers is “repugnance.” This intense human reaction reflects a sort of deep moral intuition, he says, and it is one that deserves much more serious consideration than our too-sophisticated culture allows.
“As pain is to the body so repugnance is to the soul,” Dr. Kass says as we sit down for an interview in his book-lined office at the American Enterprise Institute, where he is the Madden-Jewett Scholar. “So too with anger and compassion. Repugnance is some kind of wake-up call that there is something untoward going on and attention must be paid. These passions are not simply irrational. They contain within them the germ of insight. You cannot give proper verbal account of the horror of evil, yet a culture that couldn’t be absolutely horrified by such things is dead.” . . .
Dr. Kass says his critics misunderstand the role of repugnance in his thinking. “It’s not that repugnance is always right,” he says. “There was once repugnance at interracial marriage, and there have been other repugnancies that turned out to be mere prejudice. But you wouldn’t want to live in a society where people feel no guilt or shame just because guilt and shame are sometimes disruptive—or in a society that doesn’t feel righteous indignation at the sight of injustice.”