What she's really arguing is that feelings of the type broadly called disgust are often purely irrational, and not therefore good reasons for rules. Why not? A minimum standard for 'a good reason' is that it should be based on reason, which by definition isn't purely irrational. Indeed, most modern thinkers would say it should be purely rational -- but I don't think that's right, for as we've discussed, the ancient notion of reason was able to embrace both the true and the beautiful....
The feeling of disgust does occur in children learning about sex, and also in India when some castes ponder the untouchables, and also in a wide variety of other cases. Some of this may be purely irrational; other things (like the reaction when seeing a person with a serious deformity) has an underlying reason we can grasp (a revulsion of that type might have helped our ancestors avoid a serious disease), but it is one that is irrelevant or useless in modern life. Furthermore, in acting out of disgust of this type, we are failing to treat those people who are 'untouchable' or afflicted with a deformity with the respect due to human beings.
That far, at least, her argument is surely a reasonable one: indeed, it's an argument which is wholly compatible with what the Judeo-Christian ethos that the reviewer is defending. This very principle is what took saints in to live among lepers.The problem with following her approach is that disgust -- pure or otherwise -- is a powerful motivator. It's a thing like pain in that it creates an aversion in the person experiencing it. To license it is to put a powerful weapon in the hands of the kind of bullies that occupy too much of our public space.
Today's example comes from Hustler magazine, which took a photograph of a young conservative journalist named S. E. Cupp and modified it in a way clearly designed to disgust her -- most people would be disgusted by being portrayed this way in public, in any case. The text accompanying the photo clearly label it as not a real photograph of her, so there's probably no legal way to act against the magazine; the text also makes clear that they are doing this to punish her for her political opinions.
It is not only women who are treated this way (although as Hot Air points out, Playboy did much the same thing in 2009). We remember the case of 'Rick Santorum's Google problem,' in which a gay rights activist (and bully) decided to disgust the Santorums by linking their name to a filthy substance associated with homosexual acts. This was also a use of disgust to punish political opinions.
The old saying that 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me' isn't entirely false, but it isn't entirely true either. Many people of good will are also of sensitive natures, who see the disgusting things being done and would never want it to be done to them. So, they will stay quiet and keep their heads down -- which is just what the bullies want. S. E. Cupp is surely brave enough to face it down, as Rick Santorum was, but the example of what was done to them will quiet others. Those others have every right to be in the public space as well.
Dr. Nussbaum intended for her idea to have a humane effect on the law and the public space. I cannot agree that the effect will be anything of the sort. If anything, we are already too far in that direction. There ought to be a mechanism for replying to bullies of this sort. We need a strong enough medicine that it convinces them to do what decency would compel, had not they been born without it.