Tainted by Association

Paul Sagar: Like Adam Smith, I cannot explain why our psychologies tend to transfer the guilt of an agent, or the history of what an object was used for, on to the past or future status of a thing itself. They apparently just do. But following Smith, this seems to be a very desirable state of affairs, one that we should not want to do without. It is good that we feel aversion to artifacts (be they physical objects, films, records, or whatever) associated with sex crimes, murders, and other horrors — even if this is a matter of sheer luck or coincidence — because this fosters in us not only an aversion to those sorts of crimes, but an affirmation of the sanctity of the individuals who are the victims of them. In turn, that makes most of us less likely to engage in evil acts ourselves. Perhaps even more importantly, it makes us less likely to remain indifferent even when we are not ourselves directly affected by injustices perpetrated against others. Instead, we come to see innocent people as sacred, and to be protected from the predations and depredations of those who would harm them.

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