Throughout the darkest moments of human history, evildoers have convinced communities to turn on groups that are regarded as in some way other and, by starting to think of them as less than human, persecute or even eliminate them. We can all recognize the unfathomable evils of dehumanization in slavery, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and the Jim Crow South, but we are not free from its power today. With climate change and political upheaval driving millions of refugees worldwide to (...) leave their homes, we are likely to see more and more of this ugly and persistent phenomenon. What are we to do? Drawing on his deep and wide-ranging knowledge of the history, psychology, and politics of dehumanization, David Livingstone Smith shows us how to recognize it and how to fight back. (shrink)
In previous writings, I proposed that we dehumanize others by attributing the essence of a less-than-human creature to them, in order to disable inhibitions against harming them. However, this account is inconsistent with the fact that dehumanizers implicitly, and often explicitly, acknowledge the human status of their victims. I propose that when we dehumanize others, we regard them as simultaneously human and subhuman. Drawing on the work of Ernst Jentsch, Mary Douglas, and Noël Carroll, I argue that the notion of (...) dehumanized people as metaphysically transgressive provides important insights into the distinctive phenomenology of dehumanization. (shrink)
Despite its importance, the phenomenon of dehumanization has been neglected by philosophers. Since its introduction, the term “dehumanization” has come to be used in a variety of ways. In this paper, I use it to denote the psychological stance of conceiving of other human beings as subhuman creatures. I draw on an historical example – Morgan Godwyn's description of 17th century English colonists' dehumanization of African slaves and use this to identify three explanatory desiderata that any satisfactory theory of dehumanization (...) needs to address. I then summarize and criticize the theories of dehumanization developed by Jacques-Philippe Leyens and Nicholas Haslam, focusing on what I take to be their misappropriation of the theory of psychological essentialism, and show that both of these approaches suffer from major difficulties. I finish with an assessment of the degree to which Leyens' and Haslam's theories satisfy the three desiderata mentioned earlier, conclude that they fail to address them, and offer a brief sketch of a more satisfactory approach to understanding dehumanization. (shrink)
This letter addresses the editorial decision to publish the article, “Research on group differences in intelligence: A defense of free inquiry” (Cofnas, 2020). Our letter points out several critical problems with Cofnas's article, which we believe should have either disqualified the manuscript upon submission or been addressed during the review process and resulted in substantial revisions.
This paper aims to offer an alternative to the existing philosophical theories of self-deception. It describes and motivates a teleofunctional theory that models self-deception on the subintentional deceptions perpetrated by non-human organisms. Existing theories of self-deception generate paradoxes, are empirically implausible, or fail to account for the distinction between self-deception and other kinds of motivated irrationality. Deception is not a uniquely human phenomenon: biologists have found that many non-human organisms deceive and are deceived. A close analysis of the pollination strategy (...) of the mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum) provides the basis for an analysis of non-human deception as subintentionally purposive. This teleofunctional analysis is then used as the basis for a theory of self-deception that accounts for its normative and purposive features without defaulting to intentionalism. The teleofunctional theory accounts for distinction between self-deception and phenomena such as wishful thinking in an empirically plausible manner. Three objections to the theory are considered and rejected. (shrink)
Manufacturing Monsters: Dehumanization and Public Policy.David Livingstone Smith - 2018 - In David Boonin, Katrina L. Sifferd, Tyler K. Fagan, Valerie Gray Hardcastle, Michael Huemer, Daniel Wodak, Derk Pereboom, Stephen J. Morse, Sarah Tyson, Mark Zelcer, Garrett VanPelt, Devin Casey, Philip E. Devine, David K. Chan, Maarten Boudry, Christopher Freiman, Hrishikesh Joshi, Shelley Wilcox, Jason Brennan, Eric Wiland, Ryan Muldoon, Mark Alfano, Philip Robichaud, Kevin Timpe, David Livingstone Smith, Francis J. Beckwith, Dan Hooley, Russell Blackford, John Corvino, Corey McCall, Dan Demetriou, Ajume Wingo, Michael Shermer, Ole Martin Moen, Aksel Braanen Sterri, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Jeppe von Platz, John Thrasher, Mary Hawkesworth, William MacAskill, Daniel Halliday, Janine O’Flynn, Yoaav Isaacs, Jason Iuliano, Claire Pickard, Arvin M. Gouw, Tina Rulli, Justin Caouette, Allen Habib, Brian D. Earp, Andrew Vierra, Subrena E. Smith, Danielle M. Wenner, Lisa Diependaele, Sigrid Sterckx, G. Owen Schaefer, Markus K. Labude, Harisan Unais Nasir, Udo Schuklenk, Benjamin Zolf & Woolwine (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy. Springer Verlag. pp. 263-275.details
In this chapter I explore the phenomenon of dehumanization in relation to public policy. Using two examples of spectacle lynchings of African Americans, I articulate a conception of dehumanization as the attitude of conceiving of others as subhuman creatures and explain the psychological basis for this phenomenon. I suggest that dehumanization is pertinent to policies concerning hate speech. I address objections to my conception of dehumanization: that dehumanizers implicitly or explicitly acknowledge the humanity of their victims and that dehumanizers regard (...) their victims not merely as animals but also as demons and monsters. I explain how these objections can be met. (shrink)
How Biology Shapes Philosophy is a seminal contribution to the emerging field of biophilosophy. It brings together work by philosophers who draw on biology to address traditional and not so traditional philosophical questions and concerns. Thirteen essays by leading figures in the field explore the biological dimensions of ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, gender, semantics, rationality, representation, and consciousness, as well as the misappropriation of biology by philosophers, allowing the reader to critically interrogate the relevance of biology for philosophy. Both rigorous and (...) accessible, the essays illuminate philosophy and help us to acquire a deeper understanding of the human condition. This volume will be of interest to philosophers, biologists, social scientists, and other readers with an interest in bringing science and the humanities together. (shrink)
We are a supremely social species whose ecological success rests largely on our capacity for large-scale cooperation. This high degree of sociality is only possible against a background of immensely powerful inhibitions against performing acts of lethal violence against conspecifics. There are circumstances, however, in which acts of lethal violence are individually or collectively advantageous and attractive. To perform such acts, we must override our inhibitions. This essay argues that this tension causes us to be ambivalent about killing other human (...) beings and that our being so is manifested in the widespread belief, found across cultures and historical epochs, that taking human life contaminates the killer and may pose a threat to the entire community, unless rituals of purification are performed to counteract it. Examples from the Hebrew Bible, the Greco-Roman world, medieval Europe, Africa, and Native America are examined to substantiate this claim. Premodern beliefs, moreover, about the consequences of killing are echoed in the symptoms of “moral injury” described by contemporary psychiatrists treating combat veterans, which suggests that, in defying or disabling our inhibitions against performing acts of lethal violence, we ultimately do violence to ourselves. (shrink)
Representing members of racial minorities as apes or monkeys is a special case of dehumanization and cannot be properly understood outside of a general theory of dehumanization. We argue that to fully understand any particular case of dehumanization it is mandatory to consider the intersection of its psychological, cultural, and political determinants: the psychological component explains the distinctive form of dehumanizing thinking, the cultural component explains the significance of the choice of animal with which members of the dehumanized population are (...) equated, and the political component explains the ideological function of particular cases of dehumanization. We apply analysis to the special case of the simianization of people of African descent. (shrink)
Deflationists about self-deception understand self-deception as the outcome of biased information processing, but in doing so, they lose the normative distinction between self-deception and wishful thinking. Von Hippel & Trivers (VH&T) advocate a deflationist approach, but they also want preserve the purposive character of self-deception. A biologically realistic analysis of deception can eliminate the contradiction implicit in their position.
Westermarck’s Hypothesis is widely accepted by evolutionary scientists as the best explanation for human incest avoidance. However, its explanatory shortcomings have been largely ignored and it has never been pitted against alternative biological hypotheses. Although WH may account for incest avoidance between co-reared kin, it cannot explain other forms of incest avoidance, and cannot account for the differential incidence of sibling-sibling, mother-son, father-daughter and other forms of incest. WH also faces problems adequately addressing phenomena within its explanatory domain. Neither of (...) the studies generally considered to corroborate WH provides a genuine test of it, and the results of experiments thought to confirm WH are vitiated by methodological problems. The present article considers two alternatives to WH: the shared mother hypothesis and the maternal phenotype-matching hypothesis . SMH states that human infants imprint on their mother, and then treat as kin those individuals toward whom their mother behaves in akin-like or mate-like manner. MPMH states that humans unconsciously use the maternal phenotype as a visual template for estimating coefficients of relatedness, and that these estimates regulate altruistic and mating behavior. Both SMH and MPMH are able to account for the kibbutz and simpua marriage data, and entail additional epidemiological and experimental predictions. SMH and MPMH have greater explanatory power than WH. (shrink)