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David Livingstone Smith

Aug 10, 2020

On Inhumanity

Dehumanization and How to Resist It

Oxford University Press 2020

The phenomenon of dehumanization is associated with such atrocities as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the Holocaust in World War II. In these and other cases, people are described in ways that imply that they are less than fully human as a prelude to committing extreme forms of violence against them.

In On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It (Oxford University Press, 2020), David Livingstone Smith analyzes what dehumanization is, why are we prone to dehumanize, and how we might resist dehumanizing others. On his view, dehumanizing others is a cultural technology that functions to disinhibit us from extreme aggression. It stems from our psychological tendencies to essentialist thinking and to hierarchical thinking, and is sparked by authority figures who rely on these features to characterize other groups as monstrous and dangerous. Livingstone Smith builds on and revises his previous work on this subject and presents it in a form that is both rigorous and accessible to a wide audience.

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Carrie Figdor

Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.

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