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Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others eBook Kindle


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Número de páginas: 337 páginas Dicas de vocabulário: Habilitado Configuração de fonte: Habilitado
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Winner of the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction

A revelatory look at why we dehumanize each other, with stunning examples from world history as well as today's headlines

"Brute." "Cockroach." "Lice." "Vermin." "Dog." "Beast." These and other monikers are constantly in use to refer to other humans—for political, religious, ethnic, or sexist reasons. Human beings have a tendency to regard members of their own kind as less than human. This tendency has made atrocities like the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, and the slave trade possible, and yet we still find it in phenomena such as xenophobia, homophobia, military propaganda, and racism. Less Than Human draws on a rich mix of history, psychology, biology, anthropology and philosophy to document the pervasiveness of dehumanization, describe its forms, and explain why we so often resort to it.

David Livingstone Smith posits that this behavior is rooted in human nature, but gives us hope in also stating that biological traits are malleable, showing us that change is possible. Less Than Human is a chilling indictment of our nature, and is as timely as it is relevant.

Sobre o Autor

Dr. David Livingstone Smith is a professor of philosophy and founding director of The Human Nature Project at the University of New England. He is the author of Why We Lie and The Most Dangerous Animal and lives in Portland, Maine.


Detalhes do produto

  • Formato: eBook Kindle
  • Tamanho do arquivo: 1009 KB
  • Número de páginas: 337 páginas
  • Editora: St. Martin's Press (1 de março de 2011)
  • Vendido por: Amazon Servicos de Varejo do Brasil Ltda
  • Idioma: Inglês
  • ASIN: B00457X826
  • Leitura de texto: Habilitado
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  • Dicas de vocabulário: Habilitado
  • Leitor de tela: Compatível
  • Configuração de fonte: Habilitado
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Amazon.com: 4.2 de 5 estrelas 33 avaliações
Esta avaliação foi considerada útil por 2 de 2 pessoa(s):
5.0 de 5 estrelas Dehumanization and multi-faith engagement 1 de dezembro de 2016
Por John W. Morehead - Publicada na Amazon.com
Formato: Capa comum Compra verificada
I remember watching World War II movies with my dad growing up. One that stuck with me was "Judgment at Nuremberg," which told the story of the war crimes trials of Nazi judges who sent Jews and others to concentration camps. This film made a strong case that the Nazi leadership were responsible for horrible crimes, but also for the possibility that the rest of the world shared some responsibility for the rise of Hitler and the genocide that would come to be known as the Final Solution. From the films and similar documentaries of my childhood I’ve always wondered how the Holocaust was possible. Were the Nazis, or the German people in general, a special case of human evil and monstrosity? This is a comforting thought in that it limits such horrors to a specific people and time period. But history teaches us otherwise. While the Nazi Holocaust is the best known of humanity’s genocides, there are many others: the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1917, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rhouge in the 1970s, the Hutus and Tutsis of the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, and the mass killings in Darfur in the early 2000s. To these we could also add events in America including the enslavement and mass extermination of Native Americans and the deplorable treatment of African slaves. What do these genocides and acts of violence have in common? The process of dehumanization; thinking of fellow human beings as subhuman.

David Livingstone Smith discusses the science of dehumanization in his book "Less Than Human." Given the tragic and repetitious nature of dehumanization I assumed that the body of scholarly data on this topic would be large. However, this is not the case. As Smith states in the Preface, “Apart from a few dozen articles by social psychologists, there is scarcely any literature on it at all. If dehumanization really has the significance that scholars claim, then untangling its dynamics ought to be among our most pressing priorities, and its neglect is as perplexing as it is grave” (3).

Smith explores this important topic over the course of nine chapters. Chapter 1 explores why studying the process of dehumanization is important. He concludes that chapter with sobering words that remind us of just how close this challenge is to all of us:

"Dehumanization is not the exclusive preserve of communists, terrorists, Jews, Palestinians, or any other monster of the moment. We are all potential dehumanizers, just as we are all potential objects of dehumanization. The problem of dehumanization is everyone’s problem. My task is to explain why” (25).

Smith continues in Chapter 2 with a discussion of how the idea of dehumanization has changed over time. Smith uses this chapter to develop a theory of the dehumanization process. One of the key ideas in this chapter is the idea that human beings have an “essence” that makes them what they are. By contrast, at times we view others as lacking in this. This makes them subhuman, and when “the enemy” is viewed in this way it overrides our natural revulsion toward killing others. Smith tells us that these “counterfeit human beings” don’t necessarily look monstrous. To the contrary, they look just like us “real human beings,” but that’s part of the deception. Regardless of how they appear on the surface (or under it), they are conceived of as subhuman.

In Chapter 3 Smith discusses the dehumanization of the indigenous people of the New World that came with colonization. Chapter 4 explores this process in slavery, where the trans-Saharan and transatlantic slave trades are In view. Chapter 5 discusses dehumanization in connection with various genocides. One of the interesting facets of the discussion in this chapter is how the subhuman other is conceived of and referred to. For example, the Germans of the Third Reich referred to Jews and other undesirables as “apes, pigs, rats, worms, bacilli, and other nonhuman creatures” (145). When the language of dehumanization is used then genocide is not far behind. Chapter 6 looks at the concept of race in connection with dehumanization and racism. Chapter 7 compares human violence with that of chimpanzees against their own species. After his analysis Smith comes to the conclusion that “Homo sapiens are the only animals capable of cruelty and war” (203). In Chapter 8 Smith explores the strange co-existence between human reticence and also willingness to kill our own kind, and also how we may have developed the tendency toward dehumanization. The final chapter goes over the major arguments advanced previously in the book, and then includes discussion on how dehumanization might be combated.

Overall I found this entire volume fascinating. But given my work in multi-faith engagement I found certain sections of particular interest in application to evangelicals living in and wrestling with the challenges of religious pluralism in a post-9/11 world. Two areas of the book caught my attention, with the first offering critique of evangelical boundaries in relation to the other, and the second in terms of strategic action that can be taken that will actually work toward combating genocide.

First, in Chapter 8 Smith discusses the concept of unclean animals in relation to dehumanization. He says that certain animals create visceral reactions in us. “The reaction of disgust is accompanied by a peculiar sense of threat. The fear isn’t that the animal itself can inflict harm – the fear of maggots isn’t like the fear of poisonous snakes or snarling dogs. Rather, it’s the fear that they can contaminate one with something harmful” (252). Later on this same page expands on this notion of contamination:

"People have an intuitive theory of contamination. We not only conceive of certain things as revolting, we also attribute their foulness to pollutants that they contain – pollutants that can get inside us and damage or even kill us if we come into contact with them. Although the propensity for disgust is innate, culture plays a huge part in determining what sorts of things elicit it" (252).

A few pages later Smith says there is a moral connection to concepts of physical filth, and that this “also explains why this form of dehumanization is often associated with religiously motivated violence” (254). Although it may be difficult for evangelicals to hear, when I read this section on dehumanization and contamination I thought of the evangelical subculture and its strong emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy. When religious others are encountered that are understood as holding to false doctrine and practices this triggers fears of contamination and feelings of disgust, whether we consciously realize this or not. Having sound doctrine is important and it can play a positive role in identity formation and boundary definitions, but if as a cultural device it causes us to see a Muslim or Mormon or Pagan as disgusting and as a contaminant, perhaps we need to revisit the place that doctrine plays in our culture and the encounter with others. How can we maintain healthy concepts of identity and boundaries without dehumanizing the other?

The second major takeaway for me came in Chapter 9. In addressing how to respond to dehumanization a few possibilities are considered. The first is the appeal to reason. “According to this rationalistic view, dehumanization is a symptom of ignorance, and is to be cured by administering an appropriate does of intellectual enlightenment” (268). Smith is right to reject this. Dehumanization takes place more through the process of emotion over the rational aspect of human cognition. Those approaches to interfaith that emphasize an appeal to reason miss the mark because they misunderstand human nature. Instead of the rational approach, Smith offers an alternative. He says that “if we want people to treat one another humanely we ought to be appealing to their feelings instead of offering them dry theoretical arguments. We need to help people get to know one another by telling them ‘long, sad, sentimental stories’” (270). Smith hits the nail on the head with this suggestion. Human beings are not only emotional creatures, we are also Homo narrans, storytelling creatures. We inhabit our own personal narratives as well as tribal and cultural ones, and these stories help us find our place in the world, and can be instrumental in shaping new views of “us and them.” We are following this approach through our Multi-faith Matters grant project work in telling the stories of churches involved in positive forms of multi-faith engagement. This has the potential of touching hearts and changing minds as new stories provide fresh emotional and conceptual frameworks for interacting with others.

But there’s a rub here. Smith argues that [t]he sentimental strategy has a greater chance of being effective than the rationalistic one does” (270). By telling these stories we can move people in the “right direction.” But Smith asks, What is the right direction? Emotional stories have also be used to manipulate people in propaganda and have facilitated the dehumanization process. How can we tell emotional stories and move people in the right direction that does not involve manipulation and abuse? For the evangelical involved in combating dehumanization a gospel-inspired ethic is needed in order to provide a framework for emotion-inducing stories. This must include the Christian moral teachings of love of neighbor, enemy, and stranger. With these incorporated within an ethic of storytelling we can guard against the manipulation of others outside our tribe.

In my opinion this book is “must reading” for those evangelicals involved in multi-faith engagement, religious diplomacy, and peacemaking. If we want to prevent future genocides, and make an impact on war and terrorist violence, our theologies of multi-faith encounter must be widened and deepened to incorporate the insights of the science of dehumanization, as well as other important academic disciplines.
Esta avaliação foi considerada útil por 26 de 26 pessoa(s):
5.0 de 5 estrelas A Step Towards A Theory of Dehumanization 14 de março de 2011
Por Amazon Customer - Publicada na Amazon.com
Formato: Capa dura Compra verificada
Professor Smith states in the Preface that, "In this book, I will argue that dehumanization is a joint creation of biology, culture, and the architecture of the human mind. Grasping its nature and dynamics requires that we attend to all three elements. Excluding any of them leaves us with a hopelessly distorted picture of what we are trying to comprehend." And by dehumanization, Professor Smith simply means that, "To dehumanize a person is to regard them as subhuman." Dehumanization doesn't mean to deny someone their individuality, to objectify them, to denigrate them, or even to treat them cruelly (although that certainly does happen). So, it is to this end that Professor Smith sets about explaining the psychological roots of dehumanization.

Through 275 pages, divided into nine chapters, Smith examines such topics as the past thoughts of Aristotle, Augustine, Boethius, Pico, Paracelsus, Hume, and Kant; and modern thinkers such as Erik Erikson, Konrad Lorenz, E. O. Wilson, Jane Goodall, and Iranaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt. He also analyzes themes like `The Great Chain of Being,' Slavery, Nazi's, and Genocide; "In this book, I will argue that when we dehumanize people we think of them as counterfeit human beings - creatures that look like humans, but who are not endowed with a human essence - and that this is possible only because of our natural tendency to think that there are essence-based natural kinds. This way of thinking doesn't come from "outside." We neither absorb it from our culture, nor learn it from observation. Rather, it seems to reflect our cognitive architecture - the evolved design of the human psyche." In regards to cognitive architecture, I think Professor Smith's strongest argument for why we dehumanize is based on our modularity of mind (best discussed in Robert Kurzban's book: Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind, and also to a lesser extent in David Berreby's book: Us and Them: The Science of Identity).

In conclusion, Professor Smith certainly knows the material very well, and the book stays extremely focused on explaining what dehumanization means. I think Smith also shifts gears from hard scientific evidence to mere speculation very smoothly and with plenty of prudence and caution; he certainly takes a skeptical attitude, which I appreciated. The only thing that irked me a bit about the book was Chapter 6: Race. Here is a quote: "A more scientific-sounding version of the same idea [that human essence is carried in the blood,] is that essences are located in one's DNA (a notion helped along, no doubt, by the folk-theory that racial essences are transmitted in seminal fluid). Although it has a veneer of scientific respectability, this DNA theory is only marginally less baseless than the theories about blood and milk, for, as we have seen, conventional racial categories are fold categories rather than scientific ones, and don't have any genetic justification." Now, I don't know what the real answer is, but I know there are a lot of (scientifically well-versed) individuals who might find the idea that DNA has nothing to do with 'race' a bit of a stretch. Also, I would have liked to see Professor Smith mention Malthusianism (the very real, and very omnipresent struggle for existence due to scarce resources), and give it a modicum of attention because, to my way of thinking, it is really the primary evolutionary reason we dehumanize others in the first place. Nonetheless, I think this is an exceptional book and I highly recommend it.
5.0 de 5 estrelas The Essence of Dehumanization 21 de maio de 2013
Por Phyllis Antebi Ph.D - Publicada na Amazon.com
Formato: eBook Kindle Compra verificada
"The distinction between essence and appearance isn't just an academic matter" (Smith,P.33). Smith shows us, in startling detail, why dehumanizing influences and strategies truly reflect the way many people think. Where moral intuition is cultivated, sociocultural attitudes view the exploitation of and demeaning of other human beings, as repugnant to their senses. An intuition of this nature is simply how something seems to you. That old adage, "I'll know it when I see it", applies especially to the mistreatment of others and to the degradation of spirit that follows, for victim as well as abuser. I have no problem with Smith's decision to limit the focus of his study to just three areas: systematic atrocities of the Germans toward the Jews, the brutal enslavement and treatment of Africans, and the destruction of the Native American civilization. Gender and sex are unique in that the scale of the horrors perpetrated are circumscribed and may reflect somewhat different features. Nevertheless, the element of enmity is clearly apparent in targeting any group or individual and is the core feature of the theory of dehumanization. "The sheer pervasiveness of dehumanization", Smith tells us, 'makes it impossible to discuss all its manifestations". The core constituent in each and every paradigm concerning this topic, is the evidence of a lack of empathy. Without the ability to identify, it becomes ever easier to objectify. This interpersonal dynamic is fundamentally exploitative and inherently disrespectful. Without the notion of moral value, the relationship is by definition an immoral one. I highly recommend Berreby's book, "Us and Them:Understanding Your Tribal Mind" (2005). It is through the prism of psycho-biology that the structure and function of dehumanizing tendencies take hold and becomes habitual. Denying others their right to feel is depriving them of their spirituality and individuality. Devaluation destroys the dignity of a person by turning a "Thou" into an "It". Systematically and in lucid detail Smith gives us an education in philosophy, science, religion and history. For a "Theory of Dehumanization", encompasses every dimension of human existence one can imagine.
4.0 de 5 estrelas Thoughtful book. 31 de agosto de 2015
Por E. Joseph Anna - Publicada na Amazon.com
Formato: eBook Kindle Compra verificada
"Less than Human" by David Livingstone Smith is a well referenced book about how we, as members of the human race, can demean, enslave, and exterminate other members of the human race. There are numerous examples from throughout history about how we have been inhumane. There is also speculation of the origins of hate, racism, and ethnocentrism going back to our ape ancestors. There are a few places in the book where the author lapses into sociological jargon, but fortunately that doesn't occur frequently. Consequently the book is enlightening even though it provides few answers.
Esta avaliação foi considerada útil por 1 de 1 pessoa(s):
5.0 de 5 estrelas "Less Than Human" is an superbly written book. 4 de abril de 2013
Por Lucien F Brancaccio - Publicada na Amazon.com
Compra verificada
"Less Than Human" is written in a lucid & compelling style. Author David Livingstone Smith has backed up his conclusions with thorough annotations. Furthermore, the author presents hypotheses from researchers whose conclusions differ from his own; therefore, Mr. D. L. Smith is respecting the intelligence of his readers to weigh the various arguments by means of their own logical abilities.
One aspect of "Less Than Human" which I most admired was that his main hypothesis is consistent with the modern day fusion
of cognitive psychology & the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA). For a better understanding of this fusion see the works of Pascal Boyer, who is a French anthropologist.
Signed by Lucien Francesaco Brancaccio
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