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War and Human Nature

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

David L. Smith

Associate Professor of Philosophy

War has existed since the beginnings of civilization, and probably long before. What is it about human nature that explains this tendency? Why is it that we both pursue war and abhor it? This seminar will integrate strands from philosophy, psychology and evolutionary biology to explore the human propensity for, and horror of, collective violence and consider how this understanding might be used to restrain our tendency to harm one another.


David Livingstone Smith is associate professor of philosophy the University of New England. He earned his M.A. from Antioch University and his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of London, Kings College, where he worked on topics in the philosophy of mind and psychology. David's books include Freud's Philosophy of the Unconscious (Kluwer, 1999), Approaching Psychoanalysis: An Introductory Course (Karnac, 1999), Psychoanalysis in Focus (Sage, 2002), Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind (St. Martin's Press, 2004) and The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War (St. Martin's Press, 2007) and he has also published more than fifty papers in scholarly journals on philosophy, psychoanalysis and biology. David's work has been widely featured in national and international media. His current research interests include deception and self-deception, the sources of war in human nature, and the psychological roots of our tendency to treat others as less than human.

Assigned Reading

David L Smith, The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War, St. Martin's Press, 2007.


A reception will be held at 5pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4335

6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public