April 09, 2019
A chapter in the new book UnMuted features an interview with David Livingstone Smith, Ph.D., professor of philosophy.
The book is written by Myisha Cherry, host of the monthly podcast UnMute.
Cherry is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside. Her research interest lies at the intersection of moral psychology and social and political philosophy.
UnMuted collects Cherry's lively and timely podcast interviews and offers an accessible resource to some of philosophy's most socially and politically engaged work.
Chapter 18 is titled, “David Livingstone Smith on Dehumanization.”
Smith, author of the award-winning book Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, tells Cherry that dehumanization is a word that is used in all kinds of different ways.
“Some people think of dehumanization as the use of animalistic slurs,” he said. “They see it as sort of a linguistic phenomenon. Some people see it as disrespectful or degrading treatment of others. Dehumanization can mean a lot of different things. I’ll tell you what I mean by dehumanization. We dehumanize others when we think of those others as subhuman creatures.”
Smith says it is easy to dehumanize, and it is not just ignorant or bad people who do it.
“We need to really be vigilant about the sorts of language that we use, because that kind of language plays on these psychological sensibilities, which allows us to very easily slide into dehumanization,” he explained.
Smith is currently working on two more books on the subject of dehumanization—one to be published by Harvard University Press and the other by Oxford University Press. His paper "Manufacturing monsters: dehumanization and public policy" appeared in The Palgrave Companion to Philosophy and Public Policy.