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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)