The Psychology of Cruelty

Sunday, September 16, 2018

What is it

Throughout history, people have committed all kinds of cruel, degrading, and evil acts toward other people. Many believe that for evil acts like genocide to be even possible, the victims must first be dehumanized by the perpetrators, starting with dehumanizing language or propaganda. But is this lack of empathy always at the heart of human cruelty? When we call others “vermin,” “roaches,” or “animals” are we thereby denying their humanity? Or can human cruelty and violence sometimes rely on actually recognizing the other’s humanity? Josh and guest host Alison Gopnik welcome back Paul Bloom from Yale University, author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.

Get Philosophy Talk

Radio

Sunday at 11am (Pacific) on KALW 91.7 FM, San Francisco, and rebroadcast on many other stations nationwide

Satellite

Sunday at 1pm and 11pm ET on the SiriusXM Insight Channel

Podcast

Individual downloads via CDBaby and iTunes

 

Comments (1)


Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, September 14, 2018 -- 11:30 AM

I guess I would have to read

I guess I would have to read Bloom's book, in order to get to the rationale behind the title. My eleven-year-old grandson shows empathy for many sorts of living things, including some human beings who may (or may not) deserve it. I won't bore anyone with declarations about his level of maturity. Certainly, there are varying depths of cruelty and most anyone is capable of displaying that sort of attitude and behavior. Denying the humanity of someone or some group is, to emulate Dennett, 'a sky-hook' to oblivion. Recognition of another's humanity can lead to envy or jealousy: cruelty is only a short distance from those deadlys. We are fully able to discount those whose station surpasses our own (whether in reality or vain fantasy). Empathy is that human capacity, most related to love, generosity, magnanimity, and so on. In probability, those of us who lack one also lack the others, on any but the most superficial level. But, admittedly, Professor Bloom is the psychologist in the room. As such, he knows much of the intricacies of the human mind; the interconnections of human neurons and synapses; and roles neurotransmitters play in deciding how we think what we think. Wish I were in Gambier or Marietta or that other Ohio location where your show airs. I'll try to keep up with this subject, online with your blog. Warmest regards, HGN.

 
 

Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University

 
 

Research By

Lisa Wang
 

Upcoming Shows

18 November 2018

The Science of Happiness

Positive psychology is an emerging science that investigates the qualities, attitudes, and practices that enable people to thrive and be happy. So ...

25 November 2018

The Creative Life

Parents and students alike often think that a college major defines possible career options. Yet what distinguishes today's work world from bygone...

02 December 2018

Foucault and Power

Michel Foucault was a 20th century philosopher known for his work concerning power and knowledge. Foucault is often cited for his theory of knowledge...