December 7, 2023
Monash Philosophy

Menzies, E561
Clayton Campus
Melbourne 3800

This event is available both online and in-person


Monash University
Georgetown University


Monash University

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START TIME: 1.30pm.

Joel Reynolds, Disability, Dehumaniation and Speciesism

Abstract: For the last fifty years, philosophers discussed the problem of speciesism in quintessentially ethical terms, invoking the frameworks of various moral traditions and deploying the normative tools of principles, duties, virtues, and so on. In this paper, I argue that this approach is a dead-end. We should not look to ethics to address the problem of speciesism; we should turn to social psychology and intellectual history. After surveying scholarship on genocide, hate crimes, and other forms of treating others as non- or sub-human, I turn to Peter Singer’s work and show how conceptualizing certain human progenies to be not persons—not human with respect to their value—is a paradigmatic psychological driver of dehumanization. By choosing to “abandon the idea of the equal value of all humans” instead of raising the value of non-human animals, Singer and those who follow in his footsteps fortify a path that, in light of the best social science research, actively and directly supports the individual and social psychological mechanisms behind dehumanization. I conclude by arguing that all anti-speciesist arguments without an anchor in how we in fact tend to treat and think about each other should be dismissed, and I discuss how research on dehumanization offers a path forward for ethical work that is both anti-specieist and anti-ableist.

Suzy Killmister, Rethinking Dehumanization

Abstract: One of the most common ways to theorize dehumanization is as a psychological phenomenon: dehumanization, on such approaches, is a matter of seeing as less than human. In this talk I argue that such approaches are inadequate. Focusing on people with disabilities and trans and gender diverse people, I aim to show that theorizing dehumanization as a structural phenomenon – and more specifically as exclusion from a socially constructed category – provides three key benefits over psychological approaches. 1) A structural approach can recognise a wider range of practices as dehumanization; 2) it can provide us with better tools for countering dehumanization; and 3) it can better explain the relationship between dehumanization and the related phenomena of subordination and marginalization.

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December 1, 2023, 9:00am +10:00

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