David Livingstone Smith: How Monsters, Racists, and Nazis are Made

On episode 102, Seize The Moment podcast welcomes philosopher David Livingstone Smith to discuss the psychosocial mechanisms of dehumanization.

David Livingstone Smith is a professor of philosophy at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. He earned his PhD from the University of London, Kings College, where he worked on Freud’s philosophy of mind and psychology. His current research is focused on dehumanization, race, propaganda, and related topics. His books include On Inhumanity, Less Than Human, and his newest book Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization.

David argued that when people dehumanize others, they view them as both human and sub-human at the same time, fluctuating between the contradictory perceptions.

David Livingstone Smith Making Monsters book

Dehumanization continues to exist as evidently as in the past and, also, on more subtle levels, indicated by some of the words used to describe the activities of whole populations. David’s work chronicles the role of dehumanizing tendencies in the maintenance of slavery and apartheid, and in the extermination of Black and Jewish people. It resonates as much today as it would have centuries ago.

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Also discussed with David Livingstone Smith

  • How humans can perceive other humans as both human and sub-human
  • What lynchings were actually like
  • How Nazis used psychotherapy and pseudo-scientific propaganda to justify anti-Semitic beliefs
  • The role of motivated reasoning in maintaining wealthy slave states, the subtle, modern manifestations of dehumanization
  • How to begin tackling dehumanizing tendencies on both psychological and social levels


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