In 331 BC, something was wrong with Rome. Across the city, swathes of eminent men were succumbing to sickness, and practically all of them were dying. The losses were as baffling as they were alarming.
A recent episode of the dystopian television series “Black Mirror” begins with a soldier hunting down and killing hideous humanoids called roaches. It’s a standard science-fiction scenario, man against monster, but there’s a twist: it turns out that the soldier and his cohort have brain implants that make them see the faces and bodies of their targets as monstrous, to hear their pleas for mercy as noxious squeaks. When our hero’s implant fails, he discovers that he isn’t a brave defender of the human race—he’s a murderer of innocent people, part of a campaign to exterminate members of a despised group akin to the Jews of Europe in the nineteen-forties.
The philosopher David Livingstone Smith, commenting on this episode on social media, wondered whether its writer had read his book “Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others” (St. Martin’s). It’s a thoughtful and exhaustive exploration of human cruelty, and the episode perfectly captures its core idea: that acts such as genocide happen when one fails to appreciate the humanity of others.
哲学家大卫·利文斯通·史密斯（David Livingstone Smith）在社交媒体上对这集做了评价，他很好奇编剧是否阅读过自己的作品《人性之下——我们为何贬低、奴役、毁灭他人》（Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others）。这本书对人类的残忍进行了深刻而详尽的思索，而《黑镜》中的这一集完美地抓住了其核心：当一个人未能共情他人的人性时，才会发生种族灭绝之类的残忍行为。
One focus of Smith’s book is the attitudes of slave owners; the seventeenth-century missionary Morgan Godwyn observed that they believed the Negroes, “though in their Figure they carry some resemblances of Manhood, yet are indeed no Men” but, rather, “Creatures destitute of Souls, to be ranked among Brute Beasts, and treated accordingly.” Then there’s the Holocaust.
Like many Jews my age, I was raised with stories of gas chambers, gruesome medical experiments, and mass graves—an evil that was explained as arising from the Nazis’ failure to see their victims as human. In the words of the psychologist Herbert C. Kelman, “The inhibitions against murdering fellow human beings are generally so strong that the victims must be deprived of their human status if systematic killing is to proceed in a smooth and orderly fashion.” The Nazis used bureaucratic euphemisms such as “transfer” and “selection” to sanitize different forms of murder.
像我这个年纪的犹太人，成长中总伴随着毒气室、人体实验、乱葬岗这样惨痛的故事。人们对此的解读总是纳粹对于犹太人的非人化。心理学家赫伯特·C·凯尔曼（Herbert C. Kelman）解释道：“人对于屠戮同类通常有很强的克制，以至于要做到对同类高效、系统、流水线般的宰杀，需要先将被害者的同类身份剥离。”而纳粹正是利用“物种转换”、“天然选择”这类委婉的官腔为屠杀“洗白”。
Early psychological research on dehumanization looked at what made the Nazis different from the rest of us. But psychologists now talk about the ubiquity of dehumanization. Nick Haslam, at the University of Melbourne, and Steve Loughnan, at the University of Edinburgh, provide a list of examples, including some painfully mundane ones: “Outraged members of the public call sex offenders animals. Psychopaths treat victims merely as means to their vicious ends. The poor are mocked as libidinous dolts. Passersby look through homeless people as if they were transparent obstacles. Dementia sufferers are represented in the media as shuffling zombies.”
对“非人化”的早期心理学研究着眼于纳粹的特殊性，而当代心理学家更强调这一现象的普遍性，墨尔本大学的尼克·哈斯拉姆（Nick Haslam）和爱丁堡大学的史蒂夫·劳南（Steve Loughnan）为这一结论提供了一系列论据，其中一些普通得十分沉重：愤怒的大众怒骂性犯罪者为禽兽；精神变态者仅仅将受害者视为到达邪恶尽头的工具；社会底层民众被当做只有淫邪思想的蠢货；路人将流浪者当成透明的障碍物；痴呆症患者在媒体偏见中被刻画为行尸走肉。
The thesis that viewing others as objects or animals enables our very worst conduct would seem to explain a great deal. Yet there’s reason to think that it’s almost the opposite of the truth.
At some European soccer games, fans make monkey noises at African players and throw bananas at them. Describing Africans as monkeys is a common racist trope, and might seem like yet another example of dehumanization. But plainly these fans don’t really think the players are monkeys; the whole point of their behavior is to disorient and humiliate. To believe that such taunts are effective is to assume that their targets would be ashamed to be thought of that way—which implies that, at some level, you think of them as people after all.
Consider what happened after Hitler annexed Austria, in 1938. Timothy Snyder offers a haunting description in “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”:
The next morning the “scrubbing parties” began. Members of the Austrian SA, working from lists, from personal knowledge, and from the knowledge of passersby, identified Jews and forced them to kneel and clean the streets with brushes. This was a ritual humiliation. Jews, often doctors and lawyers or other professionals, were suddenly on their knees performing menial labor in front of jeering crowds.
对于1938年纳粹占领奥地利后的所作所为，蒂莫西·斯奈德（Timothy Snyder）在其作品《黑土地——大屠杀的历史伤疤与警示》（Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning）中写到：“第二天早上，‘清扫狂欢’开始了，奥地利‘纳粹冲锋队’的成员通过名单、个人印象和路人的指控，找到犹太人并强迫他们跪在地上用刷子洗刷街面。这种近乎仪式性的人格侮辱，让很多医生、律师等职业工作者一夜之间变成卑贱的奴仆，跪倒在地，受人欺凌。”
The Jews who were forced to scrub the streets—not to mention those subjected to far worse degradations—were not thought of as lacking human emotions. Indeed, if the Jews had been thought to be indifferent to their treatment, there would have been nothing to watch here; the crowd had gathered because it wanted to see them suffer. The logic of such brutality is the logic of metaphor: to assert a likeness between two different things holds power only in the light of that difference. The sadism of treating human beings like vermin lies precisely in the recognition that they are not.
What about violence more generally? Some evolutionary psychologists and economists explain assault, rape, and murder as rational actions, benefitting the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s genes. No doubt some violence—and a reputation for being willing and able to engage in violence—can serve a useful purpose, particularly in more brutal environments. On the other hand, much violent behavior can be seen as evidence of a loss of control. It’s Criminology 101 that many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and that people who assault, rape, and murder show less impulse control in other aspects of their lives as well. In the heat of passion, the moral enormity of the violent action loses its purchase.
But “Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships” (Cambridge), by the anthropologist Alan Fiske and the psychologist Tage Rai, argues that these standard accounts often have it backward. In many instances, violence is neither a cold-blooded solution to a problem nor a failure of inhibition; most of all, it doesn’t entail a blindness to moral considerations.
在人类学家艾伦·菲斯克（Alan Fiske）和心理学家泰格·莱（Tage Rai）完成，剑桥大学出版的《正义的暴力——那些以创造、维持、结束、捍卫社会契约为目标的伤害与杀戮》（Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships）中，作者提出，本文中的上述解释其实都与真相背道而驰。暴力在很多情况下，既非冷血的漠然，也非因为不能自已，更不存在道德判断的缺失。
On the contrary, morality is often a motivating force: “People are impelled to violence when they feel that to regulate certain social relationships, imposing suffering or death is necessary, natural, legitimate, desirable, condoned, admired, and ethically gratifying.” Obvious examples include suicide bombings, honor killings, and the torture of prisoners during war, but Fiske and Rai extend the list to gang fights and violence toward intimate partners. For Fiske and Rai, actions like these often reflect the desire to do the right thing, to exact just vengeance, or to teach someone a lesson. There’s a profound continuity between such acts and the punishments that—in the name of requital, deterrence, or discipline—the criminal-justice system lawfully imposes. Moral violence, whether reflected in legal sanctions, the killing of enemy soldiers in war, or punishing someone for an ethical transgression, is motivated by the recognition that its victim is a moral agent, someone fully human.
In the fiercely argued and timely study “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” (Oxford), the philosopher Kate Manne makes a consonant argument about sexual violence. “The idea of rapists as monsters exonerates by caricature,” she writes, urging us to recognize “the banality of misogyny,” the disturbing possibility that “people may know full well that those they treat in brutally degrading and inhuman ways are fellow human beings, underneath a more or less thin veneer of false consciousness.”
在一项广受争议的适时研究《不只是厌女》（Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny）中，哲学家凯特·曼恩（Kate Manne）对性暴力提出了一致的观点。她写道：“将强奸犯描绘为（不通人性的）怪物的讽刺漫画实际上免除了他们的罪责，”她敦促我们认识到，“厌女症已成为随处可见的陈词滥调”，而令人不安的是，“或多或少存在的自我欺骗之下，人们可能完全清楚，他们以残酷的侮辱和不人道方式对待的正是他们的人类同胞。”
Manne is arguing against a weighty and well-established school of thought. Catharine A. MacKinnon has posed the question: “When will women be human?” Rae Langton has explored the idea of sexual solipsism, a doubt that women’s minds exist. And countless theorists talk about “objectification,” the tendency to deny women’s autonomy and subjecthood, and to scant their experiences. Like Fiske and Rai, Manne sees a larger truth in the opposite tendency. In misogyny, she argues, “often, it’s not a sense of women’s humanity that is lacking. Her humanity is precisely the problem.”
曼恩反对的是一种影响深远、根深蒂固的思想流派。凯瑟琳·麦金农（Catharine A. MacKinnon）提出过这样的问题：“女人什么时候才能成为人？”雷·兰顿（Rae Langton）探索了性唯我论的观念，这种观念质疑了女性思想的存在。无数理论家谈论“物化人类”，这是一种否认妇女的自主权和主体性、限制她们生存的倾向。但和菲斯克和莱一样，曼恩更认可相反的看法。她认为厌女症“通常不是缺乏对女性人性的感知。女人的人性正是问题所在。”
Men, she proposes, have come to expect certain things from women—attention, admiration, sympathy, solace, and, of course, sex and love. Misogyny is the mind-set that polices and enforces these goals; it’s the “law enforcement branch” of the patriarchy. The most obvious example of this attitude is the punishing of “bad women,” where being bad means failing to give men what they want. But misogyny also involves rewarding women who do conform, and sympathizing with men (Manne calls this “himpathy”) who have done awful things to women.
Manne delves into the case of Elliot Rodger, who, in 2014, went on a killing spree, targeting people at random, after he was denied entry to a sorority house at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He slew six people and injured fourteen more before killing himself. In a videotape, Rodger, who was twenty-two, explained that women “gave their affection and sex and love to other men but never to me.” And then, talking to these women, he said, “I will punish you all for it . . . . I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you.”
Manne makes clear that Rodger wasn’t objectifying women; he was simply enraged that their capacity for love and romance didn’t extend to him. Manne’s analysis can be seen as an exploration of an observation made by Margaret Atwood—that men are afraid that women will laugh at them, and women are afraid that men will kill them. For Manne, such violent episodes are merely an extreme manifestation of everyday misogyny, and she extends her analysis to catcalling, attitudes toward abortion, and the predations of Donald Trump.
Nor are the mechanisms she identifies confined to misogyny. The aggressions licensed by moral entitlement, the veneer of bad faith: those things are evident in a wide range of phenomena, from slaveholders’ religion-tinctured justifications to the Nazi bureaucrats’ squeamishness about naming the activity they were organizing, neither of which would have been necessary if the oppressors were really convinced that their victims were beasts.
If the worst acts of cruelty aren’t propelled by dehumanization, not all dehumanization is accompanied by cruelty. Manne points out that there’s nothing wrong with a surgeon viewing her patients as mere bodies when they’re on the operating table; in fact, it’s important for doctors not to have certain natural reactions—anger, moral disgust, sexual desire—when examining patients. The philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum has given the example of using your sleeping partner’s stomach as a pillow when lying in bed, and goes on to explore the more fraught case of objectification during sexual intercourse, suggesting that there’s nothing inherently wrong about this so long as it is consensual and restricted to the bedroom.
如果不是非人化推动了最恶劣的残酷行径，那么也并非所有非人化的行为都是残忍的。曼恩认为外科医生在手术台上将患者物化为身体并非不妥。实际上，医生进行检查时避免某些自然反应是很重要的，这些反应包括愤怒、道德厌恶、性欲。哲学家玛莎·努斯鲍姆（Martha C. Nussbaum）以躺在床上时用同伴的肚子作枕头为例，并继续研究性交时物化身体的情形。她认为，只要这种物化得到双方的同意并仅限于卧室内，就没什么问题。
As a philosopher, Manne grounds her arguments in more technical literature, and at one point she emphasizes the connection between her position and the Oxford philosopher P. F. Strawson’s theory of “reactive attitudes.” Strawson argued that, when we’re dealing with another person as a person, we can’t help experiencing such attitudes as admiration and gratitude, resentment and blame. You generally don’t feel this way toward rocks or rodents. Acknowledging the humanity of another, then, has its risks, and these are neatly summarized by Manne, who notes that seeing someone as a person makes it possible for that person to be a true friend or beloved spouse, but it also makes it possible for people to be “an intelligible rival, enemy, usurper, insubordinate, betrayer, etc.”
作为哲学家，曼恩将自己的论点立足于更多的专业文献。她指出自己的观点与牛津哲学家斯特劳森（P. F. Strawson）的“反应态度”理论之间的联系。斯特劳森认为，当我们作为人类与另一个人打交道时，会自然感受到钦佩、感激、怨恨和责备等态度，而我们面对岩石或啮齿类动物则不会有这种感觉。承认他人的人性也会有风险，曼恩巧妙地总结了这些风险：将人视为人可以收获真正的朋友或心爱的配偶，但他人也可能成为“显而易见的对手、敌人、篡夺者、下属、背叛者等”。
If there’s something missing from these approaches to violence, it’s attention to first-person attitudes, how we think about ourselves as moral agents. I can resent someone, but I can also feel shame at how I treated him or her. Fiske and Rai sometimes write as if the paradigm of moralistic violence were the final scene of the movie in which our hero blows away the terrorist or the serial killer or the rapist—a deeply satisfying act that has everyone cheering. But what about doubt and ambivalence? Some fathers who severely beat their misbehaving children, or some soldiers who engage in “punitive rape,” are confident in the moral rightness of their acts. But some aren’t. Real moral progress may involve studying the forms of doubt and ambivalence that sometimes attend acts of brutality.
In a masterly and grim book, “One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps” (Little, Brown), Andrea Pitzer articulates some of the perplexities of her subject. Pitzer’s description of various concentration camps contains so many examples of cruelty and degradation that it’s impossible to see them as a mere failure to acknowledge the humanity of their victims. As the scholar of warfare Johannes Lang has observed of the Nazi death camps, “What might look like the dehumanization of the other is instead a way to exert power over another human.”
在其构思精巧的著作《长夜：全球集中营发展史》（One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps）中，安德里亚·皮策（Andrea Pitzer）表达了其研究对象的复杂性。皮策对各种集中营的描述包含了如此多残酷和剥削的例子，以至于不可能将这些行为仅仅看作是对受害者人性的否认。正如战争学者约翰尼斯·朗（Johannes Lang）对纳粹死亡集中营观察的那样，“表面上的非人化其实是向他人施加权力的一种方式。”
The limitations of the dehumanization thesis are hardly good news. There has always been something optimistic about the idea that our worst acts of inhumanity are based on confusion. It suggests that we could make the world better simply by having a clearer grasp of reality—by deactivating those brain implants, or their ideological equivalent. The truth may be harder to accept: that our best and our worst tendencies arise precisely from seeing others as human.