Dehumanization: New Philosophical Perspectives

A Virtual International Symposium in Phenomenology, Social Philosophy, and Philosophy of Mind

7-8 October 2021

Core Themes and Questions

The concept of dehumanization opens up new philosophical avenues for addressing key moral and political problems of human intersubjectivity and sociality, such as oppression, violence, marginalization, cruelty, prejudice, contempt, hatred, and disgust. Furthermore, it allows us to critically examine our basic philosophical preconceptions about what being human amounts to. 

The symposium Dehumanization: New Philosophical Perspectives investigates the basic characteristics of the process of dehumanization and its socio-political dimensions and implications. At the same time, it reappraises the value of the concept of dehumanization for analysing modern and contemporary socio-political problems as well as more permanent challenges to human co-existence. The questions to be discussed include – without being limited to – the following:

• What are the core phenomena of dehumanization? Does dehumanization entail a specific kind of intentional attitude that construes other human beings – the dehumanized – as lacking certain capacities that are taken to be essential to human life or personhood? If so, then what is characteristic of such an attitude? And what are the capacities that must go unrecognised in the individuals and groups that are thus dehumanized?

• How crucial are the concrete practical dimensions and contexts of dehumanization? Which kinds of treatment might serve as vehicles for dehumanization, and which aspects of a person’s agency must be affected for dehumanization to have occurred? Can dehumanizing treatment be perpetuated in the absence of dehumanizing attitudes (in the sense highlighted above)?

• What role, if any, does dehumanization play in contemporary and modern forms of social oppression? Is dehumanization a necessary, or even typical, precursor for certain forms of violence? How should dehumanization be distinguished from closely related phenomena such as essentialization, reification, and mis- or nonrecognition? Does dehumanization presuppose group-membership, and in what manner; and is it essentially rooted in collective intentionality?

Symposium Speakers

Sara Heinämaa (University of Jyväskylä)

Onni Hirvonen (University of Jyväskylä)

Ari-Elmeri Hyvönen (University of Jyväskylä)

James Jardine (University of Jyväskylä)

Maria Kronfeldner (Central European University)

Arto Laitinen (Tampere University)

David Livingstone Smith (University of New England in Maine)

Thomas Szanto (University of Copenhagen)

Somogy Varga (Aarhus University)


Dehumanization: New Philosophical Perspectives is organized by James Jardine, Sara Heinämaa, and Fredrik Westerlund (University of Jyväskylä) with assistance from Joni Puranen (University of Jyväskylä) and Ilpo Hirvonen (University of Helsinki). It is supported by Marginalization and Experience: Phenomenological Analyses of Normality and Abnormality (Academy of Finland) and University of Jyväskylä.

This virtual symposium is open to everyone. Follow the links at the top of the page for the symposium schedule and information on how to register and participate. The registration deadline for the symposium is Tuesday 5th October.