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ISBN: 9780199552627 - Cruelty
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Kathleen Taylor

ISBN: 9780199552627
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Cruelty is an uncomfortable subject. Reading of the horrors of the Nazi death camps and the genocides of Rwanda, seeing news reports of young children being beaten and starved to death, we are repelled and horrified. The people doing these acts must surely be evil monsters, utterly different from ourselves.

But is it really so simple? In this lucid and thought…






In this thoughtful exploration of a painful subject, Kathleen Taylor seeks to bring together the fruits of work in psychology, sociology, and her own field of neuroscience to shed light on the nature of cruelty and what makes human beings cruel. The question of cruelty is inevitably tied to questions of moral philosophy, the nature of evil, free will and responsibility. Taylor's approach is ambitious, but little work has been done in this area and this wide-ranging discussion, considering the roles of emotion, belief, identity and 'otherizing'; evolved instincts and differences in brains; callousness and sadism; seeks to begin to identify how we might reduce or limit cruelty in our societies by a greater understanding of its causes, and the circumstances in which it can grow. As with her highly regarded previous book, Brainwashing, Taylor draws in examples from history and literature in her study, making this a rich and multifaceted analysis that should be of interest to a wide readership, and provoke much thought, debate, and further research.