Acclaimed philosopher and Lavin speaker David Livingstone Smith has received a 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Award for Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others,
which The New York Times
called “an unusually lucid book about an under-studied subject.” In winning the award, Smith joins past winners Oprah Winfrey, Zadie Smith (no relation), and fellow Lavin speakers Kwame Anthony Appiah
and Derek Walcott
. For the past 77 years, the award has recognized writers whose work makes an impact in the fields of race, culture, and human nature. In Less Than Human
, Smith synthesizes psychology, philosophy, biology and other branches of learning to explain why humans often lie, become violent, and do atrocious things—despite knowing better, and being capable of great acts.
In his popular keynotes, David Livingstone Smith discusses the peculiar tendencies of humans to lie and dehumanize one another. To audiences, he explains the features of human psychology that make these phenomena possible—and why it's so important that we understand them. He argues that researching dehumanization should be made a priority if we want to prevent repeats of atrocities like those that occurred in Auschwitz, Rwanda, and Hiroshima. Smith will be speaking on the topic of Less Than Human
at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.