Dehumanization

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Process resulting in a reduction of human freedom. D. in interpersonal relations is characterized by the denial of the free subjectivity of others, as a consequence reducing them to objects. A dehumanizing way of looking at others strips them of the freedom which is their essence, and instead emphasizes secondary characteristics that become converted into substantive ones (gender, race, national origin, occupation, etc.). Such a dehumanizing “look,” driven by the intention of naturalizing the other, tends to differentiate rather than complement. There is also a historical naturalism under which human processes are interpreted in terms of supposed determinism, which seek to be consecrated by the scienceof the moment. For example, Geopolitics, Social Darwinism , and in large measure orthodox Marxism-Leninism all embody such dehumanizing determinism. Throughout the long period of the Middle Ages during which the Church held enormous religious, political, and economic power, the question of whether women had souls was a subject of serious debate. A similar thing took place with the indigenous peoples of the Americas during the period of the European conquest, and it was concluded that the original inhabitants were “natural,” i.e., not strictly speaking human beings. In more recent times, and perhaps as a remnant of such ideas, people have continued to reduce the human personality simply to functions such as the activities or social situations in which people find themselves, always with an emphasis on the relationships of subordination or dependency. N.H. recommends care in the use of designations that might imply a dehumanizing reduction of the person: “patient” in relation to doctor; “adolescent” as signifying a person who is incomplete; “taxpayers” which defines citizens solely in terms of their financial support of the State, etc. D. as a social process corresponds to anti-humanist moments (*humanist moment) of history in which a collective alienation pervades all human activities.