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VIRTUAL: Berkeley Arts & Letters presents David P. Barash with David Livingstone Smith / Threats: Intimidation and Its Discontents

January 13, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm PST

Booksmith and Berkeley Arts & Letters are very pleased to host a virtual event with David P. Barash for his new book Threats: Intimidation and Its Dicontents. He’ll be in conversation with David Livingstone Smith (On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It).

Free and all ages, but RSVP is required. Event link will be sent to everyone who registers.

You can order Threats here. We’re offering free shipping throughout San Francisco and the East Bay.

From hurricanes and avalanches to diseases and car crashes, threats are everywhere. Beyond objective threats like these, there are also subjective ones: situations in which individuals threaten each other or feel threatened by society. Animals, too, make substantial use of threats. Evolution manipulates threats like these in surprising ways, leading us to question the ethics of honest versus dishonest communication. Rarely acknowledged–and yet crucially important–is the fact that humans, animals, and even plants don’t only employ threats, they often respond with counter-threats that ultimately make things worse. By exploring the dynamic of threat and counter-threat, this book expands on many fraught human situations, including the fear of death, of strangers, and of “the other.” Each of these leads to unique challenges, such as the specter of eternal damnation, the murderous culture of guns and capital punishment, and the emergence of right-wing nationalist populism. Most worrisome is the illusory security of deterrence, the idea that we can use the threat of nuclear war to prevent nuclear war!

Threats are so widespread that we often don’t realize how deeply they are ingrained in our minds or how profoundly and counter-productively they operate. Animals, humans, societies, and even countries internalize threats, behind which lie a myriad of intriguing questions: How do we know when to take a threat seriously? When do threats make things worse? Can they make things better? What can we do to use them wisely rather than destructively? In a comprehensive exploration into questions like these, noted scientist David P. Barash explains some of the most important characteristics of life as we know it.

David P. Barash is an evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology emeritus at the University of Washington. He’s written more than 250 peer-reviewed scientific articles on human and animal behavior, and has written, co-authored and edited 39 books, most recently Threats: intimidation and its discontents, which was just published on Oct. 1 by Oxford University Press.

David Livingstone Smith is Professor of Philosophy at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. He has written or edited nine books, including Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others (St. Martin’s Press, 2011), which won the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf award for nonfiction. His work has been translated into seven languages. David is an interdisciplinary scholar, whose publications are cited not only by other philosophers, but also by historians, legal scholars, psychologists, and anthropologists. He has been featured in several prime-time television documentaries, is often interviewed and cited in the national and international media, and was a guest at the 2012 G20 economic summit, where he spoke about dehumanization and mass violence.

This event is free and all ages, but RSVP is required.


January 13, 2021
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm PST
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The Booksmith
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