About the book:

Cruelty: A Book about Us, Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming Fall 2023

Cruelty a book about Us alternate cover

Photo courtesy of Yessica Barrera. Cover design Yessica Barrera and Jonathan Hannah

Cruelty is like pornography; we know it when we see it, we can be equally repulsed from and attracted to it, and it is dazzlingly difficult to talk about. This introduction begins with a childhood story of mine and invites us to talk openly about the experience of facing cruelty, begins the process of investigating the troublesomeness of the topic, and urges us to continue the conversation together.

Cruelty: A Book About Us is generously funded by The Mellon Foundation and is based on 25 years of research across philosophy, psychology, theology, and political theory. It has brought those disciplines to bear on a subject that belongs to all of us: us, being human, what we mean by that when we mean something about morality, about
the possibility of being inhuman, or acts of inhumanity. For comparison, there are no acts of intactness or incats. There are good cats, bad cats, but not incat or uncat cats.

Cruelty: A Book About Us asks two basic questions that are intimate to each one of us: WHAT is cruelty? And WHAT do we mean by “humanity” as opposed to “inhumanity.” It offers a naked, accessible definition of WHAT cruelty is, from playground teasing to torture, accessible summaries of how it has been thought of in
different areas of scholarship, anecdotes and stories, and, finally, a pathway to understanding what we mean by “humanity” such that it is a good thing and how we can might go about fostering those elements of what makes us what we are.

The book is provocative, a begining to a conversation, and invitation to think together about something very difficult.