Kevin Berger in Nautilus:
It doesn’t seem enough to call Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 innocent people in Las Vegas this month, a monster. The term has lost its power to evoke the unimaginable. The beasts that terrorized the mental lives of our ancestors have been tamed by religion and culture, notes Stephen T. Asma this week in a Nautilus essay, “Why Are So Many Monsters Hybrids?”. So what do we call Paddock?
Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, and author, most recently, of On Monsters and The Evolution of Imagination, says the term “monster” is not ready to be retired. The moniker suits Paddock, he says. “Monster is a term we reserve for people who cannot be negotiated with. It’s almost impossible, if not impossible, to understand their behavior, their motives, their mind. Our regular theory of mind doesn’t work on these people.”
In a ranging interview with Nautilus about mythic and real monsters, Asma talked about the evolutionary origin of werewolves and the psychological fears that give rise to tyrannous leaders. Asma lived in Cambodia for a while and learned about the monstrous rule of Pol Pot. He offered his view of what appeals to Americans about Donald Trump. We delved into the roles that desire and repulsion play in our conceptions of monsters, and why he disagrees with neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett about the source of emotions.