The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

The Better Angels of Our Nature Why Violence Has Declined If I could give each of you a graduation present it would be this the most inspiring book I ve ever read Bill Gates May A provocative history of violence from the New York Times bestselling aut

If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be this the most inspiring book I ve ever read Bill Gates May, 2017 A provocative history of violence from the New York Times bestselling author of The Stuff of Thought, The Blank Slate and the forthcoming Enlightenment Now February 2018 Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be this the most inspiring book I ve ever read Bill Gates May, 2017 A provocative history of violence from the New York Times bestselling author of The Stuff of Thought, The Blank Slate and the forthcoming Enlightenment Now February 2018 Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species existence In his gripping and controversial new work, New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over long stretches of history Exploding myths about humankind s inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious book continues Pinker s exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.

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    102 Steven Pinker
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

  1. Steven Arthur Pinker is a prominent Canadian American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and author of popular science Pinker is known for his wide ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, and is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought Language as a Window into Human Nature.He was born in Canada and graduated from Montreal s Dawson College in 1973 He received a bachelor s degree in experimental psychology from McGill University in 1976, and then went on to earn his doctorate in the same discipline at Harvard in 1979 He did research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT for a year, then became an assistant professor at Harvard and then Stanford University From 1982 until 2003, Pinker taught at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, and eventually became the director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Except for a one year sabbatical at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1995 6 As of 2008, he is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard.Pinker was named one of Time Magazine s 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and one of Prospect and Foreign Policy s 100 top public intellectuals in 2005 He has also received honorary doctorates from the universities of Newcastle, Surrey, Tel Aviv, McGill, and the University of Troms , Norway He was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, in 1998 and in 2003 In January 2005, Pinker defended Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, whose comments about the gender gap in mathematics and science angered much of the faculty On May 13th 2006, Pinker received the American Humanist Association s Humanist of the Year award for his contributions to public understanding of human evolution.In 2007, he was invited on The Colbert Report and asked under pressure to sum up how the brain works in five words Pinker answered Brain cells fire in patterns Pinker was born into the English speaking Jewish community of Montreal He has said, I was never religious in the theological sense I never outgrew my conversion to atheism at 13, but at various times was a serious cultural Jew As a teenager, he says he considered himself an anarchist until he witnessed civil unrest following a police strike in 1969 His father, a trained lawyer, first worked as a traveling salesman, while his mother was first a home maker then a guidance counselor and high school vice principal He has two younger siblings His brother is a policy analyst for the Canadian government His sister, Susan Pinker, is a school psychologist and writer, author of The Sexual Paradox.Pinker married Nancy Etcoff in 1980 and they divorced 1992 he married Ilavenil Subbiah in 1995 and they too divorced His current wife is the novelist and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein He has no children.He is currently working on an upcoming book about the evolution of human morality, specifically focusing on the historical decline of violence and its psychological roots as stated by the author himself on the Harvard website.

129 Reply to “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”

  1. Breathtakingly mindless for 2 5 of the book, blowhard the whole way through.Sometimes a good joke is revealing than 800 pages of blowhardness Pinker gives himself away with this quote by George Carlin on page 622 I think motivation is overrated You show me some lazy prick who s lying around all day watching game shows and stroking his penis, and I ll show you someone who s not causing any fucking trouble I hope I am not the only one who thinks it is not necessarily a good thing to be reduced to [...]

  2. VIOLENCE HAS DECLINED, AND I WILL KICK THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF ANYONE WHO SAYS IT HASN TDisappointingly, Pinker strikes a slightly less confrontational tone than that, but the basic idea is the same His thesis is that violence of every kind, from international warfare down to murder and corporal punishment, has been on a steady decline throughout human history, up to and including the present day and not only does he make this case in considerable detail, but he goes on to give a very wide rangin [...]

  3. The Skeptic s PeacePinker warns the reader upfront that the book is huge, and with than 800 dense pages there is no question about it It is so wide ranging that it is fortunate it has such a memorable title the reader might have easily lost track of where it is all supposed to be heading Individually, any single section of the book is a throughly entertaining masterpiece, but as a whole, in terms of coherence, and on how the thesis and the direction of the arguments hold together, the book is n [...]

  4. This seems like a stunning misstep by the normally brilliant Steven Pinker His ability to write with extraordinary force and clarity has been demonstrated repeatedly in two separate areas of expertise linguistics and cognitive science Unfortunately, the brilliance of his earlier books in those areas is nowhere in evidence in this regrettable dog s breakfast of a book I found it almost unreadable poorly argued, undisciplined, self indulgent, and despite its grotesquely bloated length 800 pages su [...]

  5. When an academic steps outside his or her field of expertise, it s best to brace yourself for a torrent of nonsense Steven Pinker, whose work in linguistics and psychology I greatly enjoy, has made a habit of using that work as a springboard to foist his pet political theories on the public Whereas his previous attempt in The Blank Slate The Modern Denial of Human Nature was a vehicle for his ideological ramblings, it was at least not based on a gaping statistical flaw and had some value in refu [...]

  6. In this book, Steven Pinker explores a very controversial thesis, that is, violence is declining Different types of violence are declining on multiple time scales It would seem like the twentieth century had some major wars and plenty of genocide to make his thesis sound rather foolish But in the first seven chapters he shows lots and lots of statistics to back up his thesis In the eighth and ninth chapters he also explores the scientific reasons for violence and the reasons for increasingly non [...]

  7. I have a peripheral awareness that Pinker awakens red penitus in a goodly proportion of his stalwart readers but I don t know why I shan t delve into this before I write up better angels don t want to be distracted by noise 800 pages of socio economic postulating always an inexact science, is going to rub someone the wrong way hither or thither We see what we want to see, and 800 pages of the humanities is like waving a red flag to a bull plenty of scope to flare up, statistically speaking, and [...]

  8. I love optimistic books, and there is a lot of optimism in the almost 800 pages of The better angels of our nature At the same time, I find it impossible to give a single opinion about this behemoth of a book, because I found some of its elements truly excellent, some ok, and some absolutely scream out loud dreadful In brief the great the quality of the writing is superb This is one of the best books I ve ever read in terms of clarity of exposition and effectiveness of the writing Also, at the v [...]

  9. Steven Pinker has written a monster of a book He has used his intelligence to crunch a huge volume of material He has made a number of great points to which I m sure to be referring often.Yet despite all the insights and accompanying drum rolls, I am suspicious of the dramatic hypothesis, the grand prediction that humankind has learned in any permanent sense to be kinder and gentler That hypothesis is a welcome change from all the dystopian predictions, and I do think I, and western civilization [...]

  10. Steven Pinker certain ranges widely in intellectual circles Although he is nominally a professor of psychology at Harvard, but even with specialties per in experimental psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, he somehow dove into history to present one of the best TED Talks, back in 2007 Steven Pinker on the myth of violence watch those nineteen minutes, if you haven t already.Wonderfully, he has now followed that presentation up with an entire volume.Peter Singer wrote the glowing review of [...]

  11. Are you afraid of being of being attacked or murdered Do you think our society is becoming violent and less safe If you watch the news, read the papers and listen to politicians it would be logical to be afraid of the seemingly rising tide of violence and criminality in the world However, Steven Pinker s The Better Angels of Our Nature will show you your feelings are misguided crime and violence in society is lower than it has ever been, and our often idealized past even the recent past was a v [...]

  12. Steven Pinker s The Better Angels of Our Nature Why Violence Has Declined is a big ambitious book Perhaps too big, perhaps too ambitious And perhaps, too sprawling for its own good One could opt for a Peace Studies reader and get a eclectic taste of what research is out there Would it be as comprehensive as this book Maybe, maybe not, but you would get the benefit of tasting the many kinds of literature through many different voices Here, we get a great deal of peace science, behavioral science [...]

  13. Make me a t shirt that says I read an 800 page book and all I got from it was this lousy review The Good There s a nice irreverent romp through the Bible, he shows what monsters chivalrous knights were, shows why we shouldn t be so afraid of terrorist attacks or child abductions or Iran The bad everything else.How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Conquistadors Though imperial conquest and rule can themselves be brutal, they do reduce endemic violence among the conquered 56.P opens with so [...]

  14. This book is sure to anger or confuse just about everyone who cares about the world today, but particularly those who love to hate the idea of cultural progress What You gotta be kidding violence has declined over time No frikin way just look at the news But be assured after you read only a few pages of this book, you ll be reminded of what life used be like in the foreign country called The Past and you just might change your tune and recognize how, for large sectors of the world s population, [...]

  15. After a steady recent diet of short attention span theater internet surfing, it was very interesting to dive into a dense read that took me a week to chew through I am not a very fast reader, but I m usually faster than that The exercise of following a really long, complex, sustained argument was probably good for me.Seven chapters of convincing examination of historical evidence to the best approximation that could be managed, all of which jibes well with what I know or have experienced of hist [...]

  16. Pinker goes into voluminous detail to show us that violence has steadily declined in human society since prehistoric times In this well structured work rich with statistics, charts, and the ideas of influential scholars he identifies six prevailing trends The Pacification Process, the Civilizing Process, the Humanitarian Revolution, the Long Peace, the New Peace, and the Rights Revolutions Turning from history to psychology he identifies five inner demons that lead us to violence Predation, domi [...]

  17. Loathing is the word It infuriated me You d think that after all these years one would stop being surprised by this style of typical new atheist liberal argumentation but when I see this much cherrypicking, oversimplification, handwaving and western supremacism shoved into a single book, I still get all worked up And of course, it doesn t help that they call themselves The Brights and The Enlightened etc I mean, who does that Even if I was intellectually convinced by their arguments, I still wou [...]

  18. Mind blowing book I have never read a book about history and statistics that was this interesting I love how Steven Pinker argues with countless studies and a great logical validity This book is a must read book for anyone interested in sociology, history, politics and environment This book breaks the long romanticized picture of the past which has been filled with nostalgia and confirmation biases.

  19. Did this really take two and a half years to read I see that it did I picked it up after a new ish boyfriend press ganged me into seeing Pinker talking about his new book this one in Edinburgh, and thinking that it sounded fascinating and potentially relevant to a PhD I was considering doing Well, the PhD idea is discarded, and as for the boyfriend, I swapped Pinker for Susanna Clarke and moved in with him He finished my book first.The premise of The Better Angels of Our Nature is that the world [...]

  20. I have recently learned about some stunning statistical anomalies and misinterpretations in here which I had shamefully missed A simple understanding of Chinese history in the 20th century already seems to be a profound stumbling block for this hypothesis The jury is out Further deliberation continues.

  21. Audio Books Educational MP3 Variable Englishblurb We ve all had the experience of reading about a bloody war or shocking crime and asking, What is the world coming to But we seldom ask, How bad was the world in the past In this startling new book, the best selling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse In fact, we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species existence.Evidence of a bloody history has always been around us the genocides in the [...]

  22. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature If men were angels, no government would be necessary If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary The Federalist, No 51, James MadisonThis is easily one of the best books of 2011, and I suppose it must already be earmarked as a Pulitzer finalist It s about violence, but so much than that since it strikes at the very core of human nature, the human condition, [...]

  23. I better admit up front that I don t have any intuitive or educated grasp on statistics, and without actually sitting down with the data sets, I haven t the least idea of whether they re appropriately chosen, correctly delineated, etc, etc I do note, though, that Steven Pinker is a respected academic, Penguin are a respected publisher, and I was directed to reading this by another academic Where he talks about history, he seems to be broadly correct, and his explanation of his graphs and statist [...]

  24. Pinker has disappointed me for so long that it is no surprise to me to discover that this is the work of a charlatan Here on try David Giltinan s review.But also zcommunications realit is worthy of a read.Is his basic message pretty much that if first world white people aren t dying, then violence is decreasing And has this been greeted with great approbation in ummm the first white world Oh deary me.

  25. In reviewing The Better Angels of our Nature, I find myself struggling to avoid the absolutes that Pinker so deftly dodges in this epic study of the history of violence in humankinds history This book is possibly the best structured arguement I have read even if it does result in a book that you clearly need to pick up with both hands so as to not inflict spinal damage on yourself and leaves you with a fresh perspective on things that you took as given in so many ways.To even begin to try and su [...]

  26. This is a sprawling mess of a book Flashes of arguably brilliant insight alternate with meandering musings Fascinating narrow conclusions are drawn from carefully parsed evidence and then sweeping conclusions are drawn from highly dubious evidence Historical insights are used incisively in an argument then the next argument is undermined by total historical illiteracy At the end, the reader is left uncertain whether he has read 800 pages of genius, 800 pages of authoritative sounding but meaning [...]

  27. Stunning book Probably the most fascinating nonfiction I ve ever found In recorded form, this was 36 hours long, but it was divided into sections that seemed like full books in themselves.What a work of scholarship In order to demonstrate the shift toward greater kindness and less violence in the world, Steven Pinker first examined, thoroughly, the many forms that cruelty has taken since our earliest primate ancestors He then summarized the relevant studies in the sciences and social sciences th [...]

  28. This was really really good, as in, maybe the best book I ve read that year Time and again, I was shocked to find subjects treated of keen interest to me, or which read like Pinker had taken some of my essays but done them way better on terrorism, on the expanding circle, etc even so, I was surprised to learn new things resource problems don t correlate well with violence.I initially thought I might excerpt some parts of it for an essay or article, but as the quotes kept piling up, I realized th [...]

  29. There is a reason that I made reason the last of the better angels of our nature Once a society has a degree of civilization in place, it is reason that offers the greatest degree of hope for further reducing violence The other angels have been with us for as long as we ve been human, but during most of our long existence they have been unable to prevent war, slavery, despotism, institutionalized sadism, and the oppression of women As important as they are, empathy, self control, and the moral s [...]

  30. Pinker s Better Angels of Our Nature Why Violence Has Declined is one of the most impressive books I ve ever read, which is not to say that I found it always convincing This book is not only interesting because most readers will learn a lot, it s also interesting, perhaps even inspiring, to observe Pinker attempting to prove his thesis that violence has declined and then to explain the whys I sometimes find myself thinking this guy must have spent months in the library Maybe he had his students [...]

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