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Interview with Steven Pinker: Are we getting better?

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(Read caption) Despite some setbacks, Pinker makes a case in "The Better Angels of Our Nature" that homicide, rape, and the number of wars being fought have all drastically fallen over several centuries.

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In his latest book The Better Angels of our Nature, Steven Pinker argues that the world has never been a safer place to live in. Looking back at the history of violence from prehistoric times up the present day, Pinker says it became far more beneficial for human beings to be less violent.

Despite some setbacks (mainly in the first half of the 20th century), Pinker says that – with the help of factors such as the rise of commerce, mass education, and the rule of law – homicide, rape, and the number of wars being fought have all drastically fallen over several centuries.

Using a substantial amount of empirical data, scientific reasoning, and enthusiastic praise for the ideas of the Enlightenment, Pinker argues that although violence will probably never be eradicated, in the modern world we are far more in touch with the "better angels of our nature."

Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University and this is his 13th book published to date. His other famous books include: "The Blank Slate" (2002), which postulates that that human behaviour is substantially shaped by evolutionary psychological adaptations; "How the Mind Works" (1997), which draws heavily on the paradigm of evolutionary psychology and helps to explain some of the mind’s poorly understood functions and quirks; and "The Language Instinct" (1994), where he argues that humans are born with an innate capacity for language.

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