Thursday, June 26, 2014

Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

One advantage of being able to do nothing is the ability to read... My most recent review...

Since the Enlightenment philosophers have asked the question "what is the basic nature of man?" (Unfortunately back in those days women didn't count for much.) Unequiped with the modern tools of inquiry thinkers such as Hobbs (anarchic violence) and Rousseau (pacific ignorance) speculated and wrote on this question. What is the base state of the human character? What is "Nature" and what is "Nurture?" Even suggesting that "Nature" (genetic inheritance) plays a major role has gotten authors pillored - consider the reaction to The Bell Curve by the "correct" thinkers of the current age.
We have learned a lot since the days of Hobbs and Rousseau (and Marx, Lenin and Mao!) Steven Pinker's thesis is that the intellectual children of the Enlightenment have left us with three incorrect models of human nature: "The Blank Slate", "The Noble Savage", and "The Ghost in the Machine." He explodes all three. He also explodes the myth that males and females are identical except for the plumbing.
Many people will find this book uncomfortable as it challenges their basic beliefs. Those who see themselves as paragons of egalitarianism and "human" virtue will be hardest hit. Their cherished notions and solutions for what ails society are exposed as wishful thinking with little or no chance of success. Occasional even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Perhaps on occasion the right solutions come from the wrong motivations. But it is a well know fact that the best way to solve problems it is first to understand them. Otherwise one is shooting in the dark. Mr. Pinker goes a long way in providing illumination.
Given the previous paragraph I need point out that this book is not political. Ones perspective: left, right, liberal, conservative, religious, atheist will not be justified. Rather this book should give one insight into why the unexpected consequences that have become apparent outcomes of "social engineering" should not have been unexpected at all.

Fair winds and following seas:)

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