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The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature Paperback – August 26, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
In his latest and by far his most ambitious work, Steven Pinker tells us, in a lively but dispassionate voice of sweet reason, that the answer is yes. His demolition of cultural relativism may well make him a lot of enemies. He's touched on many of these same ideas before, but now he is spelling out the consequences - and the incompatibility of those consequences with the received wisdom of most of the last century.
His fundamental message is: Yes, Virginia, there is a human nature. People of all cultures are born with a host of inborn predispositions - to acquire language and music, to favor kin over strangers, to desire sex and to be ashamed of it, to value even trades and to punish cheaters, and dozens more. Our common nature springs from our common biology; it is not very malleable, and it is not "socially constructed." Cultural diversity is marvelous, but it is all a variation on an immutable theme; and there have never been any human cultures free of war, of greed, or of prescribed gender roles. (Any more than there have ever been any free of conflict resolution techniques, altruism, and shared parenting.)
His secondary theme is that the differences between people, so much smaller than what we have in common, are also primarily biologically determined. A juggernaut of data has finally put the nature/nurture controversy to rest, at least from a scientific standpoint, and the final score is pretty much nature one, nurture zero.Read more ›
The title, 'The Blank Slate' is one of three commonplace theories that Pinker sees as contributing to the misdirection of politics, society and science in general. In brief, the belief that we are all interchangeable tabula rasas (the blank slate), that we are born with only good instincts only to be corrupted by society (the noble savage) and the existence of 'higher' spirit or soul in each human body (the ghost in the machine.) It's not hard to see why the blank slate is a bogus theory. Humans, as products, of biology have innate urges and are in a sense, genetically INCLINED towrds certain behavior. Why is the blank slate dangerous? Belief that crime can be 'unlearned' through rehabilitation, that 'reality' is simply a synonym for 'conditioned belief' that can be reframed at will, and that there is no thing as measured intellegence- all of these beliefs lead to socially disasterous consequences.
It should be said that the authors goal is not shock us, stir up unnecessary contraversy or get off on offending his readers. This is not an anti-PC book; in fact, Pinker is admirably calm and well-reasoned. He discusses sciences relations to social policy, but doesn't preach about or disclose his political leanings. He talks about feminism but where he comes out against 'gender feminism,' he has nothing but praise for feminisms goals of parity and equality.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Steven Pinker is a truly fine writer for a practicing scientist, which fact further bears out my feeling that one should always read popular science books by scientists rather than... Read morePublished 26 days ago by Sheng
I have to give this book five stars because it had an overwhelming impact on me, although I got a bit impatient with some of the repetitious polemic in support of his conclusions... Read morePublished 29 days ago by Peter Fish
I read his The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined some time ago. This book (being less optimistic) seems to contradict some of the ideas found in that book. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
Steven Pinker has a strong grasp of the human psyche. Both it's innate cores and how it reached it current state. Read morePublished 1 month ago by a customer
Yeah.....and? The author beats a dead horse for a lot of pages. I thought Better Angels of our Nature was worthy of 5 stars but this book covered ground that I felt did not need... Read morePublished 2 months ago by N. Luckhurst
So thankful for his intellectual integrity. Pinker's arguments are completely convincing. I feel like a better thinker after reading him... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Sarah R.