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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
A truly awesome book. It's amazing how entrenched the 3 dogmas are on both the Right and the Left. After you read it, political arguments never quite look the same.Published 20 days ago by Spencer Dupre
This book updates us on several levels of neuropsychology. What works and what is a myth is exposed in several areas of life including parenting, arts, and violence. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Bob
Pinker is good at taking someone else's ideas and repackaging them with decent writing. That wouldn't bother me as to show me, the layman, a broad catalogue to explore. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Rotten Puppy
A challenging read, but well worth plowing through. Pinker's writing is excellent. He leads the reader through complex arguments with clarity while keeping a casual style and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by MJS
As I have personally experienced some of the situations included for too long unhappiness has been caused by the belief that people are able to be moulded.Published 4 months ago by Ken McEwen
A fascinating review of the Nature vs. Nurture debate, debunking the feel-good, head-in-the-sand consensus dogma that is the Blank Slate and underlies just about every asinine... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Hojat I Salehi
One cannot be ignorant of the issues and research findings reviewed in this book. Pinker is a very readable expositor of very deed and challenging ideas. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Robert B. Miller