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1 Beaverton Psychology- Mind and Consciousness

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

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The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature Cover

ISBN13: 9780670063277
ISBN10: 0670063274
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

With The Stuff of Thought, linguist Steven Pinker returns to the themes of language and human nature to examine how words express the workings of our minds. Dealing with many aspects of human cognitive and social evolution, Pinker demonstrates his complex ideas with real-world examples, making for mind-stretching yet accessible reading.
Recommended by Chandler, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Every time we swear, we reveal something about human emotions. When we use an innuendo to convey a bribe, threat, or sexual come-on (rather than just blurting it out), we disclose something about human relationships. Our use of prepositions and tenses tap into peculiarly human concepts of space and time, and our nouns and verbs tap into mental models of matter and causation. Even the names we give our babies, as they change from decade to decade, have important things to day about our relations to our children and to society. By looking closely at our everyday speech — our conversations, our jokes, our legal disputes — Pinker paints a vivid picture of the thoughts and emotions that populate our mental lives.

Pinker takes on both scientific questions — like whether language affects thought, and which of our concepts are innate — and questions from the headlines and everyday life. Why does the government care so much about dirty words? How do lobbyists bribe politicians? Why do romantic comedies get such mileage out of the ambiguities of dating? Why do so many courtroom dramas hinge on disagreements about who really caused a person's death? Why have the last two American presidents gotten into trouble by the semantic niceties of their words? And why is bulk email called spam?

The Stuff of Thought marries the two topics of Pinker's earlier bestsellers: language (The Language Instinct, Words and Rules) and human nature (How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate). It presents entirely new material, while written in the style that made those books famous: lucid explanations of deep and powerful ideas, presented with irreverent wit, elegant style, and a deft use of examples from popular culture and everyday life.

Review:

"'Bestselling Harvard psychology professor Pinker (The Blank Slate) investigates what the words we use tell us about the way we think. Language, he concludes, reflects our brain structure, which itself is innate. Similarly, the way we talk about things is rooted in, but not identical to, physical reality: human beings take 'the analogue flow of sensation the world presents to them' and 'package their experience into objects and events.' Examining how we do this, the author summarizes and rejects such linguistic theories as 'extreme nativism' and 'radical pragmatism' as he tosses around terms like 'content-locative' and 'semantic reconstrual' that may seem daunting to general readers. But Pinker, a masterful popularizer, illuminates this specialized material with homely illustrations. The difference between drinking from a glass of beer and drinking a glass of beer, for example, shows that 'the mind has the power to frame a single situation in very different ways.' Separate chapters explore concepts of causality, naming, swearing and politeness as the tools with which we organize the flow of raw information. Metaphor in particular, he asserts, helps us 'entertain new ideas and new ways of managing our affairs.' His vivid prose and down-to-earth attitude will once again attract an enthusiastic audience outside academia. (Sept.)' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Language comes so naturally to us that it's easy to believe there's some sort of intrinsic logic connecting the thing and its name, the signifier and the signified. In one of Plato's dialogues, a character named Cratylus argues that 'a power more than human gave things their first names.'

But Cratylus was wrong. Human language is an emanation of the human mind. A thing doesn't care... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Pinker is a star, and the world of science is lucky to have him." Richard Dawkins

Review:

"[F]ull of Pinker's delightfully wry sense of humor which made my wife wonder why I kept laughing as I read a serious book on language and mind." Abbas Raza, 3 Quark Daily

Review:

"The Stuff Of Thought is an excellent book, and while it may not be as groundbreaking and controversial as some of his earlier works, it is easily his most accessible and fun book to read." Dan Schneider, Monsters and Critics

Review:

"A fascinating look at how language provides a window into the deepest functioning of the human brain." Josie Glausiusz, Wired

Review:

"[A] stimulating volume....From politics to poetry, children's wonderful malapropisms to slang, Pinker's fluency in the nuances of words and syntax serves as proof of his faith in language as 'a window into human nature.'" Booklist

Review:

"A book on semantics may not sound especially enticing, but with Pinker as your guide, pondering what the meaning of 'is' is can be mesmerizing." Details

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Pinker marries two of the subjects he knows best: language and human nature. The result is a fascinating look at how words explain human nature.

Synopsis:

The bold futurist and bestselling author explores the limitless potential of reverse-engineering the human brain

The bold futurist and author of The New York Times bestseller The Singularity Is Near explores the limitless potential of reverse-engineering the human brain.

Ray Kurzweil is arguably todayandrsquo;s most influentialandmdash;and often controversialandmdash;futurist. In How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil presents a provocative exploration of the most important project in human-machine civilizationandmdash;reverse engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works and using that knowledge to create even more intelligent machines.

Kurzweil discusses how the brain functions, how the mind emerges from the brain, and the implications of vastly increasing the powers of our intelligence in addressing the worldandrsquo;s problems. He thoughtfully examines emotional and moral intelligence and the origins of consciousness and envisions the radical possibilities of our merging with the intelligent technology we are creating.

Certain to be one of the most widely discussed and debated science books of the year, How to Create a Mind is sure to take its place alongside Kurzweilandrsquo;s previous classics.

Synopsis:

This New York Times bestseller is an exciting and fearless investigation of language

Bestselling author Steven Pinker possesses that rare combination of scientific aptitude and verbal eloquence that enables him to provide lucid explanations of deep and powerful ideas. His previous books?including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Blank Slate?have catapulted him into the limelight as one of today?s most important popular science writers. In The Stuff of Thought, Pinker presents a fascinating look at how our words explain our nature. Considering scientific questions with examples from everyday life, The Stuff of Thought is a brilliantly crafted and highly readable work that will appeal to fans of everything from The Selfish Gene and Blink to Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

About the Author

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor of psychology at Harvard University. In 2006, Time named him one of the 100 most important people in the world. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as The New York Times, Time, and Slate, and is the author of six books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, and The Blank Slate.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

PETER TEIMAN CLARK, November 19, 2007 (view all comments by PETER TEIMAN CLARK)
Hi,PETER TEIMAN CLARK here,
A user-friendly glimpse into the epistemology of cognitive sciences.
Thanks,
PETER TEIMAN CLARK
Sweden

Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(17 of 31 readers found this comment helpful)
patswee2006, November 15, 2007 (view all comments by patswee2006)
Once you read this book, you will never again (I hope!) dismiss an opponent's argument as "mere semantics." Not only does Pinker prove that shades of meaning among words are important (hardly a revolutionary insight), but he also shows how the meanings attached to certain words reveal structures in the brain that have nothing to do with language or the words we use--and this IS revolutionary! If you've ever wondered how human beings managed to think for nearly 3 million years before language was invented, this book will make that clear.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(28 of 48 readers found this comment helpful)
DOCTOR PETER TEIMAN FRANKLIN, September 26, 2007 (view all comments by DOCTOR PETER TEIMAN FRANKLIN)
DOCTOR PETER TEIMAN FRANKLIN HERE,
The author well describes the importance of cognitive epistemology.
DOCTOR PETER TEIMAN FRANKLIN
FRANCE
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(23 of 50 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 3 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780670063277
Subtitle:
Language as a Window into Human Nature
Author:
Pinker, Steven
Author:
Kurzweil, Ray
Author:
Olsher, Dean
Publisher:
Penguin Audio
Subject:
Social Psychology
Subject:
Linguistics
Subject:
Philosophy & Social Aspects
Subject:
Personality
Subject:
Philosophy
Subject:
Thought and thinking
Subject:
Psychology
Subject:
Language and languages -- Philosophy.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
CD-Audio
Publication Date:
20070911
Binding:
CD-audio
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
b/w illustrations throughout
Pages:
512
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Cognitive Science
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Mind and Consciousness
History and Social Science » Linguistics » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Ethology and Animal Behavior

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.95 In Stock
Product details 512 pages Viking Books - English 9780670063277 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

With The Stuff of Thought, linguist Steven Pinker returns to the themes of language and human nature to examine how words express the workings of our minds. Dealing with many aspects of human cognitive and social evolution, Pinker demonstrates his complex ideas with real-world examples, making for mind-stretching yet accessible reading.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "'Bestselling Harvard psychology professor Pinker (The Blank Slate) investigates what the words we use tell us about the way we think. Language, he concludes, reflects our brain structure, which itself is innate. Similarly, the way we talk about things is rooted in, but not identical to, physical reality: human beings take 'the analogue flow of sensation the world presents to them' and 'package their experience into objects and events.' Examining how we do this, the author summarizes and rejects such linguistic theories as 'extreme nativism' and 'radical pragmatism' as he tosses around terms like 'content-locative' and 'semantic reconstrual' that may seem daunting to general readers. But Pinker, a masterful popularizer, illuminates this specialized material with homely illustrations. The difference between drinking from a glass of beer and drinking a glass of beer, for example, shows that 'the mind has the power to frame a single situation in very different ways.' Separate chapters explore concepts of causality, naming, swearing and politeness as the tools with which we organize the flow of raw information. Metaphor in particular, he asserts, helps us 'entertain new ideas and new ways of managing our affairs.' His vivid prose and down-to-earth attitude will once again attract an enthusiastic audience outside academia. (Sept.)' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Pinker is a star, and the world of science is lucky to have him."
"Review" by , "[F]ull of Pinker's delightfully wry sense of humor which made my wife wonder why I kept laughing as I read a serious book on language and mind."
"Review" by , "The Stuff Of Thought is an excellent book, and while it may not be as groundbreaking and controversial as some of his earlier works, it is easily his most accessible and fun book to read."
"Review" by , "A fascinating look at how language provides a window into the deepest functioning of the human brain."
"Review" by , "[A] stimulating volume....From politics to poetry, children's wonderful malapropisms to slang, Pinker's fluency in the nuances of words and syntax serves as proof of his faith in language as 'a window into human nature.'"
"Review" by , "A book on semantics may not sound especially enticing, but with Pinker as your guide, pondering what the meaning of 'is' is can be mesmerizing."
"Synopsis" by , New York Times bestselling author Pinker marries two of the subjects he knows best: language and human nature. The result is a fascinating look at how words explain human nature.
"Synopsis" by ,
The bold futurist and bestselling author explores the limitless potential of reverse-engineering the human brain

The bold futurist and author of The New York Times bestseller The Singularity Is Near explores the limitless potential of reverse-engineering the human brain.

Ray Kurzweil is arguably todayandrsquo;s most influentialandmdash;and often controversialandmdash;futurist. In How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil presents a provocative exploration of the most important project in human-machine civilizationandmdash;reverse engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works and using that knowledge to create even more intelligent machines.

Kurzweil discusses how the brain functions, how the mind emerges from the brain, and the implications of vastly increasing the powers of our intelligence in addressing the worldandrsquo;s problems. He thoughtfully examines emotional and moral intelligence and the origins of consciousness and envisions the radical possibilities of our merging with the intelligent technology we are creating.

Certain to be one of the most widely discussed and debated science books of the year, How to Create a Mind is sure to take its place alongside Kurzweilandrsquo;s previous classics.

"Synopsis" by ,
This New York Times bestseller is an exciting and fearless investigation of language

Bestselling author Steven Pinker possesses that rare combination of scientific aptitude and verbal eloquence that enables him to provide lucid explanations of deep and powerful ideas. His previous books?including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Blank Slate?have catapulted him into the limelight as one of today?s most important popular science writers. In The Stuff of Thought, Pinker presents a fascinating look at how our words explain our nature. Considering scientific questions with examples from everyday life, The Stuff of Thought is a brilliantly crafted and highly readable work that will appeal to fans of everything from The Selfish Gene and Blink to Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

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