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The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature


The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Our conceptions of human nature affect everything aspect of our lives, from child-rearing to politics to morality to the arts. Yet many fear that scientific discoveries about innate patterns of thinking and feeling may be used to justify inequality, to subvert social change, and to dissolve personal responsibility.

In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. He shows how many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature and instead have embraced three dogmas: The Blank Slate (the mind has no innate traits), The Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society), and The Ghost in the Machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology). Each dogma carries a moral burden, so their defenders have engaged in desperate tactics to discredit the scientists who are now challenging them.

Pinker provides calm in the stormy debate by disentangling the political and moral issues from the scientific ones. He shows that equality, compassion, responsibility, and purpose have nothing to fear from discoveries about an innately organized psyche. Pinker shows that the new sciences of mind, brain, genes, and evolution, far from being dangerous, are complementing observations about the human condition made by millennia of artists and philosophers. All this is done in the style that earned his previous books many prizes and worldwide acclaim: irreverent wit, lucid exposition, and startling insight on matters great and small.

About the Author

Steven Pinker is one of the world's leading authorities on language and the mind. His popular and highly praised books include Words and Rules, How the Mind Works, and The Language Instinct. The recipient of several major awards for his teaching and scientific research, Pinker is Peter de Florez professor of psychology in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Table of Contents

preface vii

PART I The Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine 1

Chapter 1 The Official Theory 5

Chapter 2 Silly Putty 14

Chapter 3 The Last Wall to Fall 30

Chapter 4 Culture Vultures 59

Chapter 5 The Slate's Last Stand 73

PART II Fear and Loathing 103

Chapter 6 Political Scientists 105

Chapter 7 The Holy Trinity 121

PART III Human Nature with a Human Face 137

Chapter 8 The Fear of Inequality 141

Chapter 9 The Fear of Imperfectibility 159

Chapter 10 The Fear of Determinism 174

Chapter 11 The Fear of Nihilism 186

PART IV Know Thyself 195

Chapter 12 In Touch with Reality 197

Chapter 13 Out of Our Depths 219

Chapter 14 The Many Roots of Our Suffering 241

Chapter 15 The Sanctimonious Animal 269

PART V Hot Buttons 281

Chapter 16 Politics 283

Chapter 17 Violence 306

Chapter 18 Gender 337

Chapter 19 Children 372

Chapter 20 The Arts 400

PART VI The Voice of the Species 421

appendix: Donald E. Brown's List of Human Universals 435

notes 441

references 461

index 491

Product Details

The Denial of Human Nature and Modern Intellectual Life
Pinker, Steven
Viking Adult
New York
Sociology - Social Theory
Nature and nurture
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.56 x 6.46 x 1.69 in 2 lb

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Cognitive Science
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Personality Disorders

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