Charles Clanton Rogers

Reflections based on poetry, music, visual art, book reviews, history of science, first-person history, philosophical essays and International Blogging

The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature

Steven Pinker has penned a fascinating review of “man’s inhumanity to man”.   Be prepared to read some encouraging information about violence. 

Properly so, we are alarmed with daily reports of murder, rapes, assaults and cruelty, especially to infants and children. Television’s “Breaking News”  and The Tabloids, extract great profit from the unrelenting drum beating and crashing cymbals with every report.  The reports of these crimes are often accompanied by editorial judgments which imply that this inhumanity is increasing in its frequency and is a growing problem.  Each day as I watch the news, I am appalled at the atrocities reported. It is not only “over there”,  it seems to become the “new normal” across our country.

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Pinker documents evidence of a bloody history that has always been in the history of human events as far back as recorded history. Archeology reveals evidence preceding recorded history.  The genocides in the Old Testament and the crucifixions in the New; the gory mutilations in Shakespeare and Grimm; the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals, what the Europeans did to the natives of the new world and torture and murder in a distortion of religion  are reviewed.

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Literature is replete  with nonchalant treatment of a  culture of wife-beating, child abuse, and the extermination of native people. Not long ago, executions were village entertainment.  The author reports that some villages without prisoners would pay another village to “rent-a-prisoner” to hang publicly for the enjoyment of their own citizens!

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Pinker makes a strong argument, that without being complacent with our present  crime rate, that we can be encouraged that our persistent efforts to attempt to eradicate cruelty can yield a more civilized society.  There has definitely been a steady  decline in these brutal practices and Pinker has quantified this improvement. The author believes that the  key to explaining this decline of violence is to understand the  “inner demons that incline us toward violence, such as revenge, sadism, and tribalism”.  He believes humans have “better angels that steer us away”  from cruelty.

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Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly “control our impulses, empathize with others, bargain rather than plunder”.  We debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence. Pinker will force you to rethink your deepest beliefs about progress, modernity, and human nature. This gripping book is sure to be among the most debated of the century so far.

Refer: 2011 Steven Pinker, The Better  Angels  of Our Nature,  Viking, , NY, NY, 2011, also  Brilliance Audio, Inc. and Kindle.

Charles Clanton Rogers    Revision January 13, 2016 ,   Originally posted in July,  2015

4 thoughts on “Revised Book Review: Our Better Nature

  1. BunKaryudo says:

    I’ve read a couple of his other books (The Blank Slate, How the Mind Works), but not this one. I do know of it, though, because I heard Prof. Pinker talk about it on a podcast. Your review just confirms my original impression that this is a book I really should read when I get the chance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. clanton1934 says:

      It is a stark contrast to the the hysteria which sells newspapers and TV airtime. A welcome relief! c

      Liked by 2 people

      1. BunKaryudo says:

        I couldn’t agree with you more. Terrorism, for example, is a serious problem, but the level of hysteria about it is ridiculous. Some people treat it as if it’s on the same level as Hitler and Japan trying to carve up the world between them.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. bbnewsab says:

    Steven Pinker is a sage – like the man who owns this blog.

    Like

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