The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

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Viking, 2002 - Psychology - 509 pages
24 Reviews
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.

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User Review  - ShadowBarbara - LibraryThing

Excellent book about how we got to this idea that everyone is malleable and "fixable". Overly detailed so it was a bit tedious but well worth the listen Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - fliesbath - LibraryThing

This is a must-read. Pinker argues against the notion that humans are born with a blank slate of personality, etc. Instead, he asserts that we are animals just like every other animal that has certain ... Read full review

Contents

The Blank Slate the Noble Savage
1
Fear and Loathing
103
Human Nature with a Human Face
137
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

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.

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