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The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Penguin Press Science)

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Penguin Press Science)

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The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Penguin Press Science)

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Penguin Press Science)

“In a work of outstanding clarity and sheer brilliance Steven Pinker banishes forever fears that a biological understanding of human nature threatens humane values” – Helena Cronin, author of THE ANT and THE PEACOCK.”A mind blowing, mind openingexpos�. Pinker’s profoundly positive arguments for the compatibility of biology and humanism are unrivalled for their scope and depth and should be mandatory, if disquieting, reading”Patricia Goldman-Rakic – Past President of the Society for Neuroscienc

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3 Responses to “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Penguin Press Science)”

  1. pascal dunning says:
    58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Beautiful & Essential Reading, 18 Oct 2002
    By 

    This profound book examines 3 doctrines: The Blank Slate (no human nature), The Noble Savage (no selfish or evil instincts), and The Ghost in the Machine (independent existence of the mind from the body/brain).
    Steven Pinker elegantly presents the evidence against these views, sometimes in concise and quite overwhelmingly devastating lists.
    In a small way this subject matter is similar to J.Diamond’s ‘The 3rd Chimpanzee’ or E.O. Wilson’s ‘Consilience’- showing that we are imperfect products of evolution, limited in knowledge and wisdom, tempted by status and power, and blinded by self-deception and delusions of moral superiority.
    If this were all the book was about it would still be fascinating reading. Fortunately however, Pinker has gone two steps further, thus making this book a landmark in the Nature/Nurture debate.
    Firstly he explains that the reason why so many people (Postmodernists, Marxists, Gender Feminists etc) want to believe in these 3 doctrines is based on fears of inequality, determinism, imperfectability, and nihilism. He examines each of these fears and demonstrates that they are based on a poverty of understanding of human nature (the 3 doctrines), a myriad of fallacies and non sequiturs, a lack of understanding of ethics, and moralistic self-displays.
    Secondly, in agreement with Chekhov’s ‘Man will become better when you show him what he is like’, Pinker gives powerful and sensible arguments how an accurate understanding of human nature would aid in the reduction of violence & oppression and increase human happiness. They are a real and timely intellectual treat, brimming with positive potential of application.
    For those new to evolutionary psychology I would recommend that they first read Pinker’s ‘How the Mind Works’ or Robert Wright’s ‘The Moral Animal’.
    It would be an understatement to say that this book is eye-opening. I would regard this book as essential reading to those that think that the Greek’s advice ‘Know thyself’ is sage.

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  2. John James "JMJ" says:
    48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Tabula not so rasa, 11 Oct 2003
    By 
    John James “JMJ” (Surrey, United Kingdom) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    The ‘blank slate’ of the title is the human mind at birth, a view held, often implicitly, by our modern society, which has been conditioned to accept this by religions, progressive educationists, and the left in general. Those who hold the opposing view, that much of our nature is inherited, are subjected to frequent and vicious personal attacks (see the reviews of this book).
    Pinker, however, is made of stern stuff, and has put a large explosive device under his opponents with this book based, as it is, on carefully documented research and grounded in appropriate theory. He ranges from genetics to computational linguistics via neurology and statistical theory in dazzling fashion.
    It might seem that the weight of evidence gathered might cause the book to be heavy going, but the writing is sharper, and the touch is lighter and more humorous than anyone has a right to expect. As an example, consider the following, after a discussion on the effects of ageing: “Forget ‘As the twig is bent, so the tree grows’, think ‘Omigod, I’m turning into my parents’”.
    While there are parts to the book which some will question, Pinker has turned the searchlights of reason and common sense on much of the political correctness of our time, showing how ludicrous most of it is, and showing also how science is beginning to give us a better understanding of what is meant by ‘human nature’. If ‘the proper study of mankind is man’ then this is the essential primer.

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  3. Søren Nørgaard "Søren Nørgaard" says:
    6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    This book is a must, but…., 3 Sep 2009
    By 

    I’d already read the book, but still I had to buy it. The overwhelmingly thorough documentation presented as to determine the human mind, being not a blank slate but an evolutionarily determined complexity, is not only convincing, it states the evolutionary heritage an inevitable fact. The strentgh of the book, however, also describes its weakness. Apparently determined to change a ruling blank slate paradigm Pinker remains in attack mode and consequently, he fails to disclose,(he may not know?)in which way he and other evolutionary psychologists concider the evolutionary understanding a task enhancing improvement. How does he (they)solve the problem of competing traits? How will he (they)distinguish among trait determinations on the side of the investigating part from occurrences investigated? The fields of social science are among other characteristica characterized by the fact that interventions, whatever they basically refer to science, religion or ideologi, necessarily have to be considered by nature interactive with the object determined and investigated and thus by nature, can be determined to be trait-acts.
    Nevertheless, in my opinion the first hundred pages could likely be considered obligatory reading to any student and any other with interests within the fields of social science. Reading “The Blank Slate” certainly will provide broad and knowledgeable insight with related and interconnected fields of science, and will most probably alter previous beleifs.

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