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Paperback The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature Book

ISBN: 0142003344

ISBN13: 9780142003343

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

(Book #3 in the Language and Human Nature Tetralogy Series)

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Book Overview

A brilliant inquiry into the origins of human nature from the author of Rationality, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Enlightenment Now.

"Sweeping, erudite, sharply argued, and fun to read..also highly persuasive." --Time

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

Updated with a new afterword

One of the world's leading experts on language and the mind explores the idea of human nature...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Review for condition of book received.

Book was sold as like new. With underlining on almost every page I would not consider this book like new.

Human Nature Makes a Comeback

The Blank Slate deserves all the praise it has received. Steven Pinker presents an extremely eloquent, well reasoned, comprehensive and entertaining renunciation of the holy trinity of social science - the blank slate, noble savage, and ghost in the machine; ideologies that have created serious obstacles to the application of modern scientific research in genetics, biology and psychology to a better understanding of who we really are.The more widely this book is read, the sooner we can increase the effectiveness with which we understand and tackle real personal and social problems from a fact-based and positive perspective of human nature.The book is academically very strong and the arguments are well presented and convincing, so much so that this book will doubtless receive future credit for putting the study of human nature back onto the social science agenda. Steven Pinker may surprise you, perhaps provoke you but he will definitely educate you, entertain you and leave you thinking about human nature in a very new way.

Nature vs. nurture case closed--with reservations

Sociobiology is a controversial, yet important and growing field of scientific exploration. No other field of science elicits as much condemnation from academics and intellectuals, yet no other scientific endeavor has ever cast as much light on the truth about the evolution of human nature. The reason for the distain shown by academic intellectuals is sociobiology's crushing refutation of the concept known as the "blank slate" theory of human nature, which has become the cornerstone of postmodernist ideals of political correctness. The entire edifice of the postmodern human engineering project carried on at many universities and in the popular media is based upon the concept that "everything is political", and that the attribute we call "human nature" is nothing more than cultural propaganda instilled into children by their parents and reinforced throughout their lives by a rigid, chauvinistic propaganda machine that has become known as "Western Civilization". Evidence is fast mounting that human nature is anything but nonexistent, sociobiology is the area of science where this evidence is researched and proven, and Steven Pinker has done a good job of organizing and, with some reservations, elucidating the evidence. In short, boys and girls are no more identical above the neck than they are below, and every personal psychological attribute is nearly as genetically heritable as every physical attribute. This book proves to my satisfaction that human nature is a factor in the human condition, and that the blank slate theory of personality is a politically correct joke.This is a long book, a bit tedious in places, but well written, interesting and even humorous overall. The inference that genetic influences are the all-important factor in life outcome is, I think, patently false and contradicted by experience and common sense. The best possible proof of this is contained in a short, fascinating book written by Theodore Dalrymple called "Life at the bottom", which I would strongly recommend as a reality-check by which to measure some of the tenants of sociobiology presented in Pinker's book. This is especially useful when evaluating chapter 19 on the debate about nature/nurture as it concerns children. Dalrymple's book is a collection of anecdotes gleaned from the experiences of a physician who has spent his life ministering to the British underclass. He does not discredit sociobiology, a subject which is never mentioned in his book. He illuminates the subject in the light of harsh reality.In spite of its deficiencies, however, sociobiology goes a long way toward explaining how genetic tendencies coalesce into the characteristics known as "human nature". It also casts light upon the reasons that 20th century attempts to engineer utopian societies culminated in failure (and in the case of Marxist projects, the deaths of as many as a hundred million people). Sociobiology is, however explicitly silent upon the subject of how best to

If you read one book in your life, read "The Blank Slate."

This is the book I've been waiting for all my life."The Blank Slate" is an utterly brilliant work. Its science is unassailable, its conclusions are astounding, and its implications for the future of both science and the humanities are enormous.Like Samson toppling the temple of Dagon, Pinker casts down three of the major pillars of modern political and academic debate: the Blank Slate (the view that the mind is infinitely malleable, and is shaped entirely by parents and/or the media), the Noble Savage (the view that indigenous peoples of the world are far more peaceable and enlightened than the citizens of modern societies, and, consequently, that modern civilization itself is the root of all social ills), and the Ghost in the Machine (the belief that the human "soul" is made up of some magical material somehow separate from the operation of the human brain).This book builds a desperately-needed bridge between the sciences and the humanities. It presents a worldview that is simultaneously pragmatic, moral, ethical, scientifically defensible, and unflinchingly moderate. In the process, Pinker brilliantly smashes many of the most extreme intellectual and political fallacies of our day -- the intellectually bankrupt social constructionism of academia, the racist theories of modern Nazism, the fallacious social-engineering ideals of modern Marxism, the absurd relativism of modern gender feminism, and the sanctimonious moralistic paranoia of modern religious conservatism.I should note that a few reviewers inaccurately complain that "Nobody believes in the blank slate any more." This is a gross mischaracterization. Pinker's book is not intended for the scientific community, which has generally accepted the facts and conclusions presented in this book for decades. The Blank Slate is intended for a much broader audience. The arts, the media, the humanities, and the political extremes of both the right and the left frequently behave as though the doctrines of the Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine were self-evident truths. As science continues to shovel dirt onto the graves of these fallacies, much of modern political and intellectual debate continues as though they still lived.This book has the potential to radically transform our shared worldview. We as a society desperately need to heal these mischaracterizations of the human mind and learn from the discoveries of modern science.I for one will be rereading this book for a long time to come.I cannot recommend any book more highly.

A Treatise On Human Nature for Our Times

Steven Pinker's book is a wonderful explication of what we now know about human nature. As such, it mounts a powerful attack on postmodernist attemps to argue that humans are completely malleable and socially constructed. The book reminds me most of David Hume's A Treatise on Human Nature. Like Hume, Pinker attacks the reigning orthodoxies and pieties of the politically and religiously correct. Because of such sacrilege, he will be attacked as an immoralist, just as Hume was. But like Hume, Pinker is in reality engaged in a deeply moral enterprise. By dispelling myths that are often propogated by ideologues to advance their agenda (such as the myth that the average man and woman differ only anatomically and not in their desires and interests), he makes it easier to understand the real costs and benefits of different social policies (such as quotas for women, whether in college athletics or on the job). By helping us understand the biologicaly wellsprings of our conflicts with others, be they parents, children, friends, or mates, he provides an important step to living with them more humanely and kindly. In perhaps its most completely original chapter, the book even uses his a theory of biologically shaped human nature to diagnose the discontents of much modern art, and if taken to heart, may show a way out of the cul de sac in which those who claim the mind is a blank slate have trapped many proud artistic traditions. The Blank Slate is a vaccination against the characteristic follies and errors of postmodernism and as such should be required reading for all students at our often diseased universities.
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