The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

Steven Pinker / Jun 16, 2019

The Blank Slate The Modern Denial of Human Nature 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 by embra

  • Title: The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
  • Author: Steven Pinker
  • ISBN: 9780142003343
  • Page: 452
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 by embracing three linked 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 eacIn 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 by embracing three linked 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 injects calm and rationality into these debates by showing that equality, progress, responsibility, and purpose have nothing to fear from discoveries about a rich human nature He disarms even the most menacing threats with clear thinking, common sense, and pertinent facts from science and history Despite its popularity among intellectuals during much of the twentieth century, he argues, the doctrine of the Blank Slate may have done harm than good It denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces hardheaded analyses of social problems with feel good slogans, and distorts our understanding of government, violence, parenting, and the arts.Pinker shows that an acknowledgement of human nature that is grounded in science and common sense, far from being dangerous, can complement insights 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 wit, lucidity, and insight into matters great and small.

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    • Free Read [Music Book] ✓ The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature - by Steven Pinker ✓
      452 Steven Pinker
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      Posted by:Steven Pinker
      Published :2018-011-02T13:43:02+00:00

    About "Steven Pinker"

      • Steven Pinker

        Steven Arthur Pinker is a prominent Canadian American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and author of popular science Pinker is known for his wide ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, and is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought Language as a Window into Human Nature.He was born in Canada and graduated from Montreal s Dawson College in 1973 He received a bachelor s degree in experimental psychology from McGill University in 1976, and then went on to earn his doctorate in the same discipline at Harvard in 1979 He did research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT for a year, then became an assistant professor at Harvard and then Stanford University From 1982 until 2003, Pinker taught at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, and eventually became the director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Except for a one year sabbatical at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1995 6 As of 2008, he is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard.Pinker was named one of Time Magazine s 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and one of Prospect and Foreign Policy s 100 top public intellectuals in 2005 He has also received honorary doctorates from the universities of Newcastle, Surrey, Tel Aviv, McGill, and the University of Troms , Norway He was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, in 1998 and in 2003 In January 2005, Pinker defended Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, whose comments about the gender gap in mathematics and science angered much of the faculty On May 13th 2006, Pinker received the American Humanist Association s Humanist of the Year award for his contributions to public understanding of human evolution.In 2007, he was invited on The Colbert Report and asked under pressure to sum up how the brain works in five words Pinker answered Brain cells fire in patterns Pinker was born into the English speaking Jewish community of Montreal He has said, I was never religious in the theological sense I never outgrew my conversion to atheism at 13, but at various times was a serious cultural Jew As a teenager, he says he considered himself an anarchist until he witnessed civil unrest following a police strike in 1969 His father, a trained lawyer, first worked as a traveling salesman, while his mother was first a home maker then a guidance counselor and high school vice principal He has two younger siblings His brother is a policy analyst for the Canadian government His sister, Susan Pinker, is a school psychologist and writer, author of The Sexual Paradox.Pinker married Nancy Etcoff in 1980 and they divorced 1992 he married Ilavenil Subbiah in 1995 and they too divorced His current wife is the novelist and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein He has no children.He is currently working on an upcoming book about the evolution of human morality, specifically focusing on the historical decline of violence and its psychological roots as stated by the author himself on the Harvard website.


    1. I'm an atheist. I've always been and always will be (god willing). When I was a kid, I used to envy the religious folks who seemed to be having such deep meaningful fun all the time. It's not that I hate religion, or the idea of god, it's just that I can't really get my mind around it after a childhood devoid of spirituality. Newsflash: if you don't take a lot for granted, religious theory makes NO SENSE. The only place I've ever found deeper meaning is in biology and physics and neurology. SOad [...]

    2. I contend that there are two Steven Pinkers. Pinker 1 is an eloquent, witty, and insightful writer on the issues of cognitive psychology and linguistics who has the rare talent of making his subjects accessible and appealing to academic and lay audiences. Pinker 2 retains the writing ability, but instead uses it for pushing his pet theories, usually political in nature (cf. his most recent Better Angels of Our Nature). This book comes straight from the pen of Pinker 2.There are really two main c [...]

    3. Steven Pinker takes on the old nature/nurture question, and does an excellent job of it. Are we the products of our genes or our upbringing? Pinker tells you in the first few pages what the new consensus is: both, but genes are probably more important.He has some wonderful stories to back up the general points. Here's one that particularly appealed to me. During the 60s and 70s, you often heard that boys and girls are indoctrinated from an early age so as to conform to conventional gender roles. [...]

    4. This book grew on me as I read it. At first, I suspected Pinker of cherry-picking targets from the extreme fringe of cultural constructivism. However, after I spent some time in a Sociology of Gender class at college, I discovered that the total denial of innate psychological programming is indeed as pervasive among the social sciences as Pinker suggests. His characterization of post-modernist philosophy, cultural anthropology, and some factions within psychology are very consistent with the ide [...]

    5. The Blank Slate is Steven Pinker's ambitious attempt to close the gap between the conventionally accepted dogma that human beings come into this world free of innate characteristics, ready to be molded and shaped by society, and what science has begun to reveal about genetic predisposition. Prior to reading this book, I had no idea that the origin of human nature was such a contentious topic amongst modern intellectuals. Seems that a lot of people think acknowledging that something like violence [...]

    6. "I'm only humanOf flesh and blood I'm madeHumanBorn to make mistakes"--The Human League, HumanMost of us instinctively feel the acquisition of scientific knowledge follows a linear path, first operating from a solid factual base, and then modifying itself as it goes along in an objective fashion. Ultimately, a common agreeance on a certain topic will be reached, and the findings will translate into well-considered policy. Ideally, that is how it should work, with scientists serving as neutral ob [...]

    7. Louis Menand has written a typically excellent piece on Pinker's arrogance: newyorker/archive/2002I found this book simultaneously interesting and exasperating, because the author is obviously a highly educated, well-read man who thinks he knows everything about every subject. There is a whole class of these public intellectuals (the late Carl Sagan, Richard Dawins, et al) who play this game: they use the public authority they have gained by virtue of (at least modest) academic accomplishment in [...]

    8. In some ways, this book is both a tragedy and an inspiration. How is it a tragedy? It's a tragedy because the book is responding to very ideologically-based, simple arguments for the Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine that I think don't really need to be addressed. Many of the points in the book I was thoroughly convinced of before reading the book -- I knew that genetics played some role in determining personality and aptitude; I was convinced of the probabilistic appro [...]

    9. What an impressive book! I have been reading a number of Steven Pinker's books, and they are all excellent. I was particularly interested in how politics and social activists have worked to slow down the progress of science. The concept of a "blank slate", though socially attractive, has held back science and our understanding of human nature.The chapter on children was especially interesting. Pinker rightly gives much credit to Judith Harris' excellent book The Nurture Assumption: Why Children [...]

    10. So here's a case where you have a book about how much of our personalities and, well, nature is innate, rather than nurtured into us by our parents or our environment. If The Blank Slate were two hundred pages and focused just on brain science, it'd be one thing. The trouble is that it ends up reading as if Pinker gathered every single study that seemed to support his position and threw it into a blender, and then threw in a number of screeds against groups he has a bone to pick with. The result [...]

    11. (Steven Pinker in Oporto, on the 11th of November 2017; my photo)"Nature, Mr Allnut , is what we are put in this world to rise above" Katherine Hepburn to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen"Hillary Clinton may have advanced the dumbest explanation in the history of psychobabble, but she does not deserve the charge of trying to excuse the president's [husband] behavior"Pinker makes the case against a man who gets his formation/make up only from the outer forces of parenting, education, etc. He [...]

    12. so. steven pinker got a lot of press out of this thing. it is essentially a sustained and detailed case for the predominance of genetic factors in determing human behavior. mr pinker is (if i recall) mainly a developmental neuroscientist (if that's a legitimate description?). he provides a tremendous and very enjoyable welath of case studies and background for the various psychological, philosophical, sociological and biological problems which he subjects to the peculiar dialectical lens of natu [...]

    13. Wow What an interesting and exquisitely written book!!!This is my first read by this author “Steven Pinker”. He is a psychologist and author of several books and articles on cognition and linguistics. In The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature he refuted the widely held belief that the human mind at birth is a tabula rasa /blank slate to which the environment (nurture) gives form and substance. He further explained that neither genetics nor environmental conditions are solely resp [...]

    14. Pinker argues cleanly and decisively against the theory of the Blank Slate (and its corollary, the Noble Savage). You might say he wipes the Blank Slate clean. Or that he breaks it over his knee.He examines how motivations for wanting to believe in a Blank Slate come from four fears of human nature:1. The Fear of Inequality: if people are innately different, oppression and discrimination (like sexism and racism) would be justified. But people are, in fact, different. Ignoring this fact doesn't h [...]

    15. The Blank Slate was an informative, thought-provoking and polemic book designed to refute ordinary conceptions and intellectual arguments which cut against a sociobiological understanding of humans and human society. I detected a couple instances in which the author, Stephen Pinker, overstated scientific conclusions, leading me to doubt the accuracy of his other scientific evidence. I also have reservations about the rational-actor lens through which he interprets human nature. On the other hand [...]

    16. Pinker examines the concept of the mind as a blank slate capable of taking any impressions that arose in England and France in the mid-18th century and became the basis for liberal democracy in the 19th and 20th centuries. The "blank slate" underlies the nurture pole of the nature/ nurture debate and looms huge in political and social policies. Drawing on an immense body of research in psychology and other social sciences, linguistics, and evolutionary biology, Pinker makes the case for the natu [...]

    17. 'Man will become better when you show him what he is like.' - Anthon ChekovWon't he??? Maybe, the arguments in this book can't be put any more eloquently than the quote of Anton Chekov.The book was both fun and terrible to encounter how supposed "liberals" experience the cognitive dissonance by having their assumptions and dogmas challenged.The author goes over controversies , a number of hot buttons, hot zones, Chernobyls, third rails, and so on -- including the arts ( I disagree with him pa [...]

    18. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven PinkerThe Blank Slate is an ambitious book that goes after the blank slate fallacy that is the idea that the human mind has no inherent structure and can be inscribed at will by society or ourselves. It’s a social-biological study of nature versus nature. This excellent 528 page-book is composed of the following six parts: Part I. The Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine, Part II. Fear and Loathing, Part III. H [...]

    19. 4,5Estaría bien que, pasados ya 15 años desde su aparición, Pinker publicase una puesta al día y ampliación. Puerta de entrada para aquellos interesados en la psicología basada en la biología y la teoría de la evolución y laselección natural.

    20. This is a good introductory book to the nature vs nurture debate if you keep in mind that Pinker is very biased. He suffers, sadly like many scientists do, from selection bias—he picks studies that support his views while ignoring those that don't. Still, if you can spot and ignore his ideology-driven arguments, you can get a good deal out of this book.The biggest problem with Pinker is his over-reliance on Evolutionary Psychology—a relatively new discipline that tries to explain our behavio [...]

    21. This book was amazing, One of those books when you come out on the other side of it you can see some changes in your life and in your perceptionSteven Pinker you are a badass great book. And thank you Morgan for the recommendation.

    22. Innate Temperament: A Terrifying Idea?“We are not, as many people assume, blank slates shaped by our environment”In his book (The Blank Slate: The modern denial of Human Nature), Steven Pinker argues that modern science (evolutionary psychology and neuroscience in particular) has challenged three "linked dogmas" that constitute the dominant view of human nature in intellectual life:1. The Blank Slate aka “Tabula Rasa” (adopted by the empiricists): the mind has no innate traits, and there [...]

    23. Pinker takes on a perspective regarding human nature that tended to dominate the social sciences in the 20th century (with many adherents of the position still active now), namely that humans are "blank slates" and their life course is highly malleable. He says (Pages 2-3): "That theory of human nature--namely that it barely exists--is the topic of this book. . .Challenges to the doctrine from skeptics and scientists have pushed some believers into a crisis of faith and have led others to mount [...]

    24. Steven Pinker is an excellent writer, but I have major problems with this book. For starters, his main argument - that the blank slate hypothesis is untenable - is something of a straw man argument. How many people today actually believe that genes don't shape our brains, and thus our minds? I'm friends with many anthropology students who have read about the blank slate hypothesis, and their criticism of sociobiology is often directed at writers in the 19th century (and EO Wilson, who himself is [...]

    25. Though this took me a fortnight to read, this is in no way a reflection of the book being hard going - this is a dense and well-researched exploration of a number of interlinked aspects of sociology, biology, genetics and politics and it was absorbing and rich and full of interesting points.Difficult to review, however, because it feels like a buffet of information that I have been snacking on for a couple of weeks. I've turned over the corner of ten or twelve pages of particular interest wantin [...]

    26. Not that I was convinced by all the arguments presented in this book, but it is an incredible joy to discover a single book that echoes so many thoughts that have been percolating in my mind, and to hear the same things I have been trying to say, argued and articulated so well. With age I have come to dislike the idea of an ideology, any ideology. Anything that compels us to think that something is correct or good because it ought to be correct. Reality does not care how any of us feel about it. [...]

    27. I can't finish this. The first third or so of the book is interesting and important, mostly because of the discussion about cognitive neuroscience. I think it's extremely important that any educated person in the modern or future world get a solid basic understanding of what we know (and don't know) about how the human brain works. Obviously that will govern our whole understanding of psychology, sociology, and human life in general. Anyone who wants his or her worldview to actually reflect real [...]

    28. Poderosísimo libro que rompe todas las concepciones sociopolíticas previas que se pudieran tener, usando la Psicología, la Estadística y las ciencias de la evolución biológica y los estudios sociales. Terminas de leerlo y, si has dejado que pase por ti, no sales siendo la misma persona. Esto, aplicable de manera romántica a cualquier libro, es una certeza con este: tras asimilar lo que expone, es obligatorio que no sea el mismo que era antes de leerlo. Lo bueno es que soy, inevitablemente [...]

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