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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2018 3:47 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

Egyptian God
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ENLIGHTENMENT NOW
The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
By Steven Pinker

Just reading this and, for a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist like me it's a tonic. Fascinating to find that my preconceptions of a world riddled with conflict, poverty and atrocities of every description, with the planet being systematically destroyed around our ears are, in fact easily disproved by statistics. As a mathematician, I like statistics.

Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind.

The redoubtable Stephen Sackur tried to undermine Pinker's reasoning on "Hard Talk" but failed, Pinker had an answer for every point Sackur made and , well, if you don't accept he hard facts , then more fool you.

The book has generally received favourable reviews "

"If 2017 was a rough year for you, look no further than Steven Pinker’s engaging new book, “Enlightenment Now,” to cheer you up. Conceived before Donald Trump even announced his candidacy, it could not have been better timed to clarify — and, for some, refute — the habits of mind that brought Trump and the GOP to power.

Pinker hopes to revive the values of the Enlightenment by making a case for reason, science, progress and fact-based argument. He musters an army of numbers to vanquish a host of enemies: religion, conservatism, nationalism, tribalism, Marxism, authoritarian populism, postmodern theorists, Nietzsche and many more.

Pinker’s launching pad is the Enlightenment, when many things started improving for homo sapiens. The age that used reason to crush superstition culminates in the cheerful graphs that adorn this book. Going up are life expectancy, calories consumed, gross world product and incomes. Going down are infant and maternal mortality, death from famine, starvation, extreme poverty, social spending, and even the loneliness of U.S. college students."

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/ ... a8a112edfc

"Pinker is up for a fight, and his main weapon is quantitative data. Two thirds of the book, which is a kind of sequel to his bestselling The Better Angels of Our Nature, consists of chapter after chapter of evidence that life has been getting progressively better for most people. “How can we soundly appraise the state of the world?” he asks. “The answer is to count.” The litany of facts is awesome, covering health, wealth, inequality, the environment, peace, democracy and on and on, though one wonders if there is any possible tipping point within this deluge where a doubter might suddenly be convinced."

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/ ... ker-review

"Although Pinker tries very hard to support his claims with scientific evidence, providing a profusion of quantitative data and illustrating his chapters with diagrams and graphs, the subject remains deeply ideological, and his conclusions are bound to be met with denials and scepticism."

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/bo ... vey-answer

Indeed he did! John Gray of The Spectator stuck the knife in and twisted it ferociously

"Unenlightened thinking: Steven Pinker’s embarrassing new book is a feeble sermon for rattled liberals
To think of this book as any kind of scholarly exercise is a category mistake. The purpose of Pinker’s laborious work is to reassure liberals that they are on “the right side of history”.

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/bo ... ble-sermon

John Nicholas Gray is an English political philosopher with interests in analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He retired in 2008 as School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Gray contributes regularly to The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman, where he is the lead book reviewer.

Gray sees volition, and hence morality, as an illusion, and portrays humanity as a ravenous species engaged in wiping out other forms of life. Gray writes that "humans ... cannot destroy the Earth, but they can easily wreck the environment that sustains them."

It seems philosophers can be even bitchier than egyptologists when they set about each other. Unsurprising that he disliked Pinker's book

Gray's arguments didn't convince me....largely because I don't understand philosophical clap trap. Give me hard facts , science and statistics any day :lol:


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 6:28 am  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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Thanks.

If a tonic cures pessimism what caused it?

Some general points - more if you want a joust.

I thought Saker scored a few points and was not as well prepared as usual. Intellectual history is not his field.

I've read Pinker a long time ago and his weakness, in the case of the book How The Mind Works. is his mechanistic/engineering, way of thinking. In the case of that book he saw the brain as a giant computer. Neurologists (not his field) differ including Nobel Prize winners like Gerald Edelman.

That mechanistic brain model is lurking in the new book.

He is not an historian, nor an intellectual historian nor a sociologist who studies mass opinion. He uses his theory of brain to project onto other issues such as this one in a simple cause an effect way. He trained as a psychologist and I suggest that limits his knowledge of brain development and performance.

He is good at one thing - writing books and traveling the world to promote them.

If this area interests you can I suggest 2 books. Bertrand Russell's (dated) History of Western Civilization (just philosophy) one of the best exhibits in the prize for superb, clear, simple elegant writing combined with clear headedness. Second, pretty much anything by Isiah Berlin (philosopher and intellectual historian again dated) just about the best writing from a serious intellect you could get - he is interested in the roots that lead to modern thought and in some threads that led to Fascism/Russia. The weakness of both it that they ignore that we have a monkey brain that drives much thought in an emotional, responsive way.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:47 am  |  Posted from: United Kingdom
  

Egyptian God
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I'm neither competent, nor particularly interested, in debating Pinker's skills in his esoteric field of expertise.

The book is mainly concerned with debunking the idea that we're going to hell in a handcart as a society.

Perhaps he needs to come to Egypt to undermine his faith in statistics. :lol:


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