Cognition & Reality

Friday, 18 February 2011

Trying Pinker

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 8:47 am

I decided to try to read Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. For the same reason that I don’t follow the news, I had been avoiding it for years. It’s going to be bitch. One of the book’s main premises, as the subtitle suggests, is that the importance of “nature” in the nature-nurture debate is typically underestimated in our society. One wonders on what planet Pinker lives. In the society I inhabit, one can hardly watch TV for ten minutes before someone ascribes some characteristic as “genetic.” In the academic world, the one Pinker inhabits, those who attribute human behavior and development to “innate” properties of the mind have been in the ascendant for decades. Pinker’s whiny introduction, in which he claims that most people are horrified by the idea that human behaviors have an innate basis, and compares “the denial of human nature” with Victorian attitudes toward sex, reminds me of the American notion that we are underdogs in the “War on Terrorism.”


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