The Better Angels of Our Nature

Share your thoughts on the written word.
Tom Palven
Has More Than 5K Posts
Posts: 5289
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:29 am

The Better Angels of Our Nature

Postby Tom Palven » Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:50 pm

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
by Steven Pinker, 2011

While this book did not create a Road to Damascus conversion, it did mollify my hatred of big government/nation-states.

Pinker proves with an exhaustive array of facts and figures that small anarchic communities are much more violent and murder a very much larger percentage of their inhabitants, amounting to a much larger total number killed, than do conflicts between large nation-states, even when we factor in such things as the tens of millions of people killed in WW II.

But, while Pinker endorses large nation-states, he aslo speaks highly of classical liberalism, free enterprise, and individualism.

He concludes chapter 9, pages 699 and 670, with long passages from Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments,1759, and begins the last chapter, chapter 10, with this quote from Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man, 1874:

As man advances in civilization, small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.

Pinker states that "This book grew out of an answer to the question 'What are you optimistic about' and I hope that the numbers I have marshalled have lifted your assessment of the state of the world from lugubrious (gloomy) conventional wisdom...
In this final chapter...I will look for common threads in the Pacification Process... We should not expect these forces to fall out of a grand unified theory...
THE ESCALATOR OF REASON
..Throughout this book we have seen the beneficial consequences of an application of reason to human affairs..
...carefully reasoned briefs against slavery, despotism, torture, religious persecution, cruelty to animals, harshness to children, violence against women, frivolous wars, and the persecution of homosexuals were not just hot air but entered into the decisions of people and institutions who attended to the arguments and implemented reforms..." achieving a boost to empathy...

...The forces of modernity,-reason, science, humanism, individuals rights- have not, of course, pushed steadily in one direction; nor will they ever bring about a utopia or end the frictions and hurts that come from being human. But on top of all the benefits that modernity has brought us in health, experience, and knowledge, we can add its role in the reduction of violence."
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire

User avatar
OutOfBreath
Veteran Poster
Posts: 2142
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2011 1:38 pm
Custom Title: Persistent ponderer
Location: Norway

Re: The Better Angels of Our Nature

Postby OutOfBreath » Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:16 am

Because the Leviathan does work like that. ;)

Great book, although I thought he was overreaching when also trying to put the countercultural 60s into that same scheme of things.

Peace
Dan
What is perceived as real becomes real in its consequences.

"Every judgment teeters on the brink of error. To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous. Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty." - Frank Herbert

bobbo_the_Pragmatist
Has No Life
Posts: 14397
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 9:39 am
Custom Title: bobbo da existential pragmatist

Re: The Better Angels of Our Nature

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:22 am

Darwin never thought to ask if evolution favors big brains or not.

So far: it looks like rapid growth to me............with all the attendant risk factors pointing to: total collapse if not extinction.

We can pollute ourselves to death which we are doing at increasing speed with small anarchistic groups....but it does take a larger Nation State to (at least first) develop Nuclear Resources. Trend lines not real good their either.

Nice living at the apex of a species evolution. The view stinks though.
Real Name: bobbo the existential pragmatic evangelical anti-theist and Class Warrior.
Asking: What is the most good for the most people?
Sample Issue: Should the Feds provide all babies with free diapers?

Tom Palven
Has More Than 5K Posts
Posts: 5289
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:29 am

Re: The Better Angels of Our Nature

Postby Tom Palven » Sun Nov 12, 2017 2:37 am

OutOfBreath wrote:Because the Leviathan does work like that. ;)

Great book, although I thought he was overreaching when also trying to put the countercultural 60s into that same scheme of things.

Peace
Dan


Right or wrong, my emotional attachments lie with John Lennon and the '60's.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire

User avatar
Phoenix76
Poster
Posts: 426
Joined: Fri Jun 09, 2017 7:16 am
Custom Title: Phoenix76
Location: Qld, Australia

Re: The Better Angels of Our Nature

Postby Phoenix76 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:31 am

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:Darwin never thought to ask if evolution favors big brains or not.

So far: it looks like rapid growth to me............with all the attendant risk factors pointing to: total collapse if not extinction.

We can pollute ourselves to death which we are doing at increasing speed with small anarchistic groups....but it does take a larger Nation State to (at least first) develop Nuclear Resources. Trend lines not real good their either.

Nice living at the apex of a species evolution. The view stinks though.


Geez you're a happy, outgoing bloke Bobbo. If my view of the future was as bleak as your's, I reckon I would be taking a serious look at all the euthanasia talk that is going on.

I mean, do you ever smile my friend? Do you enjoy life? Are you in the least bit happy? If you answer no to my questions, then I pity your family. You must be hell to live with.

And Bobbo, just to avoid any confusion, my comments are not personal to you or your family. I just wonder about the life of a bloke who always seems to take a morbid view on life.

bobbo_the_Pragmatist
Has No Life
Posts: 14397
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 9:39 am
Custom Title: bobbo da existential pragmatist

Re: The Better Angels of Our Nature

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:23 pm

Evidently, I wish more for my species.

.................................. I'm way happier than most. Comes from comfort with ambiguity and acceptance of things I can't change. There is great pleasure in evaluating both sides, all sides you can identify, to an issue and weighing the pros and cons, likelihoods and so forth. Have't 99% of all species that have ever existed gone exctinct? I reject being a one percenter. What are the odds?
Real Name: bobbo the existential pragmatic evangelical anti-theist and Class Warrior.
Asking: What is the most good for the most people?
Sample Issue: Should the Feds provide all babies with free diapers?

Tom Palven
Has More Than 5K Posts
Posts: 5289
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:29 am

Re: The Better Angels of Our Nature

Postby Tom Palven » Wed Feb 14, 2018 10:28 pm

Stephen Pinker has a new book out titled Enlightenment Now which he discusses with Ezra Klein in the podcast below:
https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-ez ... oplay=true

The interview is 1 hour 12 minutes long, but the gist of it is that it's a sequel to The Better Angels ...

For those who don't want to read it or listen to the interview I'll just mention that one thing I liked was Pinker's response to Klein's question as to how future generations may view this generation. Among other things, Pinker said that future generations may judge war as having been an absurd custom, and he reminds us that it wasn't that long ago that many societies felt that the most honorable way for a man to die was in battle.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire

User avatar
Austin Harper
Has More Than 5K Posts
Posts: 5083
Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2011 2:22 pm
Custom Title: Rock Chalk Astrohawk
Location: Detroit
Contact:

Re: The Better Angels of Our Nature

Postby Austin Harper » Thu Feb 15, 2018 5:41 pm

Image
Dum ratio nos ducet, valebimus et multa bene geremus.

User avatar
Austin Harper
Has More Than 5K Posts
Posts: 5083
Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2011 2:22 pm
Custom Title: Rock Chalk Astrohawk
Location: Detroit
Contact:

Re: The Better Angels of Our Nature

Postby Austin Harper » Fri Mar 23, 2018 2:05 pm

Image
Dum ratio nos ducet, valebimus et multa bene geremus.


Return to “Book Reviews/Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest