The Blank Slate ranks very high. I learned more from this book than any other I have listened to.
My favorite character would be the human mind itself, for this book is an exploration of the nature of the mind and hence the nature of being
The book was well narrated
The Ignoble Savage - The Modern Denial of Human Nature
This is a good book, and better yet an important book. It's important because it shows that American intellectual and political life is based on ideas that have no basis in fact. Like it or not, the holy trinity of the "Blank Slate", the "Noble Savage", and the "Ghost in the Machine" dominate (usually without question) public life in America. The fact that they are fictions, inevitably means that politicians (typically, but not always Democrats) promote policies that will inevitably fail. Of course, the failures will be ignored because no one ever dares to ask why the policies failed.
The first two ideas (the "Blank Slate" and the "Noble Savage") are mainly the follies of the left. Indeed, any attack on them is treated as religious apostasy (and punished without mercy). The third idea (the "Ghost in the Machine") is perhaps more the passion of the right.
Before I read this book, I expected a detailed review of the data supporting the influence of genes vs. the environment. Of course, Steven Pinker provides a great wealth of data demolishing the ideological fantasies of the left (and to some extent the right). However, that's not the main emphasis of the book. The book is mostly devoted to a very detailed exploration of moral philosophy. That's not a critique, just quite unexpected.
Rather than delving into the factual data demolishing the holy trinity in great(er) detail, the author expends most of his effort into examining the moral and philosophical implications of human nature. Pinker is always plausible, but not always convincing, at least to this reader.
Steven Pinker is clearly a conventional liberal, at least in moral, philosophical, and policy terms. However, his book is deeply subversive of conventional liberalism (at point Pinker is clearly well aware of). At some level that makes Pinker's interpretation of the world conservative. Pinker (to his credit) examines the deep historical origins of liberalism and conservatism. To simplify, liberals believe in the infinite perfectibility of man and conservatives believe that man in constrained by his tragic nature.
Having reviewed the voluminous evidence, Pinker explicitly says that the conservative vision of human nature is correct and liberals are wrong. He even quotes E.O. Wilson
“Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species”
That said, Pinker is no Republican and there is no reason to think he has ever voted for one. However, to his enduring credit he has demolished the supposed logical foundations of much of contemporary liberalism.
Audible obsessed lifelong learner.
Another great read by Pinker that takes on the nature versus nurture debate head on. He argues against the blank slate and gives good evidence why the people your kids hang out with have significant input as well.
Yes. It was very lengthy. One get's a sense that the theories and their support can be represented in less words and time. Sometimes the narrative drifts to evaluating individual scientists with some degree of spite.
The four fallacies; The Blank Slate, The Moral Savage, Deterministic Environment and The Ghost in The Machine
No Change, good title
Good book, I feel it could be shorter with no loss of substance.
The Blank Slate is an intellectual tour-de-force into heretofore unacknowledged aspects of the human mind. Pinker pieces together information from many scholarly sources to substantiate his claims, and the book is thoughtful and well-researched from first to last. Very occasionally, the thoroughness of Pinker's logic can be a bit overwhelming, but the end does, indeed, justify the means. The book is packed with insight into human nature, and intensely interesting. Easily one of the most intellectually satisfying books I have ever listened to. Victor Bevine's reading is more than adequate, with none of the kind of trivializing affectations that can ruin a challenging listen. Highly recommended.
We live in an age of affirmation, not to be confused with information. Its easy for us to spend time only consuming news or data that affirms what we already believe. Good science does not suffer that. Good science uncovers truth and it does not care if it steps on the toes of any dogma, religion, or philosophy. This book is about such science.
Bookman Old Style
I had to give up on this one, even though I am a believer in evolution and neuroscience. This book was too long and too pedantic, even for me. Human nature exists and is not totally changeable. It was evolved to fit the environment of millions of years ago, and sometimes causes great problems for everyone, everywhere today. We are not blank slates , basically beautiful and good savages, or predetermined vehicles of a benevolent power. Utopian schemes don't work because they don't take certain basic human instincts into account. We are imperfect creatures. If you want mind-numbing details on these fairly self-evident facts, dear reader, go to Mr. Pinker. I've gone out to lunch.
Evening and Weekend Manager Lone Star College-Greenspoint Center Houston, TX 77060
He who could explain all variance in nature would know what God knows. He who could manipulate all nature's variance would be God.
Pinker makes a convincing, witty, engaging, and creditable argument that at 50% of what we are is heritable.
How the Mind Work and The Language Instinct.. They were both excellent productions
No, it took about two weeks of one-hour commutes during which I listened at 1.5 times normal speed.
Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc.
The book starts slow and peaks in the middle, while the last few chapters were nearly worthless. There is a lot of good scientific overview in this book, yet the cultural bias of Pinker comes through so strongly that I often questioned the use of my time to finish the book. I have read many of the popular, and some unpopular, works on the same topic but this is one of the most hubris-tic of the lot. For me there was little new actual information, but lots of intellectual hubris and unsupported certainty. Additionally, this book fails to embrace much of the current thought on topics such as epi-genetics and the conscious/unconscious dichotomy as expressed in books like the happiness hypothesis.
If you are interested in this topic I do recommend that you read this book. However, you may want to prepare your self for Pinker's hubris by reading sex at dawn first.
I was particularly troubled by his attacks on other scientists, and the time he spends dragging their names through his mud. While after investing 20+ hours in this text I feel that I have been left with little of actual value, and even less that was memorable.
This audiobook lacks structure. You don't quite know where it's going, and some issues are not takled as deeply as they should be. So once you're done, it feels like you've been to a 15 minute lecture.
It's not bad, and worth listening to anyway. But it was disapointingly light in its problem raising.
This book is an emotionally charged mess. It was also published in 2002 and has become obsolete by new findings in neuroscience. Don't even bother.
Its hostile angry tone, a juvenile use of belittling language, and a full array of annoying logic that runs in circles would be enough to cause frustration. When you add to that a continuous misunderstanding of the latest findings of science and the arrogance to divine the future of science as well, it becomes unbearable.
Also, the book is about the classic "nature vs nurture" argument and he spends the majority of the time fighting and belittling an extreme "Nurture" stance that no one believes in anyway. This stance makes his arguments out of touch with the reader, who is left asking him to move on. But Steven is stuck. It feels like someone with an emotional grudge, always making one more point, and misinterpreting the other side at every turn. The number of straw man fallacies and other spin tactics that are present here are simply too many to count.