I wanted to be uplifted by this book, but it had a weird effect of being quite depressing- the author spent a lot of time describing medieval torture and "justice" techniques (in order to prove things are getting better)...but it was so harrowing I couldn't listen to it. Ditto to the chapter on the treatment of animals, I listened for five minutes and then thought that I dont need those images cluttering up my mind. The reading is quite good, but a little on the monotone end. In general it was quite dull - long discussions (cogently argued) about how life was much tougher and more violent in the past - I found the argument convincing, but a bit of an overkill. I think I was hampered by the slightly monotone delivery of the reader, as much as by the confronting nature of some of the material.
My feeling is that this is a book you should buy and read in print. That way you could skim over the harrowing bits (if you are squeamish) and really concentrate your attention on the bits of information or argument that were useful to you. I do NOT recommend you buy this to listen to while driving, when you may not have the option of making it stop before you become distressed - or drive off the road.
Yes, as there is so much to learn about ourselves as humans and the result is so hopeful.
There were so many, almost every study described was an enlightenment.
His voice and diction.
Civilization comes to middle-age and maturity.
Pinker's analysis of the state of violence in society is thorough. Every time I had a "but what about such-and-such!" moment, he would counter my protest at some point in the book, leaving me, for the most part, satisfied with the completeness of his analysis. His tone is convincing but not biased; often I felt as though I was not sure which "side" he was on as he earnestly tried to report the facts and flaws of each argument and analysis. He takes you on a journey through the history of human violence and leads you gracefully to some possible answers to a very important question (perhaps the most important question); why has violence declined and how can we keep it low or even lower? After reading the book, I was left with a feeling of hope and optimism that has stuck with me as well as a better understanding of what policies I can support to help reduce violence in my community.
Say something about yourself!
I enjoyed this listen, but must say it was a bit long. It covers a wide range of topics, so some parts are not as interesting to everyone as others. In my case, discussions on how the various parts of the brain function were of cursory interest.
This book changed my thinking about Mankind in some ways. Maybe we are actually getting "better" after all. However, as the author points out, most of the genocide in the 20th century can be attributed to three men - Mao, Stalin and Hitler.
There are some very entertaining intervals among the heaps of statistics dished out. I almost had to pull my car over when I was listening to a lengthy citation of proper manners in Medieval Europe. We've obviously come a long way since then.
I have a lot of respect for Pinker. He is one of the world's greatest modern thinkers and even in this book you can see how he pushes for answers to difficult questions. While I don't agree with all of his theories, I do admire his capacity to contemplate, and I appreciate his perspective.
However, this book was too much. He goes overboard trying to convince us how bad humans were a hundred to a thousand years ago, by describing in MINUTE detail the torture that people practiced on each other. He states that because this behavior is less prevalent and not as accepted as a common practice that we are making improvements.
If that is the only yard stick, then we have improved. (That's a short yard stick to measure such an important quality.)
Humans still have a very long way to go and just because delighting in torture is not politically correct (in most modern societies) does not mean we are necessarily "better."
The 36+ hours of detailed human cruelties (repeated over and over and over) was just too much for me.
Last gripe is that he would make a statement and then say, "We'll talk more about that in chapter X." He did that repeatedly, and I wished he would have just described it right then. If it was relevant to the topic, he should talk about it. This makes for A LOT of repetition -- he repeats the same concepts over and over.
This book shows just how far we have come. In general we are far better off than in "the good old days" that so many long to return to. It also shows why we have good reason to be optimistic. All this is done by presenting the facts in easily understood language. The occasional in depth scientific explanation is worth enduring to better understand the arguments.
The performance by Arthur Morey was excellent.
Good Question-it is long but after it was over I was convinced.
I enjoyed all the war and historical information.. I received a lot of important information that I may have learned many years ago. The perspective he presented it in was informative.
I have an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a Master's Degree in Professional Writing from Maharishi University of Management, am author of THE RELUCTANT VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK, and am an avid reader/listener.
Warning: the first section of this book is so gory that it will probably leave you with a lingering horror. The value of wading through it is that it graphically, immediately, assures you all the way to your gut that life is better now. This is, in fact, one reason for reading this book, because it "proves" that violence is indeed decreasing.
In quality, this is one of the most well-researched books I've ever read, and I loved it at times for the fact that it brought up issues from angles I had not considered. I gave it four stars however only because I believe it is not a book for all readers. As much as I love research, it is at times too dense to hold the attention. But I certainly admire the writer for what to me seemed like brilliant writing for a non-fiction book.
Steven Pinker deeply understands his subject matter and is brilliant in conveying it. Fascinating to realize that the world is becoming a less and less violent place - just the opposite of what is shown on tv news..
In his effort to be thorough and completely examine and explain his subject, Pinker is, at times, overly long, and that contributes to the overall length book. Never tedious, Pinker is exactingly and exhaustively thorough.