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Enlightenment Now

The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
Narrated by: Arthur Morey
Length: 19 hrs and 49 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (155 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker, read by Arthur Morey. Includes a bonus PDF of graphs.

Is modernity really failing? Or have we failed to appreciate progress and the ideals that make it possible? If you follow the headlines, the world in the 21st century appears to be sinking into chaos, hatred and irrationality. Yet, as Steven Pinker shows, if you follow the trendlines, you discover that our lives have become longer, healthier, safer and more prosperous - not just in the West but worldwide.

Such progress is no accident: it's the gift of a coherent value system that many of us embrace without even realising it. These are the values of the Enlightenment: of reason, science, humanism and progress. The challenges we face today are formidable. But the way to deal with them is not to sink into despair or try to lurch back to a mythical idyllic past; it's to treat them as problems we can solve, as we have solved other problems in the past. This is the case for an Enlightenment newly recharged for the 21st century.

©2018 Steven Pinker (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

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  • Mark
  • Raglan, New Zealand
  • 02-26-18

Glass half-full

We live in an age of doom and gloom. All the news we hear seems to be bad. Everything seems to be turning to shit. Americans were so disenchanted with this state of decline that they elected Donald Trump. The British were so disillusioned that they voted for Brexit. We have global warming, overpopulation, pollution. What is happening? How did things get so bad?

They didn’t. Stephen Pinker’s latest book is an optimistic look at the state of the World today. Like other feel-good books I’ve read & reviewed (‘The Rational Optimist’,’ Abundance’, and Pinker’s own ‘The Better Angels of our Nature’), this book tries to convince the listener that things aren’t really as bad as they seem – and it succeeds.

His method in this book is statistical. Basically, for each different aspect of World life that he examines, he provides evidence of progress by using graphs to show that things have become massively better over time.

Now, it’s awkward to look at graphs when you are out in the woods on your bike, but fortunately this isn’t necessary, because they are all well-described in the audio narrative and are pretty straightforward. Of course, if you want to check them out later, there is an accompanying pdf.

Looking at a whole screed of indices of human well-being and progress, Pinker shows us that on a global scale things have moved and are still moving in a very positive direction: Life expectancy, child mortality, poverty, war, road safety, human rights, civil rights, literacy etc etc. are all getting better over time, and in the process he also explains why it is that we are often not aware, or fail to fully notice, these encouraging trends.

Because all these observations are supported by hard statistics, it is very easy to be convinced. He also makes the point that there is no place for complacency. All the gains we have made have been the result of hard work. We face challenges that require continued hard work and ingenuity, and we need to commit ourselves to this in order to continue our progress.

This is a very refreshing and uplifting look at our World and is well worth a listen.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Excellent

I enjoyed this story of humans authored by Pinker. Morey did an excellent job narrating - he seemed passionate / knowledgeable on the subject that several times I had to remind myself that this production was not read by the author.

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awesome book

This is a book I will return to frequently to ensure I am not swayed by the tempory news cycles

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Does this book ever end

At nearly 20 hours this book seems to be as fulfilling as bottomless coffee. Enlightening but eventually, getting bored of it.

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This book will definitely enlighten

The book provides cold hard stats to bring balance to our perceptions of everything, from wars to racism to vaccines.

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Great Content - well researched

This was an enjoyable and informative audiobook.

My only issue was with the Steven's anti-Trump bias. Some of his criticisms were indeed justified. However when discussing creeping authoritarianism and war, there was no discussion of Barrack Obama or Hilary Clinton in their roles as war mongers in Syria or Libya. Their complete disregard for congressional approval in waging war against those sovereign nations was unconstitutional. Obama too was an Authoritarian. Steven's push back against populism is understandable, though how it was represented was biased in my opinion.

He also makes the case for cosmopolitanism and open societies while addressing the inherant totalitarianism and radicalism present within Islam. It would have been interesting to hear his thoughts on how a cosmopolitan and liberal society can co-exist with people who hold antithetical beleifs, and what should be done at a state level re immigration and how to deal with people who fail to integrate.

His criticism of Nietzche was interesting.

I enjoyed listening to his arguments for secular, humanist societies built around the philosophical universalisation of morals and ethics. His information re the reduction of crime and poverty in all countries, even the poorest and the increased life span enjoyed by all people was uplifting.

Other than the above criticisms I highly reccommend this audiobook. It was enjoyable, interesting and entertaining.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Most Boring Audiobook

Struggled to finish this audio book as it contains too much factual data & refers to charts which is difficult to reference to on a mobile device. This genre of book is not suitable to be made into an audiobook.

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  • Kel S
  • Canberra, Australia
  • 05-04-18

A case for scientific-based optimism

It's easy with all the worries of the world to think that everything is getting worse, or at the least, is bound to get worse at any moment. Pinker in this book makes the compelling case that most of those concerns are either misguided, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong when one looks at the evidence. And on that, Pinker's book largely succeeds in explaining just how things have changed and have done so in almost all cases for the better. And that this progress has come because humanity has reaped the harvest of the enlightenment ideals and values.

The rise of science is often credited with advancements in medicine and food supply. If there was no other reason than to privilege science as a worthy pursuit, it would be this. But in addition to us living longer and healthier, we are more connected, able to travel further, have access to affordable necessities, and shared in the prosperity that has come from better harnessing nature. Poverty is decreasing, extreme poverty is all but eradicated, and the masses in both the developing and developed world are living improved lives as a result - working less and having more time for leisure.

The book is at its strongest when bringing alive the practical consequences of the data, where what it means in real terms is laid out. It does this by contrast - by looking at alternative modes of government and moral thinking, and showing just how the way things are now are better. The arguments about markets lifting people out of poverty were especially compelling, as was the more rational view of how to deal with environmental problems such as global warming. (Though I wish there was time dedicated to dealing with the issue of plastic in our oceans.) The book keeps utopian thinking in check by repeatedly showing how utopian beliefs get in the way of practical problem solving, and how practical problem solving is how we've gotten this far.

Perhaps if there's a weakness to the book, it's the connection to particular philosophers and philosophical strands as being the intellectual foundations of the successes, or foundations of the counter-enlightenment that obfuscates and seeks to undo the Enlightenment. For example, the book closes with a very uncharitable reading of Nietzsche that lays the blame for much of the horrors of the 20th century at his philosophy. This seems like it gives way too much power to his words in fascism and war. Similarly the likes of Kant et al. get a lot of credit for the goods of the subsequent successes of the enlightenment. This case isn't sufficiently made, and seems a little overblown given the role of historical contingency in shaping the course of history.

That quibble aside, there's a lot of good to find in this book. And to me the take-home message is this:
1. We ought to understand the world through science and reason in order to solve the problems we as a species face.
2. Despite a long history of intellectual pessimism about three state of the world, the fruits of science and reason have improved the lives of people in the last few hundred years and in particular very recently.
3. The values of the enlightenment: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, give the moral and cultural foundations that allow for individuals and societies to flourish in a way no other ideals have.
and finally
4. If we want this to continue, we should continue to value science and reason as the tools for achieving this. It may not create a utopia, but it's far better than the alternatives that have come before despite any superficially seductive qualities they have to the human mind.

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  • Rahul
  • Nasik, India
  • 05-03-18

Interesting but tedious

The concepts and facts were magnificent and Mr Pinker made his point beautifully as alway. However, sometimes the book dragged itself out. It could have had the same impact with a lot less words.

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A dose of reality

As I progressed through this book, deep seated ideas, beliefs inclined towards more pessimistic view of our future were challenged one by one. The light of facts and what could they mean to my understanding of the world, it’s past, present and future continuum transformed fabric of my hopes, expectations, relationship with this world in a peaceful manner!!

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  • ANDREW NORRIS
  • 02-15-18

A must for everyone.

This is a fabulous piece of writing from one of the worlds most enlightened polymaths. It's an uplifting journey of reason and human progress. Highly recommended.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Alex D
  • 03-22-18

The kind of book that makes you like humans

buy it. read it. make notes.

Throw the good facts at people when they're sad at the world.

Then listen to it again!

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. J. A. Ball
  • 03-06-18

A case for humanistic reason

For me, this has been a very enjoyable audio. I can relate to much of Steven Pinker's reasoned thoughts and find the ideas within presented in a very easy to comprehend manner.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Matt Lewis
  • 04-29-18

the middle is worth the read

preachy ending - dull beginning - but the middle section and all the facts contained are worth the read - some excellent facts backed with data that prove we should all smile a little more based on the knowledge we truly have never had it so good. real pity about the end section as it almost ruined the book

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard Lovell
  • 03-22-18

Essential listening

Everyone should take notice of the statistics presented in this book. Enlightening and uplifting, clearly presented. The real antidote to depressing headlines isn't to switch off the news, it's to appreciate how far we have come.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • 03-17-18

Rational and optimistic view of the world

Feeling gloomy about recent political and societal developments, felling uneasy about apparent reversal of liberalism and progressive thinking? Get some dose of Steven Pinker's unabashedly optimistic account of our long term march towards enlightenment and more humane, fair, liberal and prosperous society. Brexit and 2016 elections are but minor speedbumps on the road to lift millions out of poverty, fight deadly diseases, discover more about our world through scientific method, and spread respect for basic human rights and freedoms. Human condition may full of flaws but it's filled with hope and progress.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike PC
  • 03-01-19

Great book, bad audiobook

First, I would like to comment on Pinker's work.
It cannot be doubted that Steven Pinker is a wise man, demonstrating here rare intellectual qualities as well as judgement. However, as this is a piece of work focused on facts and not opinions (which is actually what it also tries to educate the reader on), it requires a high level of trust to be put on the author in regards to the validity of the various claims, statistics and numbers accompanied by the level of trust that the author is taking into account all sides and angles of each subject.

There arrle quite a few times that I disagree with Mr. Pinker, mainly in the inequality chapter and his viewpoint on socialism and socialist countries (e.g. bringing up people's misery in Cuba or Venezuela, failing to take into account how the sanctions imposed on these countries, strangled them to their knees etc). I wouldn't account it as bias but indicates a failure in looking political matters more spherically and from an objective standpoint.

Now, about the audiobook. This is a poor recording. It sounds very muffled and bassy, very hard to listen to clearly while driving on the motorway with engine and tyre noise at the background; something that has not been the problem with all other audiobooks in my library which sound crisp and clear. Also, I would like to mention that Arthur Morey's narration is not doing it for me as it sounds outdated in style with a heavy american accent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Thylacine333
  • 05-13-18

Enlightenment and how

A wonderful, wise and humane book. More to the point an essential one as faith with centrism and so-called ‘Neo-liberalism’ cedes ground to radicals on all sides of the political spectrum and none.
Excellently read... but I would have preferred Pinker’s own voice. This kind of personal work I think is always best from the author. The narration here is an admirable second best.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • R
  • 05-10-18

Made me so happy

The world is so much happier, safer, more productive and capable of achieving amazing feats than rolling news or printed press would have you believe. Listening to Pinker's undeniable reason read by Arthur Morey is like the calming voice of a parent talking a terrified child back to happiness after a nightmare.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • CAPITALONE
  • 03-03-18

A positive read.

Useful science and statistics providing facts over feels in a world of chaos. Capitalism frees people out of poverty rather than puts people in poverty. It's not perfect . However collective socialist economics needs to stay in the last century where millions died with its implementation.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Timothy Lehmann
  • 02-20-18

Essential listening

I loved "Better Angels" and this is a fitting sequel. A reminder that the big picture is a good one, regardless of what Facebook and Twitter may tell us.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Luke Freeman
  • 05-26-18

The last chapters are the best for those who’re already optimists

The beginning of the book is good if you’re unaware of the amount of data about how we’re living in the best of times - if you already know this (or read Better Angels of our Nature) then it’s nothing particularly new (although well done).

The section around global catastrophic risk seems a bit naïve and downplays the importance of getting these things right.

At the end he does a good job of making the case against extremism, parochialism, populism and cynicism while making the positive case for conditional optimistic humanism.

As always with Pinker it’s well-researched and chocked full of facts that you’ll wish you remember but probably won’t.

I definitely recommend it - but mostly to people who have criticisms of enlightenment thinking but are open to properly considering the view. People who may be on the edge of more parochial or polarised world views that are having one final attempt at listening to a positive moderate case should read his book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • jack
  • 05-24-18

Great book but not Pinker's best work

Morey does another fantastic job with narration.
Whilst I highly enjoyed this book, I didn't really find anything especially new or groundbreaking. It felt like an enjoyable retelling of much of what I already knew in a novel way. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but I guess I wanted a little more from it with the high anticipation I had after reading my favourite book written by Pinker 'The Better Angels of our Nature'. If you enjoy Enlightenment Now I would highly recommend Matt Ridley's 'The Rational Optimist' and Pinker's Better Angels, both of which are similar but in my opinion much better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Shirty
  • 07-30-19

Everyone must read this book!

Very well written and well read. Read this book! One of the most important books of our time.

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  • Pieter
  • 07-23-19

Great story with some good arguments.

Overall this book makes a compelling argument for humanism, reason and enlightenment ideals, though it could have been much shorter.
The chapter on existentialism was certainly the weakest with some self defeating arguments, particularly with Pinker straw manning some of existential arguments.

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  • Thomas Darby
  • 04-30-19

requires a reread

if you can listen to hundreds of statistics and remember them all, then this book is for you. I'll require a few rereads of this book though.

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  • Liam
  • 02-26-19

Mine...Blown

For those worried, unsure or after a well thought out, very accessible to deforce in the state of an and world progression. This book is riddled with historical and contemporary evidentiary comparisons, contrast and detailed exploration of the progression of the world and society in terms of reason, humanism, science and morality this book is amazing. It forces you to look at things in ways you do an don't normally do and uses logic, reason, scientific progress and technique as well as philosophical analysis to tackle a plethora of past, present and future problems in a way that is characteristic of Steven Pinker's wonderful way of communication and writing.

If you haven't tried out Steven Pinker he is well versed in psychology, sociology, philosophy, scientific process, human nature, history and presents his ideas and arguments in a thoughtful, evidence-based, non-binary and most of all accessible way to people who are both knowledgeable and so-called "ley persons" on whatever topic he is covering (which is usually wide and varied in all his books with a general overarching theme or direction).

Definitely worth a read or listen during your commute. I feel like I need to give it a month or two then listen to it again. It's just so good and chockablock full of information.

JUST READ/LISTEN TO IT!!!

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  • Cameron
  • 02-12-19

Everyone should read this twice

At least twice. Beautiful, hopeful and so very insightful. A fantastic book back with incredible factual information about why we are living in the best of all times in history.

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  • Mick
  • 12-14-18

fantastic!

Loved it, couldn't stop listening. Highly recommend buying this book, us humans have accomplished more than you realise.

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  • Kevin
  • 08-26-18

Good overview of enlightenment and progress

This provides a good summary of enlightenment progress to date and heavily criticised the push back happening in 2016. It fails dismally to explain the regressive nature of those that are trying to take advantage of the success of the enlightenment to further their own political agendas and are clearly overstepping the mark and working against further enlightenment. I would have liked to have heard more on this than the obvious discontent with the symptomatic push back.