The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity

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Penguin Books, 2012 - Nonviolence - 1026 pages
We've all asked, "What is the world coming to?" But we seldom ask, "How bad was the world in the past?" In this book, the author, a cognitive scientist shows that the past was much worse; and that we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species' existence. Evidence of a bloody history has always been around us: genocides in the Old Testament, gory mutilations in Shakespeare and Grimm, monarchs who beheaded their relatives, and American founders who dueled with their rivals; the nonchalant treatment in popular culture of wife-beating, child abuse, and the extermination of native peoples. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were common features of life for millennia, then were suddenly abolished. How could this have happened, if human nature has not changed? The author argues that thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, bargain rather than plunder, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence.-- From publisher description.

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User Review  - booktsunami - LibraryThing

Summary: We propose a methodology to look at violence in particular, and other aspects of quantitative historiography in general, in a way compatible with statistical inference, which needs to ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - antao - LibraryThing

Pinker's “Better Angels of Our Nature” is a terrible book that no historian takes seriously. There are numerous problems with it so I'll just highlight a few of the biggest. 1. The central premise is ... Read full review

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About the author (2012)

Steven Pinker is one of the world's most influential thinkers and writers on the human condition. His popular and highly praised books include The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Sense of Style, The Stuff of Thought, The Blank Slate, How the Mind Works, and The Language Instinct. The recipient of several major awards for his teaching, books, and scientific research, Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He also writes frequently for The New York Times, the Guardian and other publications. He has been named Humanist of the Year, Prospect magazine's "The World's Top 100 Public Intellectuals," Foreign Policy's "100 Global Thinkers," and Time magazine's "The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today.

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