Monday, January 23, 2012

Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

This book’s full title is The Better Angels of Our Nature, Why Violence has Declined. Steven Pinker is an extremely engaging writer. He has written several books, I must admit that they are long, but highly readable.

One of the most interesting things Pinker says is about the “Moralizing Gap”. He says that people think that harm that they inflict to be justified and forgettable. However, they think that the harm they suffer to be unprovoked and grievous. This can explain some long standing disputes between peoples.

One of things he talks about is ideology. The really big body counts in history pile up when a large number of people have a motive than seems to transcend selfishness. With ideology, the end is idealistic. But its ideology that have driven many of the worse things that people have ever done to each other. Just think of the pile of deaths attributable to communists.

Another interesting thing is the rise in crime in the 1960’s. A number of people thought the rise in crime in the 1960’s was because of the 1960’s culture. The relaxation of self-control was glorified. Do your own thing. Let it all hang out. The crime rate started to come done in the 1990’s and it is almost back to where it was in the 1950’s.

You can find Steven Pinker on my favourite video site of You can hear Steven Pinker give a 20 minute speech on the subject of the myth of violence at TED. This is well worthwhile listening to and does not take long.

Not everyone believes him. You can see this at in a column by Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian. She admits to not reading the book, thinking it is too long. She interviews him at Guardian Videos.

However, this is not the only book I have read on this subject. I have read and reviewed Azar Gat, an anthropologist’s book called War in Human Civilization on my site. Gat’s book is not as well known or as popular, but he also is an engaging writer and well worth reading.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Pinker. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.